Duke University Professor Tells Students Not to Speak Chinese

A Duke University Professor sent an email to students on Friday asking them to refrain from speaking Chinese in school buildings in order to prevent “unintended consequences.” Megan Lee Neely, an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics and Director of Graduate Studies of the department, sent the email in response to two faculty members allegedly coming to her in order to find out the names of students they heard speaking loudly in Chinese in the student lounge and study areas. Neely provided the faculty members with photos of the students taken during orientation. According to her email, Neely was told by the faculty that they “wanted to write down the names so they could remember them if the students ever interviewed for an internship or asked to work with them for a master's project.” Neely went on to relay that the two unnamed faculty members were disappointed that the students “were not taking the opportunity to improve their English.” Neely then urged international students to “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep these unintended consequences in mind when you chose to speak Chinese in the building.”

In an apology letter to biostatistics students after the incident, Mary E. Klotman, Dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, wrote: “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.” According to the letter, a thorough review of the master’s program is underway, and Neely has been asked to step down as director effective immediately.