Cronkite student leaders, faculty call for removal of incoming dean

Over 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for Sonya Forte Duhé's removal

Four multicultural student organizations called for the removal of incoming Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication dean Sonya Forte Duhé after a Twitter thread and an investigation by The State Press brought forward Duhé's alleged past of making racist and homophobic comments toward students.

Along with a statement released Saturday, a petition created by the Asian American Journalists Association at ASU, the National Association of Black Journalists at ASU, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists at ASU and the Native American Journalists Association asks students, alumni and other members of the University community for support.

"Student leaders of these organizations believe there is no place within the newsroom, let alone an institution that is 'measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes' and assumes 'fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves,' for this type of behavior," the statement says. 

READ MORE: Incoming Cronkite dean has alleged history of racist, homophobic comments toward students

At the time of publication, the petition had over 1,000 signees. 

Notable faculty, including Southwest Borderlands Initiative professor of practice and contributor for The New York Times Fernanda Santos called on students to read the statement and consider signing the petition.

Nicole Shinn, NABJ vice president and a junior studying journalism, said there is no room for leaders like Duhé "in any capacity."

"If you're going to be racist, if you're going to be homophobic and body shaming, if you're going to discriminate against anyone in any way, then you don't need to be in leadership because that trickles down," Shinn said.

The coalition of organizations sparked the creation of another campus group, the Multicultural Student Journalists of Cronkite. Aside from social media presence, the coalition's leaders said there are no immediate plans for the future of the organization.

Following recent reports of her behavior, faculty have contacted the University to raise concerns about Duhé.

According to The Arizona Republic, some prominent Cronkite faculty wrote a letter to President Michael Crow detailing their concerns about Duhé's ability to lead the school and said if she begins as planned on July 1 "the school's reputation and future are in serious jeopardy."

The more than two dozen signees included senior associate dean Kristin Gilger, professor and former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr., visiting professor in investigative journalism and editor-at-large of the Boston Globe Walter Robinson, professor and former Republic publisher Mi-Ai Parrish, News21 executive editor Jacqueline Petchel and professor and former Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor Julia Wallace, according to the Republic. 

The letter also touched on incidents that have happened since Duhé started some work at Cronkite, citing "erratic behavior and denigrating comments," according to the Republic. 

Shinn said the coalition was about mobilizing and making the statement and petition to create a call for action "for both our journalism peers and the rest of our peers at ASU."

Student leaders said Duhé's position as both dean of the Cronkite School and CEO of Arizona PBS is one of power and whatever behavior she demonstrates is problematic for students within the school and reporters at the station.

"If your CEO is racist it's the same thing as your dean being racist, someone who's in a position of power over you that does not like you because of something that you inherently cannot control," Shinn said. "That's unacceptable."

Shinn and other NABJ leadership, along with Susan Wong, AAJA interim president and a junior studying sports journalism, started a GroupMe chat Thursday once students read other coverage of Duhé's alleged behavior. 

"It felt right for all the leaders to come together and make something, because as minority groups we feel our voices need to be heard … and it’s going to sound a whole lot louder (together)," said Marco Peralta, NAHJ president and a senior studying sports journalism.

Some students said on social media the Cronkite student body should write letters to the provost and Crow's office asking for Duhé to be fired, but Shinn, Wong and Peralta said the petition is their particular focus right now.

Their statement thanks students who were close with Duhé and spoke out and says the organizations will amplify Black voices given Duhé's alleged behavior.

"What was important was that we direct attention to the minorities, especially the Black students," said Susan Wong, AAJA interim president and a junior studying sports journalism.

In an email to Cronkite students and faculty, University Provost Mark Searle said the University will be looking into Duhé's past. She is set to become the new dean at the school July 1. Duhé did not respond to text, email and phone call requests for comment. 


Reach the reporters at pjhanse1@asu.edu and wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @piperjhansen and @wmyskow on Twitter. 

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