The oppressor and victim is who and what now?

Oh this story is so easy to critique. The summary is this: NYU Law, my alma mater, invited National University of Singapore professor Dr. Li-ann Thio to teach as a visiting professor. Dr. Thio is slated to teach “Human Rights in Asia,” and is certainly an accomplished academic and politician. However, Dr. Thio also has some, uh, questionable views on homosexuality and gay rights — she compared anal sex to “shoving a straw up your nose to drink,” for example, and in a speech supporting the continued criminalization of sex between men (which she called “acts of gross indecency”) let loose gems such as “You cannot make a human wrong a human right” and “Diversity is not a license for perversity.”

Unsurprisingly, NYU’s OUTLaw (the LGBT organization on campus) sent out an email about Dr. Thio’s positions, “for LGBT students and allies to be aware of her views in order to make fully informed decisions regarding class registration.” I would hope that NYU students would refuse en masse to take Dr. Thio’s class as a show of solidarity for LGBT students and as an expression of support for human rights generally. NYU has attracted many of the best and brightest students because of its claimed commitment to diversity, public interest and the vigorous exchange of ideas. Dr. Thio does not embody those ideals.

But of course it doesn’t end there. Malik Graves-Pryor, an NYU student who also works in the law school’s IT department, sent out a very good email making the obvious argument that this isn’t about politics or a difference in political ideology — this is about fundamental human rights. He argues that NYU Law would never support the work of an academic who made similar comments about other traditionally marginalized groups, writing:

While I can understand your position and reasoning in displaying solidarity to the larger NYU School of Law community regarding Hauser Global’s decision to bring in Professor Li-Ann Thio … I must state my strong objection to her appointment and the official NYU Law defense of said appointment.
As an African-American man working in the LawITS department, and simultaneously a student at NYU, I could never imagine the day would come when NYU would allow the appointment of a legal scholar who held the opinion that African-Americans practice acts of “gross indecency”, that African-Americans who strive for diversity should be rebuffed because “diversity is not a license for perversity”, describing the private intimate acts between African-Americans as trying to “shove a straw up your nose to drink”, among other intellectually and morally shallow absurdities.

Now here’s where it starts to get hairy: In response to Graves-Pryor’s email, Dr. Thio issued an 18-point rebuttal, which she sent to the entire NYU Law faculty. Her argument, basically, is that she is the victim here, and that oppressive and malicious homosexuals are slandering her and destroying her reputation. The fundamental disconnect is that Dr. Thio seems to think this is a purely political debate, and therefore calling her views “bigoted” or comparing them to racism is out of bounds. She hangs her hat on freedom of speech and diversity of political opinion, arguing that detractors are “bullying” and trying to silence her. Her supporters have centered their arguments on academic freedom and the importance of vigorously engaging ideas with which you disagree, and not attending school in an echo chamber, all of which are concepts that I entirely agree with — but the very fact that Dr. Thio created an 18-point document painting herself as a victim of the “homosexual agenda” in response to a student email doesn’t exactly indicate that she is up for having her own views challenged.

Let’s go through her missive:

1. I am a little tired of the torrent of abuse and defamation that I have been receiving, and blatant emotive misrepresentations of my position. I was going to stay above the fray but given this insidious attack on my academic reputation (aside from many ad hominem insults), I feel I must cast some clarity on certain issues.

2. Let me clarify some issues. I do not know if Mr Graves-Pryor is trying to be incendiary by suggesting I am racist or if he is trying to lump all forms of what he calls “discrimination” together and so to incite hatred towards me. As a woman and a person of colour, I find this incredibly offensive. As an Asian, I find this bullying and rage makes me wonder about the state of both academic freedom and civil discourse in the US – I was unaware that you had to subscribe to a certain orthodoxy before one could be welcomed into a certain academic community, as Mr. Graves-Pryor seems to be insinuating. As a scholar, I would point out that the norm prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is one that is (a) very much depends on the issue at stake i.e. which right is being contended for and (b) is not universally accepted as a matter of law, though it is probably universally contended for as a matter of politics. It is neither an “Asian” nor “Western” issue,
it is something contested within all societies, including the US, though admittedly, a minority opinion in most law schools.

