Megan Lee Neely, an assistant professor of biostatistics, resigned from her role as director of graduate studies for biostatistics majors at the Durham-based university after administrators learned of an email sent Friday in which she warned first- and second-year graduate students to only use English or risk "unintended consequences" in the department or elsewhere on campus.
In response to this development, the dean of Duke Medical School, which oversees the biostatistics course, said that Neely is no longer a director of a master's degree program, adding that the university was asked to conduct an internal review of this matter.
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".
What do her students think?
Screenshots of Neely's email were shared on social media, leading to the surfacing of a similar email she allegedly sent to students in 2018.
"We will always be committed to ensuring that you are welcomed and included in every aspect of university life", she wrote.
"She continues to be an assistant professor of biostatistics", Lawrence said.
The group told the BBC that more than 2,000 people had signed their petition by Sunday, including current Duke students and alumni, as well as students from other institutions. Addressee were worldwide students at the University.
Both the Duke Asian Students Association and the Duke International Association slammed Neely's email in a joint statement.
The student added: "Some of my Chinese friends also told me they are anxious that if they support Megan in the public, they might be regarded as "people who betrayed their country" by other Chinese students in the United States".
The student is glad Neely stepped down as the director.
"To be clear", she wrote, "there is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse and communicate with each other". It's just etiquette. And if you want to advance your career, you better make sure you speak the language of your boss.
In a February 2018 message to biostatistics students (subject line: "To Speak English or To Not Speak English."), Neely said faculty members were complaining about worldwide students not speaking English in the department's break rooms, although she did not specify the foreign language or languages. But in private conversations with only Chinese students, we would prefer Chinese, ' Zhang said.
"For global students, speaking in their mother tongue is a means of comfort and familiarity with a home and culture that is already oftentimes suppressed within the United States", the association said.
"That's a really important piece for these students", she said. When there are English speakers around, you should speak their language, even if you have Chinese friends around.