Thursday, March 7, 2019

Duke Professor Removed For Asking Students To Speak English

By Professor Doom

     Even though our schools are well-supported by a student loan scam pouring money on them in an ever increasing deluge, they always want more. A sweet spring of such funds comes from foreign students—they get to pay a “non resident” tuition penalty on top of the usual bloated tuition price.

     It’s particularly prevalent in graduate school, and, I daresay, even more so in the sciences…I was the only person in my department’s varsity soccer team who spoke English as a first language, for example (in fact, it’s where I first started to learn Mandarin, although a Russian striker left many an “Adidas” imprint on me during practice sessions…I was the goalie).

     So, it’s quite common to hear non-English being spoken between graduate students. It never bothered me—I’ve studied enough other languages to realize English is such a difficult, unfair, language, that I’m far more inclined to respect foreign students who speak English when they don’t have to than be annoyed by students who don’t when they can get away with it among themselves.

      As is so often the case, admin sees things differently than me:

A US university professor has been removed as director of a graduate programme, amid a furore over an email she sent urging students not to speak Chinese.

--I’m quoting from the BBC here, though the incident occurred at Duke University.

     Gee whiz, “Chinese”? Mandarin, or Cantonese? There are a few other viable guesses which sound close enough to Chinese to even the mildly initiated. Telling people what language not to speak seems harsh. What prompted this?

…two unnamed faculty members of the biostatistics Masters programme had complained to her about students speaking Chinese in public areas in the department.

     You better believe those faculty want to be anonymous in their complaints. All complaints by faculty are made anonymously, because fear of retribution is quite justified. This culture of fear is far more a concern than a language being spoken on a university campus that isn’t from the tiny part of the universe where the campus is located.

She said that not speaking English could lead to "unintended consequences" for international   students…


    I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons plenty, read my share of fantasy novels and…I simply lack the imagination to come up with an “unintended” consequence here. Can anyone give me a clue? This is how our leaders on campus rule, by fear of the unknown, even unknowable.

      Naturally in our wildly over-sensitive campus society, even daring to complain about anything a foreigner does is deemed racist, and the label was quickly slapped on her:

…Dr Neely, describing her as a supportive programme director and "definitely not a racist, not even close".

     Well, there it is then. Just say you’re not a racist, and you’re cleared from all accusations of such for all time. Imagine how many lives wouldn’t have been destroyed if it were common knowledge that this is how to escape the pitchfork-wielding mobs whenever the cry of RACIST is raised?

      Ok, this rational denial didn’t work for her, and she ended up resigning. While I disagree with her, I don’t think this minor faux pas merits anywhere near the punishment she’s received so far. Will it end?

     Petitions were immediately started online calling for her firing.

         This stuff really needs to end. It really would be in the students’ best interest for them to speak English as much as possible, but I completely respect that sometimes the need to communicate quickly dominates the desire to practice a difficult language. An e-mail imploring students, many of whom will likely work in this country, to work harder to improve the (putative) language of this country. She actually was trying to help, and seeing as she never specifically threatened anyone with not following her advice, I see no need to threaten her job over this.

      I grant it wasn’t just one e-mail, as she did something similar a year ago:

In a different email sent by Neely back in February 2018, she issued similar warnings to students speaking foreign languages in public spaces:

‘Bottom line: Continuing this practice may make it harder for you and future international students to get research opportunities while in the program. Please keep these potential downstream effects in mind when you choose to or choose not to speak in English outside of the classroom.’

      And…what of it? She’s still not forcing anyone, she’s still making a case for why our foreign students should practice English as much as possible. In short, she’s just doing…her…job. As much as I want to be against administrative activity, I don’t see the foul here.

It’s unclear who the two faculty members are, or if they existed to begin with. 

      Wow, this accusation comes right out of left field. Please understand, these foreign grad students often teach the undergraduate courses…I promise the gentle reader, I’ve heard many complaints from the undergraduates in those courses about how hard it is to get through the accent. Naturally, I encourage those students to try harder—I’ve certainly had to muddle through some tough professorial accents in my life—even as yes, off the record, I may have asked the teachers of those courses to practice their English more.

      In other words, I ask all parties involved to try harder to communicate with each  other. I imagine that makes me a RACIST also.


  1. But what if.....the international students were Swedish? Would it be "racist" to ask them to speak English????

  2. I am amused by the notion of students talking together in Latin.

  3. I find this story absolutely ludicrous.
    Latin? Swedish? German? Chinese? Arabic? English? Does NOT matter.
    If 'international' = 'No Earth People Contract' students speak ANY language at all, no matter which language is used, they are trapped into continuously LYING to each other, until such times as Prepositional-Phrases are utilised, ok?
    Get over yourselves earthlings!
    Your very own languages are bereft of all Nouns, and will always remain so until you pull your heads out of your anus, and wakey wakey, hand off snakey!
    Come on world, STOP listening to the 'instructors' for once, and KNOW that they already know these Facts.