Mr. Graves wasn’t suggesting that she is racist. He was comparing homophobia to racism, in the sense that they are both bigoted views wherein a dominant group marginalizes and oppresses a minority group, whether through legislation or through the normalization of certain social codes. His argument, as I understand it, is that while racism undoubtedly persists, blatantly racist comments are not acceptable at a place like NYU; if Dr. Thio’s comments about homosexuality had been directed at a racial group, the NYU Law administration would probably not have recruited her to teach (although she could probably still get herself elected to Congress in the U.S.). It’s not a perfect comparison, and I always cringe when oppressions are compared and racism is set up as Never Tolerated when in the real world it very much is, but Graves-Pryor’s point is nonetheless an apt one to which Dr. Thio doesn’t bother to respond. Instead, she calls him a “bully,” to which I just have to say… really? She’s a former politician who is now an established legal scholar, and who actually had the chance to cast a vote — and give an impassioned speech — on whether or not gay men in Singapore should be allowed to legally have sex with other men. He’s a student whose “bullying” action was to send an email. Is there some other power dynamic that I’m missing here?

3. I am tired of the insinuations that I am in favour of oppressing any community in Singapore or elsewhere. I think an appreciation of the context of Singapore and of the truth of things is needed. The law on sodomy is a law on the books and was kept on the books after full free and very robust democratic debate. It has since been exercised a few times, to my knowledge. The government applies it with restraint and has adhered to its policy that it will not be pro-active (for example, in the 1980s there used to be police operations in public places where homosex activities were known to be taking place). In Singapore, people do not really care whether someone is homosexual or not, as we tend to look at the merit of a person, for example, in the workplace. I would be the first to oppose discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or ideological persuasion in the my own academic environment. It is the truth or strength of an idea that counts in scholarship and teaching, and we teach, we do not propagate one ideology. Perhaps things are done differently in a foreign land. My own view, and the way I conduct my classes, is to subject any topic to scrutiny, presented as an object of analysis rather than one of allegiance or affection. People will have their own opinions as opinions are cheap and easy to have. But my task as a professor is to subject things to academic interrogation and let people draw their own conclusions.

Pretty sure that when you’re outlawing sex between men, you are oppressing men who have sex with men. It may be true that the sodomy laws have only been enforced a few times, but so what? An unjust law does not become just simply because it is rarely used.

And if she’s serious about subjecting things to academic interrogation and letting people draw their own conclusions, you would think she’d be willing to have her own views held up to the light and criticized. Yet as soon as students critique her actions as a politician, she cries foul.

4. I have colleagues and students who identify themselves as homosexual. Some are hostile to the views I have expressed as a politician, some are hurt (and I have had really difficult conversations with such students whom I greatly liked as individuals, who expressed their disappointment at me for my views but I had to point out that everyone is entitled to their convictions which are complicated things. Some understand and know I respect them as people and some do not want to have conversations with me anymore. That is their prerogative)

5. That said, there is in Singapore a great concern when activists campaign to change social norms and to equate heterosexuality with homosexuality as a basis for changing policies and cultural understandings. If you wish to enter into the free marketplace of ideas, you must contend with opposing views. As must I. What I object to is the colouring of any principled moral opposition to homosexuality as “bigoted” and ignorance or “hatred”. What I find ironical are the tactics of those who call themselves “oppressed” to oppress. Some activists have no qualms in destroying reputation, insulting, slandering those who do not agree with their political agenda.

Shorter #5: I have gay friends and that’s cool, so long as they don’t expect to be treated like actual people.

Also: Repeating back your actual beliefs and quoting you verbatim is not destroying your reputation, insulting or slandering you.

