Duke University Professor Has ‘Deep Regret’ After Urging Students Not To Speak Chinese

Megan Neely, the Duke professor who urged students to stop speaking Chinese via an email on Friday, sent out a follow-up email expressing her “deep regret” for causing pain the next day.

Following the uproar caused by her first email, Neely stepped down from her role as director of graduate studies for the Master of Biostatistics program on Saturday.

The controversial email, in which Neely told students that two faculty members had complained about students speaking Chinese “very loudly” in the lounge and study areas, went viral after its screenshots were posted online.  

“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.

The second email, which acknowledged that the now-viral email “was not appropriate,” was sent from Department Chair Elizabeth DeLong’s email account but signed by both DeLong and Neely.

“I deeply regret the hurt my email has caused,” Neely wrote in the email. “It was not my intention. Moving forward, it is my sincerest wish that every student in the Master of Biostatistics is successful in all of their endeavors.”

“Although it was not meant to be hurtful, it came out that way and was clearly in error,” wrote DeLong in the same email.

School of Medicine dean Mary Klotman addressed the students in a separate email Saturday afternoon, assuring them that speaking a foreign language was not a problem.

“There is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse and communicate with each other,” Klotman wrote. “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.”

According to The Chronicle, Academic Council Chair Don Taylor has stated that the incident will be included in the agenda of the Executive Committee of the Academic Council meeting on Wednesday.

“I am sorry this happened, and students deserve and should expect to be treated respectfully at Duke,” Taylor was quoted in an email addressing a committee of Duke graduate students. “All of our students are valuable, and should be valued by the faculty at Duke.”

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