ASU Rescinds Dean’s Job Offer After Multiple Accusations of Racial and Sex Discrimination

front of ASU's Cronkite School

By Jessica Swarner

June 9, 2020

“I don’t think she should be in a classroom, ever.” 

Arizona State University’s journalism school announced Sunday it has rescinded a dean’s job offer after nearly two dozen students from her previous employer accused her of making racist and homophobic remarks. 

Sonya Forte Duhé had been hired to serve as a dean at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, as well as CEO of Arizona PBS, starting this fall. 

Following the death of a Black man in Minneapolis police custody and the resulting protests, Duhé tweeted, “For the family of George Floyd, the good police officers who keep us safe, my students, faculty and staff. Praying for peace on this #BlackOutTuesday.” 

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Students from Loyola University in New Orleans, where Duhé worked for 11 years, responded to the post, criticizing its framing and sharing times Duhe allegedly made offensive comments to them based on their race, sexual orientation, and weight. 

Loyola officials on Monday apologized for the way they handled the students’ allegations. According to The Times-Picayune, university President Tania Tetlow said while she understood Duhe was probably trying to make “pragmatic” suggestions due to biases present in broadcast news, she needed to also explain those biases are unfair and rooted in oppression.

“I apologize on behalf of the University that Loyola did not do a better job of fixing this situation that was, in fact, brought to our attention,” Tetlow said.

More than 20 students spoke to ASU’s newspaper The State Press about their experiences with Duhé. Multiple Black students said she criticized their natural hair, and one said Duhé told her she didn’t realize she was Black because the student didn’t act like it.

“I don’t think she should be in a classroom, ever,” one student said. “I think her narrative, her views, her obviously predisposed opinions and thoughts based on her background does not make her a suitable fit to teach a diverse range of students.”

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The students also said that Duhé did not mentor students of color. Rather, she told Black students to speak and dress differently and lowered grades for things like not wearing makeup. 

A gay student also said Duhé critized him because of his voice. “I felt the need to change myself in front of her,” he said. “I would lower my voice. I would not be flamboyant.”

Duhé also allegedly made female students feel uncomfortable by commenting on their weight and facial features, reportedly telling one student she should “do something” about her nose.

Following the student’s accusations, more than two dozen of the Cronkite School’s faculty sent a letter to university President Michael Crow saying Duhé’s hiring would harm the school’s reputation, finances, and ability to serve its students. According to The State Press, faculty members also brought up times Duhé allegedly “berated staff,” behaved “erratically,” and made “denigrating comments” since starting some work at Cronkite. 

A petition to fire Duhé created by the leaders of student groups also gathered more than 4,000 signatures online. 

On Sunday, University Provost Mark Searle announced the school had cut ties with Duhé after reassessing the situation. He and Crow had said previously that allegations against Duhé had not come up during the hiring process, although at least two students had filed official complaints against her. 

“I now find that the future of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and our public television station will be better served by not advancing with Dr. Duhé as their leader,” Searle said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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