6. I have friends who identify as ex-gay. They point out to me that the homosexual community is the most vicious when they try to speak out. What about this oppressed minority group? One of them said to me: If they have a right to sexual orientation, do I not have the right to sexual re-orientation? All they get is vilification and abuse and charges that homosexuals are ‘born that way’ and it is a fallacy to believe they can seek to mute unwanted same-sex attractions if that is their choice. I appreciate this is a controversial matter, but that is the point. It is controversial and unsettled. What I see as a scholar is an attempt by one side to censor another out of ideological preferences. That is intolerant and totalitarian. It is the attempt to impose a dogma about a theory of human good and nature in the name of a fake ‘liberal neutrality’ which is in fact a substantive and contested ideology, even if it is the ideology of preference to many in western democracies.

If someone decides to criminalize ex-gay people having sex, then I’ll worry about that “oppressed minority.” Maybe there’s a law on the books in Singapore that I’m not aware of, but as far as I know, no one is taking away the rights of people to identify as ex-gay or to have hetero sex. That makes a significant difference.

7. I trust that members of the academic community appreciate that in matters of public morality, as oppose to commercial legal frameworks, one is apt to find the greatest divergence of values on a global level though there are convergent trends as well. The Singapore government takes a pragmatic stance towards the issue of homosexuality. While I do not think anyone should lose their job because of sexual orientation (as this is irrelevant to the performance of the job), I would not support for example, same-sex marriage which is also based on a discrimination against sexual orientation paradigm. Sexual orientation is relevant to the institution of marriage. What A sees as an equality issue (and that is a substantive argument masquerading as a formal one), B see as an issue the definition of ‘marriage’ or ‘family.’ It is a substantive issue. Is there only one view in relation to moral controversies? Or, may only one view be taught at a law school while competing views are snickered at on the basis of a false intellectuality?

Of course there are many allowable views in relation to moral issues. But it’s asking a little much that you should be allowed to teach whatever you like without being snickered at. Some argue that teaching evolution is a “moral issue,” and that in the interest of serious intellectual debate we should also teach “intelligent design” and Biblical theories — but I can pretty much guarantee that NYU wouldn’t hire a professor of science whose version of events was that God created the world in a few days. The law is certainly not a hard science, and so the comparison isn’t an ideal one; obviously any law class needs to teach what the law actually is, and address the moral debates involved in legal struggles to secure the rights of gays and lesbians, trans people, women, disabled people, and people of color. I don’t think anyone is saying that the classroom should be insulated from those debates (and having been in law school, it would be awfully difficult to attempt such a thing). The issue is partly whether NYU is going to extend its resources — and a paycheck — to someone whose views and political actions are antithetical to the most basic norms of equality and justice; and it’s partly how we define oppression and bigotry, and whether NYU can say with a straight face that it supports its LGBT students while also inviting a professor who clearly does not believe those students deserve the same rights as their heterosexual colleagues.

8. Homosexuals in Singapore are by and large affluent and literate; building developers target high quality residences for their consumption. They have space to lead quiet lives which is what most of us want. They are basically left alone in practice. However, when you enter the public arena and demand to change social norms, which others resist, do you expect a walkover? When reasoned arguments are presented against the homosexualism agenda, which any citizen in a democracy is entitled to do, what happens? Homosex activists hurl abuse, death threats. They have demonstrated nothing but abuse towards their detractors. This is not the way to win respect. This is not conducive to sustainable democracy in the long-term. I argue it is a horizontal chilling of speech by the most malicious of methods. Homosex activists may see it as a “rights” issues (and I have academic friends and feminists who disagree “sharply” with my viewpoints but refuse to vilify me because they know who I am and respect me as a scholar), others see it as a matter of a “goods” issue, about the nature of public morality and social norms. And these debates are played out on a global basis.

Rich gays live in really nice apartments, so where do they get off demanding the right to have sex without persecution (and prosecution)? I agree that death threats are never ok, but other than that piece, her argument is pretty problematic. Of course gay rights activists don’t expect “a walkover” — they know that they will be met with strong opposition. But it seems like Dr. Thio is the one who wants a walkover — she wants to be able to outlaw consensual sex between men, insult gays and lesbians, and legally and socially marginalize LGBT people without any sort of push-back. If there is pushback — even in the form of an email from an NYU student — she calls it bullying and positions herself as the victim. To add insult to injury, she then says she only seeks to promote academic debate; apparently it’s totally reasonable to criminalize consensual sexual activity between people of the same sex, but “abuse” to say that such criminalization is bigoted and hateful.

