Duke Professor steps down over controversial email to Chinese Students


Duke University moved quickly Monday to offer apologies, launch an investigation and reassure a core group of graduate scholars after a medical school administrator sent an email warning Chinese students to speak in English.

Neely, who remains an assistant professor, didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment Sunday.

The two faculty members would want to know, who exactly is speaking in Chinese, so you have these students, "remember", should you ever for an internship or a Master job application.

"They were disappointed that these students were not taking the opportunity to improve their English and were being so impolite as to have a conversation that not everyone on the floor could understand", the email read.

About 36 of the 54 students in Duke's master of biostatistics program are Chinese, according to the university.

She added that she had the utmost respect for global students.

The petition says Neely had previously sent an email in February 2018 titled "To Speak or To Not Speak English", in which she said "many faculty" had noticed worldwide students weren't using English in break rooms.

She wrote that she respected students who come to the USA and have to "learn a non-native" language.

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"As a result they may be more hesitant to hire or work with worldwide students because communication is such an important part of what we do as biostaticians", she said in the email. The petition was signed by more than 2,000 students by Saturday evening.

"Bottom line: Continuing this practice might make it harder for you and future worldwide students to get research opportunities while in the program", she wrote.

Neely, meanwhile, also included a personal note in DeLong's email to students, apologizing directly for her actions. The school did not say whether it identified the two faculty members who allegedly spoke to Neely about the students. They said they wanted to take down their names to blacklist them for future intern or other applications. "Let's guess how many times I've been asked not to speak French", one Twitter user wrote, appending three eye-roll emoji to the message.

The response was swift, with the Dean of Duke's School of Medicine, Mary E. Klotman, sending an email of her own, apologizing for Neely's email, and clarifying that there is no requirement to speak a specific language on campus.

In a February 2018 email, Neely wrote that "many faculty" members, including the chair of the department, had complained of students not speaking English in common areas of the department. Presumably, the faculty members would shoot down their applications.

"We wrote the petition to combat the normalisation of xenophobia and discrimination against Chinese students at Duke", the students said. "Punished for it or step down", said the student.

Across all of Duke's graduate and professional programs, 1,300 of about 8,500 students come from China, according to university data.