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New ASU journalism school dean under fire over alleged racist incidents

Sonya Duhe ASU
Posted at 2:33 PM, Jun 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-07 13:58:39-04

PHOENIX — Arizona State University’s journalism school will be getting a new dean next month, but she has come under fire this week over alleged racist incidents.

Beginning on July 1, Dr. Sonya Forte Duhé will take her seat as the next dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

She moved from Loyola University New Orleans where she was the director of the school of communication and design.

A public conversation about Duhé's past was sparked on Tuesday, after she tweeted about the ongoing protests following George Floyd's death.

In the tweet, she posted a picture and the comment, “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.”

Whitney Woods, a former student of Duhé at Loyola, responded, calling her a racist.

"Her tweet just kind of made me really look back and reflect on a time I hadn't really processed thoroughly in five years," said Woods.

Woods was in the School of Communications between 2011 and 2015. She said Duhé has a history of making racist and insensitive remarks.

"I think it was four years of microaggressions and comments and statements that were always let go by the wayside. Routinely about messy hair, being too tan, or you had to fit her certain look," said Woods. "She didn't think that I was black. She was like, 'Oh I didn't know that you were black because you don't act black.' And she asked me what my roots were. I took that as, my mom is from Texas and my dad is from California. And she was like, 'No, your African roots.'"

Woods said she filed a formal complaint against Duhé in 2014.

ASU's Provost Mark Searle said the university is looking into claims made against Duhé.

In an interview with The State Press, Searle said when he spoke to Duhé, she expressed regret for the tweet.

The State Press also reports that additional students of Duhé complained about references to their voice and overall appearance that were alleged to be insensitive and disrespectful.

"There are so many different ways to get your message across about your appearance and being camera-ready than telling someone with curly hair or a black girl who has kinky or natural hair to come to class with it straight or be camera-ready being straight," said Woods.

After the Twitter threads started surfacing this week, Cronkite students began pushing to remove Duhé as their next dean.

After hearing of the allegations, ASU responded Thursday, saying:

Over the last 24 hours the university has been made aware of concerns about Sonya Forte Duhé and her past treatment of students, and in particular, students of color, at Loyola University in New Orleans. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering at Arizona State University. We will be looking into the concerns brought to our attention.

Loyola University New Orleans also responded to the allegations, saying Friday:

Loyola University New Orleans is committed to racial equity and does not condone behavior that does not live up to our values. We encourage our community to come forward with such complaints, and we thoroughly investigate and act upon those findings. We also maintain student trust and employee privacy by not publicly discussing those cases. We do not publicly disclose the outcome of any employment investigations or findings - whatever the outcome -- but we can and do participate fully in the vetting of candidates by other institutions.

Duhé has not responded to ABC15's request for comment.