9. I appreciate I am in a minority in the context of US academia for holding this view, but does this then disqualify me as immoral (let me say what Mr. Graves-Pryor considers immoral, others recognise as highly moral, principled as well as the need to have moral courage to articulate views which elicit vicious responses) and “unfit to teach human rights?” That’s libel. Mr Graves-Pryor is wrong to assume that expressing viewpoints that attract vitriolic attacks is an opinion held “without repercussion.” Does he appreciate the repercussions I have sustained to my academic reputation for my political views expressed in the context of parliamentary debates in an independent country? I have paid the cost for my convictions and principles. Is he now wanting to be my debtor?

That’s libel? Really?

10. Now, as a scholar, I have not written about homosexuality and the law in any direct sense. Simply because it is not a research interest of mine, or has not been up till now. It is also an area which attracts a great deal of personal attack, which no sane person invites, as this current furore shows. The only time I can think of where I indirectly referenced it in a law review article was in relation to issues of definition and how one identifies a ‘human right.’ That is, is a human right natural, is it a subject of political preference, an object of political capture? If human rights are meant to be universal, why is there so much local resistance? Is same sex marriage, for instance, a human right? Some may like it to be as a matter of personal conviction or politics, but it is not a global right, certainly not a customary international law norm, though there have been treaty-based interpretations of it e.g. ICCPR and ECHR jurisprudence. That is how I teach the subject.
I see it as a regional legal right, a contested one at the UN (though as a scholar, I will observe that the dominant view is to see sexual orientation as a right without defining the broad term) and a constitutional/ civic rights issue in many countries, particularly those in western liberal democracies (though not limited to the ‘West’). For example, the Delhi High Court recently interpreted a sodomy law as unconstitutional, but that is limited to the state of Delhi and the next day, a famous guru took out a motion to challenge this. This shows that it has become a politicised issue of significance in India but it also shows the sharp divergences of views in that country. This is how I teach. I examine views of both sides. I let my students make up their minds. I do not evangelise my students into one way of thinking as I know some professors do, perhaps because they hold different views about teaching and the role of an academic. People will disagree. As a scholar, I adhere
to the principle of audi alteram partem (hear the other side). As a Singapore citizen, I will defend my right to speak to my domestic politics. As a politician, when I was in the House, I did. I may have opinions about the US but I do not have the standing to speak to American politics. I do not presume to. Do Americans then presume to speak to Singapore politics? Of course they can express opinions, an the internet age facilitates the free spread of ideas, but I would say, butt out, let Singaporeans debate it amongst ourselves. We have brains. We do not wish to be neo-colonised. And if you think that the homosexual community is oppressed in this way, you speak from ignorance. The government of Singapore may be politically controlling in many areas pertaining to actual political power, but it takes a fairly hands off view on matters of public morality.

…except when it criminalizes consensual sexual activity between people of the same sex.

No one is challenging the rights of Singapore citizens to debate amongst themselves or to pass their own laws. What we are challenging is NYU’s invitation to a politician who has expressed bigoted views that, were they policy at any law firm trying to recruit candidates, would violate NYU’s own anti-discrimination policy. This isn’t about Singapore law. This is about NYU policy and faculty.

11. I am deeply offended at Mr. Graves-Pryor characterisation of me / my views as immoral. I disagree with his views but I do not threaten his job. I am offended by the insinuations of some that I am unable to teach in a manner which reflects both intellectual integrity and basic courtesy to colleagues and students, particularly those with “sharply disagreeing” views. Perhaps this is a function of American law schools where classrooms become political platforms rather than venues of academic enquiry. I do not know, I have no first hand experience.

Again: This isn’t simply a political issue. She may be offended by Mr. Graves-Pryor’s statements, but he would face possible arrest and imprisonment in Singapore under the laws that she agitated for. This is about fundamental rights, and who is on which side of those rights.

