Sonya Forte Duhé was all set to start her new job at Arizona State University as dean of the school’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, yet her job offer was rescinded after former students reached out to complain about some comments she made in the past they perceived as insensitive.
In a tweet that now has been deleted, Duhé wrote, “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,” The Washington Free Beacon reported.
This tweet, along with the complaints from former students, cemented Duhé’s fate. One former student, Whitney Woods, responded to Duhé’s tweet by claiming there was “no way in hell that black lives matter to you.” Woods added, “You are one of, if not, THE most racist human that I have ever encountered in a professional setting.” Woods told The State Press that Duhé openly liked conservative news outlets and allegedly told Woods that her hair was messy but she didn’t know the student was black because she didn’t act black.
“Not once was she, or did I ever feel like, she was a genuine POC ally,” Woods told the outlet. “She never advocated for any students of color, not a single one. She never took any of them under her wing. She never mentored them. And to have her be a dean of students in our current climate in 2020 would be a disservice to their education.”
Another student, Andrew Ketcham, who didn’t complete his degree at Duhé’s former employer, Loyola University New Orleans, because he lost his grant, claimed Duhé criticized his voice, implying it was because he was gay. “I’ll never forget her advice to me that my voice was too theatrical and that I should stick with print,” Ketcham told the Press. Ketcham also said he remembered Woods telling people about what she claimed Duhé said about her appearance.
Edward Wroten, another student, claimed Duhé would compare black and white students and suggest students of color change their looks and the way they spoke.
Zinsule Bonner told the outlet that her friend, Wroten, didn’t feel he could be himself around Duhé and that the professor would yell and make inappropriate coments. Bonner alleged that Duhé told a student to have their mole removed for television and black students not to have “natural hair.”
Hannah Gomez Farias told the outlet that she failed a presentation in Duhé’s class for not being presentable enough. Gomez Farias claimed Duhé said she “was too tan,” and didn’t wear makeup for the presentation, saying that if your hair wasn’t straight you would lose points in Duhé’s class.
In all, 23 students complained to the Press about Duhé’s behavior. In 2019, a student lodged a bias complaint against Duhé at Loyola, which was investigated. The outcome is unclear, as the report simply stated “appropriate action has been taken.” Duhé defended herself during that investigation, saying that to “accuse me of telling students of African American descent that I said to have their hair not natural is just ludicrous.”
“I do expect students to follow all professional standards of the news industry,” Duhé wrote in the report, according to the Press. “I do require my students to have professional photographs on their digital portfolios which includes appropriate attire and grooming. That is the professional standard of the news industry and one I adhere to as a journalism professor who has years of experience in the television news industry and a standard I uphold as director of our school.”
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