A professor at Duke University stepped down on Saturday after screenshots of an email she wrote warning Chinese students from conversing in their native language went viral on social media.
"I encourage you to commit to using English 100 percent of the time" the email written by Megan Neely read. Neely, who was the head of the Master of Biostatistics at the university's School of Medicine, sent the email to first and second-year students in the program.
Neely went on to urge her students to "to commit to using English 100 percent of the time" while on campus or in a professional setting.
In her email to students, Neely wrote that two faculty members had approached her to complain about several first-year international students who were speaking Chinese in the student study and lounge areas The Chronicle, Duke's campus newspaper, reported.
"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," Neely wrote in bolded, underlined typeface.
Neely added that the faculty members asked to see photographs of the students in the program so they could keep them in mind if the students "ever interviewed for an internship or asked to work with them for a master's project."
"To international students, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep these unintended consequences in mind when you choose to speak Chinese in the building," Neely's email continued. "I have no idea how hard it has been and still is for you to come to the US and have to learn in a non-native language. As such, I have the upmost (sic) respect for what you are doing. That being said, I encourage you to commit to using English 100% of the time when you are in Hock or any other professional setting."
The dean of the university's School of Medicine, Mary Klotman, apologized for Neely's email in a letter to the program's students.
"I understand that many of you felt hurt and angered by this message," Klotman wrote. "To be clear: there is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse and communicate with each other. Your career opportunities and recommendations will not in any way be influenced by the language you use outside the classroom."
Klotman said Neely had asked to step down after her letter went viral.
"Dr. Neely has asked to step down as director of graduate studies for the master’s program effective immediately and will be replaced by an interim DGS to be named shortly." Klotman wrote.
The university's Office of Institutional Equity will conduct a review of the biostatistics program and recommend ways to improve the environment for students of all backgrounds, Klotman added.
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