12. I am disappointed at the basic lack of reciprocity. When some NYU professors come to Singapore and articulate views which may be disagreeable to official policy of the government, or the views of academic colleagues, we afford them the basic courtesy in the interests of authentic intellectual exchange, to express their views. We do not allow a song and dance and vicious attacks to be made on them. Perhaps, (some) Asians are more polite after all.

Who has disallowed her from expressing her views, again? Anyone? Beuller?

Oh, right — by expressing their own views, LGBT students are “attacking” her.

13. I was invited to NYU by the Law School. I was honoured by this recognition of my academic scholarship. I looked forward to meeting a new community of scholars of a respected institution. Now my ‘colourful’ political views have been “outed” so to speak (it is old to me, I have already gone through a local round of abuse in 2007, death threats and other acts of viciousness) and I have been roundly insulted and attacked. This is how you treat your visitors? Do you mean only those with acceptable political views or those who keep their political views personal for fear of such vicious responses are to be entertained? You will breed academic cowardice and a paralyzing homogenisation if this is the case. I am not suggesting that NYU in fact does this, I am merely pointing out the logical consequences of this kind of action / reaction / inaction.

The logical consequence of criticizing an academic’s views are academic cowardice and paralyzing homogenisation? The way to breed healthy academic discourse and intellectual bravery and diversity is to shut up and just let professors’ views go unchallenged?

14. I am tired of this obsessive and narcissitic obsession with ONE of the speeches I made during my 2.5 years tenure in Parliament. Perhaps my detractors would like to review the range of my speeches, from organ donation to foreign workers to women’s rights to by-election motions to the right to vote, before they so readily condemn me. Perhaps they would like to review my academic record before sitting in judgment, with such hubris and incivility. Perhaps they need to reflect that the ‘culture wars’ are called ‘wars’ for a reason but that they can model reasoned and civil discourse rather than perpetuate a culture of vulgarity and violence.

Clearly her other work is being recognized, or she wouldn’t have been invited to teach at NYU — her faculty bio highlights much of that other work. People can do good and bad things at the same time; that doesn’t mean that we have to accept the bad things without critique.

And again, this isn’t just about discourse — it’s about making laws that criminalize a subset of the population, and then claiming you’re the victim when that subset calls you a bigot. It never fails to amaze me how people like Dr. Thio can say incredibly ugly things, and push for incredibly ugly laws, and then complain when someone issues a strongly-worded response.

15. What seems to be getting activists in a twist is my speech in support of the government’s stance to retain the sodomy law. Please note, it was not even up for discussion until another MP raised it in a specific targeted parliamentary petition, full of fine sounding rhetoric and little substance. This matter was debated in Singapore for months. I played my role in the democratic process by uttering the views of the majority of Singaporeans. Most MPs who spoke to it supported the retention of the law. They recognise Singapore is a socially conservative society and were faithfully expressing the views of their constituents, to rebut the homosex activist campaigners who also had their mouthpiece in Parliament. Anyone concerned with the democratisation of Singapore society should view this as a progressive step. Anyone only concerned with their agenda will of course only seek to attack their detractors. But then, is politics about the common good or just partisan agendas? Is this not a fit subject to academic enquiry?

I had the support of the vast majority of the House as well (though of course, it may surprise you, there are dissenting voices in Parliament and even within the ruling party). After the debate, many were grateful that I had not bowed down to the intimidatory tactics of the homosexual community and been their voice. Many within and without the House came to thank me personally. Some weeping. Many were concerned with my welfare after the flurry of vicious attacks I received after the speech, as they recognised how vile many were. I am sure Mr Graves-Pryor will say: serves you right for speaking such bigoted views. I wonder whether he sees the bigotry and intolerant ‘tolerance’ in that kind of reaction and the double standards rife in this type of discourse? I am against physical violence towards all people as a fundamental norm, but ironically, those who paint themselves as advocates of personal liberty have no hesitation in squelching mine. Lets be tolerant but not tolerate whom we consider intolerant. That is totalitarianism by any other name

In other words, academic enquiry is fine and good unless you disagree with me, and then you are using “intimidation tactics.”

