Duke Professor Urged Chinese Students to Speak English

April FrancisJan 31, 2019

Outcry mounted after an email sent Friday by Megan Neely, who teaches in the biostatistics master's degree program and served as its director of graduate studies. She shared photos, and the faculty members identified a group of first-year students they said had been talking very loudly in Chinese in the student lounge and study areas. If they were French or German and speaking in their native languages, would the two faculty members have approached Neely and requested their names and faces? The employees "were disappointed that these students have not perceived the possibilities to improve your English and so rude were to have a conversation, could not understand anyone around you".

Klotman also informed students that the university's Office of Institutional Equity will review the biostatistics master's program "to recommend ways in which we can improve the learning environment for students from all backgrounds".

'This behavior is not only hypocritical -given Duke's dependence on worldwide students and faculty for their undergraduate and graduate programs, desire to present itself as a "global university", and partnership with Duke Kunshan University (in China) - but also discriminatory, ' the statement said.

"I have no idea how hard it has been and still is for you to come to the United States and have to lean in a non-native language". Her take on it was to say like this is something that'll affect your professional prospects. A petition drafted by Chinese grad students at Duke calling for the university to set up an independent committee in order to conduct a "full-scale investigation" into the matter now has more than 2,000 signatures.

Both the Duke Asian Students Association and the Duke International Association slammed Neely's email in a joint statement.

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In a letter to the students, Dean Mary Klotman apologised for the email and said there were no restrictions on whatever language students chose to speak on campus. And you know with that being the case like you should know about it the fact that the professors who asked about it and I think that they're the ones who should have been. "Your career opportunities and recommendations will not in any way be influenced by the language you use outside the classroom", the dean said in an email.

Two members of the faculty have complained to her, wrote to Neely.

Duke is not the only school concerned about English speaking capabilities for Chinese students, however. "We are demoralized even more that a Duke graduate program director explicitly condones and even encourages such discriminatory practices by our faculty members". "We feel offended", he said, referring to the reaction among students from China.

'Speaking Chinese or other worldwide languages, doesn't mean our English is not good, ' said Evan Wang, who graduated from the biostatistics master's program in 2015. "Punished for it or step down", said the student.

"That's a really important piece for these students", she said. The question arises: why the Chinese students, specifically?

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