Duke University Professor Steps Down After Sending Discriminatory Email

Courtesy: Next Shark

A professor at Duke University has stepped down after sending out an email that advised international graduate students not to speak their native language in the university’s facilities.

 Megan Neely, an assistant professor and graduate director in the biostatistics and bioinformatics programs at Duke sent out an email to all of the first and second-year graduate students in the biostatistics program with the subject title “Something to think about …” In this email, Neely informed the students that some of the other professors in her department overheard students speaking to each other in their native language in a lounge area. The professors then asked Neely to see if she could identify which students they were by using photos in case those students ever tried to interview for an internship or study program run by them. She then went on to say that these professors expressed disappointment that these students came to a university in an English-speaking country but weren’t fully committed to speaking English 100% of the time. The email also warned of the “unintended consequences” that come from speaking other languages in professional settings. She finished off the email by saying that she thinks students should make a point to speak only English in both the building and in any college or professional setting.

This email was met with outrage from many who did not feel it was appropriate. Screenshots of Neely’s email were posted on Twitter, and users responded with tweets like “It’s insane that anyone should feel they have the right to tell any person what language to speak and where! NPR reported that some people who saw the tweet online wondered why this professor didn’t send out emails directed at Latino, Indian, or students of other nationalities telling them they shouldn’t speak their own native languages either. The Asian students targeted in this email also called it “discriminatory and threatening.” According to Breitbart News Network, Neely stepped down from her administrative position after this, but the National Review stated that she will still have a position as an assistant professor at the university. 

Mary Klotman, the dean of the medical school at Duke University, released a response statement to students saying, “Your career opportunities and recommendations will not in any way be influenced by the language you use outside the classroom," according to Fox News.

Since she stepped down, the Washington Post reported that Neely apologized and said she “deeply regrets the hurt the email has caused.” 

Some of the students studying at Duke who felt impacted by this email have come together to form a committee to further look into the faculty members that Neely had mentioned in her email. One of Neely’s own students said to BBC, "Megan is truly the best instructor and mentor I ever had … She made a mistake [with her email], but we still know what was her intention and how much she cares about us.