I’m also pretty sure that being intolerant of intolerance isn’t “totalitarianism by any other name.” “Tolernce” doesn’t mean “look the other way when people promote bigoted viewpoints and discriminatory laws.”

16. Now, I do not expect you to agree with my views. But does Mr. Graves-Pryor expect me to conform with his? What bullying. But that is something I have come to recognise as a common tactic of some activists. This is in fact a threat to a free society, whether to equality of citizenship, religious freedom and free speech.

I can’t speak for Mr. Graves-Pryor, but I do actually expect my law school to not support the work of people who agitate for discrimination. I’d be pretty upset if David Duke was invited to be a guest professor; I’d be upset if the school brought in a Feminist Legal Theory professor whose political work involved attempts to bar women from the workplace. I would probably give voice to that upset. That isn’t a threat to free speech or religious freedom; it’s exercising my own free speech, and putting pressure on a private institution to live up to its ideals and its claimed mission.

17. Mr Graves-Pryor and I am sure, many in the NYU community may dislike the tenor of my speech, but it boils down in substance to differing conceptions of the common good and the good life, over epistemology, ethics, morality. And let me put things in context

a. I am not a member of the Singapore government. I am not in the position to “oppress” anyone. I am in the position as an individual, to be oppressed. Which is what has happened.

Can someone explain to me how she was oppressed? Is criticism “oppression” now?

And she may not be a member of the Singapore government today, but she was a member of Parliament. In that role, she did advocate for the continuation of a law criminalizing sexual activity between men. She certainly was in a position to oppress people, and that is exactly what she did.

b. My support for what you sir may consider an oppressive law is a function of my right to speak to matters of law and policy as a Singapore citizen and as I was then, a member of Parliament.

Sure. And no one wants to take that right away from her. But just because you have a right to do something doesn’t mean that you have a right to remain free of criticism, or that your choices aren’t going to have consequences. I have the right to say all kinds of bigoted and awful things, but if I say them at work I might get fired. That isn’t oppression or a violation of my rights.

c. My objection is not to gay people; it is towards the nature of the homosexual political agenda and the vicious and degrading tactics of some activists. I say “some” because there were gays in Singapore who (a) agree that homosexuality should not be mainstreamed or coercively taught as having moral equivalence with heterosexuality as a social norm) (b) disagree with me but reject the tactics of insult and death threats.

She doesn’t have an objection to gay people, as long as they know their place and don’t try and pretend that they aren’t immoral and bad.

This isn’t about tactics at all; it’s entirely about bigotry towards gay people. The argument that “I like some gay people — the ones who don’t try and say that their relationships are morally equivalent to heterosexual relationships, and who are happy to be second-class citizens, and who never challenge me” doesn’t exactly compel the conclusion that Dr. Thio’s views are simply about politics and not about bigotry.

d. Does Mr Graves-Pryor believe that someone should be fired because they are gay? Or that someone should be subject to heterosexual sensitivity training to ‘cure’ their ‘deviant’ beliefs? Of course not. Now, does Mr Graves-Pryor believe that someone should be fired because they believe heterosexuality and family values (yes, we can debate ‘family’) should be socially supported and the social norm? Or that someone should be subject to homosex sensitivity training because they believe heterosexuality to be the norm?

e. One reason I spoke out as clearly as I did was because that was my constitutional function, to bring forth an alternative view. I am not a professional politician. I am interested in the soundness of argument rather than perception. I am aware of how politicised this issue is and how emotion drives most of the argument, particularly on the side of those who denigrate their detractors as emotional, while manifesting that same trait. That comes from my training as an academic.

f. Another reason is frankly, a tiredness with this sort of bullying towards anyone who opposes the gay agenda. (And I know gays who oppose the gay agenda). One of my colleagues, an untenured professor, wrote an Op Ed supporting the retention of the sodomy law and the policy of non active enforcement. An argument raised was that law has an educative function in signalling social mores. Removing the law would signal a different set of values that colleague was opposed to. What happened? That colleague received a torrent of abuse. People wrote to our dean demanding that colleague(a) be removed from her job (b) be subjected to homosex sensitivity training (c) be required to teach pro-gay cases from abroad (which in fact were referenced in lectures while not celebrated). We do not tolerate such self-righteous intolerance in Singapore. At stake is genuine academic freedom and civil discourse. Who is the oppressed and who is the oppressor in this context? Or does an unrelenting hubris occlude the ability to see the truth of things in different contexts?

