News

U.S.

Duke Prof. Resigns after Urging Students to Only Speak English on Campus

Duke Chapel at Duke University (Wikimedia Commons)

An assistant professor at Duke University has resigned amid backlash after sending an email Friday that urged students to speak “English 100% of the time” while on campus and in professional settings.

Megan Lee Nealy resigned from her position as director of graduate studies for biostatistics after university administrators learned of the email she sent to first- and second-year students, in which she warned that their academic careers might suffer if they used their native languages around professors.

“To international students, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep these unintended consequences in mind when you choose to speak in Chinese in the building,” Neely wrote, according to screenshots of the message obtained by the New York Post. “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 building. Copying the second-year students as a reminder given they are currently applying for jobs,” she added.

Neely, who will remain on as an assistant professor despite resigning from her administrative post, subsequently explained that she felt compelled to address the language issue after two professors complained to her that a group of Chinese students were speaking their native tongue “VERY LOUDLY” in a student lounge.

“Both faculty members replied 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 wrote of the professors. “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.”

Mary Klotman, dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, apologized on Neely’s behalf and rejected her recommendation that students use English in professional and academic settings.

“To be clear: there is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse and communicate with each other,” Klotman said in a statement obtained by the Post. “Your career opportunities and recommendations will not in any way be influenced by the language you use outside the classroom. And your privacy will always be protected.”

The university is also looking into a separate email Neely sent last February, in which she cautioned students that using their native language might convince professors that they were not trying to improve their English.

A number of Duke professors have spoken out against Neely and a group of students has circulated an online petition calling for the university to formally investigate Neely’s conduct.

“As international students, we believe that the ability to speak in our native language creates a much-needed space for obtaining academic, social, and moral support from our peers,” the petition reads. “More importantly, the flexibility of choosing which language we speak is an intimate choice, one that is deeply tied to our own individual values, beliefs, and core identity.”

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Great Misdirection

The House Democrats are frustrated, very frustrated. They’ve gotten themselves entangled in procedural disputes with the Trump administration that no one particularly cares about and that might be litigated for a very long time. A Washington Post report over the weekend spelled out how stymied Democrats ... Read More
World

Australia’s Voters Reject Leftist Ideas

Hell hath no fury greater than left-wingers who lose an election in a surprise upset. Think Brexit in 2016. Think Trump’s victory the same year. Now add Australia. Conservative prime minister Scott Morrison shocked pollsters and pundits alike with his victory on Saturday, and the reaction has been brutal ... Read More
NR Webathon

We’ve Had Bill Barr’s Back

One of the more dismaying features of the national political debate lately is how casually and cynically Attorney General Bill Barr has been smeared. He is routinely compared to Roy Cohn on a cable-TV program that prides itself on assembling the most thoughtful and plugged-in political analysts and ... Read More
Film & TV

Game of Thrones: A Father’s Legacy Endures

Warning! If you don't want to read any spoilers from last night's series finale of Game of Thrones, stop reading. Right now. There is a lot to unpack about the Thrones finale, and I fully understand many of the criticisms I read on Twitter and elsewhere. Yes, the show was compressed. Yes, there were moments ... Read More
Immigration

The Merit of Merit-Based Immigration

Having chain-migrated his way into the White House and a little bit of political power, Donald Trump’s son-in-law is shopping around an immigration plan. And if you can get past the hilarious juxtaposition of the words “merit-based” and “Jared Kushner,” it’s a pretty good one. As things stand, the ... Read More