ASU students petition for Sonya Duhé’s removal as incoming dean

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Courtesy of Kevin Hurley | State Press

Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication building is pictured on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. ASU students are petitioning for the removal of incoming journalism dean and outgoing Loyola director Sonya Duhé after allegations by former Loyola students of racist and insensitive behavior came to light earlier this week.

Rose Wagner

Nearly 1,000 people have signed a petition by Arizona State University students calling for the removal of Sonya Duhé, incoming dean of the ASU journalism school and outgoing Loyola journalism director, after allegations of racism and insensitivity by former Loyola students surfaced earlier this week, sparking an investigation by ASU into the complaints.

In a statement circulating social media alongside the petition, a group of ASU student journalist organizations called for ASU to remove Duhé as the incoming dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and admit what the statement referred to as “failure” in the hiring process after ASU Provost Mark Searle and university representatives said ASU was unaware of allegations of insensitive behavior and past racial bias complaints filed against Duhé, who is white, during her time at Loyola.

“We, the student leaders, stand in solidarity with the Loyola students who have come forward with their stories. We refuse to let minority voices go unheard, especially those of the Black community,” the statement read.

ASU’s chapters of the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association all signed on to the statement.

The statement and petitions came after reporting by The Maroon and the State Press at ASU uncovered allegations by more than a dozen former and current Loyola students of what they said was racist and insensitive conduct by Duhé. Two former students, both black women, also told The Maroon they filed racial bias reports regarding Duhé’s conduct in 2014 and 2019.

A now deleted tweet by Duhé on June 2, in which she wrote, “For the family of George Floyd, the good police officers who keep us safe, my students, faculty and staff. Praying for peace this #BlackOutTuesday,” sparked the public conversation about Duhé’s conduct with students of color after Whitney Woods, A’15, took to Twitter in response to Duhé’s message.

Woods criticized the former director for what Woods said was racist behavior, focused on her appearance and natural hair, by Duhé during her time at Loyola.

Kiarra Spottsville, president of ASU’s NABJ chapter, said that Duhé’s removal from the deanship is “the only acceptable outcome” in light of these student allegations.

As a black woman, Spottsville said stereotypes about natural hair and what a black journalist “should” look like persist in the industry and the world and should not be perpetuated by the head of the Cronkite school.

“That’s something we face in our day to day lives,” Spottsville said. “If we are being led by someone who encourages those issues instead of trying to empower students to break away from those issues, it is not a good overall look for our school and we don’t want be reflected by someone like that.”

ASU student Gideon Kariuki said he signed the petition for Duhé’s removal because, as a black student in the Cronkite school, the recent reports by The Maroon and State Press made him concerned about what could happen at his university.

“Cronkite has plenty of issues, especially with students of color, every institution in the United States does,” Kariuki said. “Putting someone who is actively racist at the top would definitely make things worse.”

As of June 5, university officials at ASU said Duhé is still scheduled to start as dean July 1.

Kariuki said that if ASU does not remove Duhé as the incoming dean, students will not be silent.

“People would consider other universities,” Kariuki said.