People can believe whatever they want. They can voice those views if they want. But saying that a group of people should have their actions criminalized because of their sexual orientation is pretty problematic. People are going to push back. How is it reasonable academic discourse to promote the criminalization of sex between men, but totally unreasonable to write a letter to the Dean saying that bigoted views are harmful to the community?

18. I wonder whether Mr. Graves-Pryor bothered to read the entirety of my speech and to appreciate the context and the fact that I will not let any of my junior colleagues be bullied by intemperate activism if I can help it. I also wonder whether Mr. Graves Pryor saw the bottom line in my parliamentary speech which was and remains this: “As fellow citizens, homosexuals are entitled to expect decent treatment from the rest of us; but they have no right to insist we surrender our fundamental moral beliefs so they can feel comfortable about their sexual behaviour.” I am sure it will not go far enough for him or those who share his views in this politics of identity. This disagreement is socially magnified many times.

No one is making anyone surrender their moral beliefs. However, one group is criminalizing the actions of another group. The criminalized group and their allies are pushing back with words alone, they’re the bullies?

If the NYU law community is unable to welcome me because of my convictions, they should say so. I am sure many faculty members are doing some soul-searching, perhaps regretting their original invitation. I am not naive. But just reflect on how this makes me feel. I do not feel welcomed as a person; I feel unfairly treated and greatly disrespected. Would any academic (who is reasonably sane) want to go into a situation where hatred of a person, as oppose to “sharp disagreement” with their views, is the order of the day? Mr Graves-Pryor and those who share his views have succeeded in communicating their extreme disapproval of me / my views. They may rejoice in speaking freely, as the US Constitution protects, while seeking to intimidate others from exercising that same right through intimidation and abuse. I maintain my disagreement with their views and the viciousness of expression but this is perhaps to be expected, given the intractable nature of law and profound moral dis
agreement where an overlapping consensus is not possible or elusive.

If NYU Law as an institution is committed to a genuine diversity of viewpoints and respectful interlocution, it would be an institution I would be honoured to be given the privilege to teach at. If not, then be frank and say so.

Dean, if you wish to circulate my views and clarifications to the faculty, that is your prerogative. I have no desire to come into a hostile working environment where people believe half truths and false insinuations about me. If they wish to dislike me or my views, let it be for the views that I actually hold, not the ones maliciously imputed to me.

I remain respectfully,

Li-ann Thio

I think her views are crystal-clear.

How the NYU administration wants to handle this one is its prerogative. As an alum, though, I’m deeply disappointed in the decision to invite Dr. Thio in the first place, and in their continued defense of her. I chose NYU in large part because of its tradition of inclusiveness and its affirmation of diversity. I will be even more disappointed if any NYU students decide to enroll in her class — not just because of her past homophobic actions, but because of her apparent inability to fairly engage those with whom she disagrees. I’m all for academic freedom and I’m not arguing that NYU should rescind their offer, but it is troubling that Dr. Thio paints herself as a victim of the “homosex” agenda in response to a fairly innocuous student email.

Oh, and NYU Law? The next time you send me an email or a letter asking for financial support, you’re going to receive a note back from me explaining that I’m donating to an LGBT rights organization instead, and will be doing so for the foreseeable future. I would love to be a more involved graduate, but I’m not going to give a penny to an institution that invites people like Dr. Thio to teach. That will hold true long after she is no longer teaching at the law school.

Thanks to Nadia for the link.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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126 Responses to The oppressor and victim is who and what now?

  1. Flowers says:

    Right on Jill! If my alma mater had invited a Human Rights professor that doesn’t think that gay rights are human rights, I would have been pissed!

    Plus, if Dr. Thio’s letters so far have been any indication of what she is going to be like in the classroom, I have a feeling that her “academic discourse” will be neither. (Can you imagine her telling the law students in her class to stop bullying her when they challenge her on something?)

  2. pianodreamer says:

    I didn’t read the entire article, as there is a limit to the amount of homophobic bullshit I can read before I start feeling sick.

    Its sickening the way that even when people agree that homophobia is wrong, they still tend to tolerate it. GLBT issues aren’t taken as serious, they’re just something to deal with when its convenient.

  3. Dreamweasel says:

    If they wish to dislike me or my views, let it be for the views that I actually hold, not the ones maliciously imputed to me.

    Oh, don’t worry.

  4. Karl says:

    I’d be interested to sit in on a lecture in another class where the first-year law students are asked to discuss the legal definition of libel, and defend whether or not Dr. Thio was justified in that accusation.

  5. Jolene says:

    Recently, her mother and another relative of hers also orchestrated a takeover of a feminist organisation and disrupted all its activities because of the claim that it had become a “single purpose” organisation trying to create “a generation of lesbians”. It was extraordinarily dramatic, especially in a generally politically apathetic country.

    We blogged about it at Singaporean feminist blog Glass Castle:

    http://www.glass-castle.org/issue20editorial.html
    http://www.glass-castle.org/blog/2009/04/tale-of-two-events-how-they-have.html
    http://www.glass-castle.org/blog/2009/04/here-comes-horse.html
    http://www.glass-castle.org/blog/2009/05/day-after.html

    Thio Li-Ann herself wasn’t publicly on the record as being involved, but the ideological alliances are clear and she said in an interview shortly after that she’s proud of her mother.

    Thio’s mother is known to have claimed that Singapore’s liberal abortion laws resulted in the nation being stricken by SARS and that her prayer prevented the 2005 tsunami from hitting Singapore:

    http://taikiew.net/2009/05/dr-thio-su-mien-says/

    They are rather frightening people.

    Jolene

  6. victoria says:

    I would love to see a bunch of students show up to campus with straws in their noses as a sign of protest.

  7. Marlene says:

    How does a law professor not know what libel is? How does a law professor think that a law is right as long as it is not enforced?

  8. William says:

    Maybe its just my oppositional nature showing, but I’d be tempted to take her class and get my like minded friends to do the same just to be able to occupy class hours with constant challenge. I would imagine that a weekly room of spiteful grad students could make just about anyone crack by the fifth or sixth week. I know that I was in a second year class in a psych doctoral program that got very ugly when it became obvious that the professor treated race, gender, and sexuality as if it was still 1950. Then again, I’ve also heard that law schools tend to be a bit more…authoritarian than where I’ve done my graduate work, so perhaps it wouldn’t work as I suspect.

  9. Rebecca says:

    Is there any action we can take to ask the university to disinvite her? This is ridiculous.

  10. Holly says:

    I feel pretty comfortable saying, now that I have read Dr. Thio’s views in her own words, that her opinions are immoral and based in bigotry. Even if she doesn’t think they are. It is a moral debate, not “just” a political one, and it’s up to NYU to decide if her views, which clearly involve denying rights to a large segment of humanity, are beyond the pale or not. The social and ethical process by which some views are pushed out of the mainstream and become less tolerable is actually part of why we have debates, why we stand up and declare what our consciences tell is wrong and immoral. This happened with slavery, it continues to happen with racism, it has happened with all sorts of views that were once widely tolerated and are now considered intolerable.

    If we are going to change this world for the better, some opinions and positions are going to be pushed out of discourse, and that’s for the better, so that we don’t have to repeatedly argue, on the same ground over and over again, for the basic humanity and rights of women just as for me, for black people just as for white, and for gay people just as for straight. Yes, the consequences is that bigots have fewer platforms and bully pulpits to preach from, and that’s a good thing. It’s progress towards justice. If anyone should understand that, it’s someone who has studied the history and law of human rights. I can’t believe she’s drawing an equivalency between “intolerance of homosexuality” and “intolerance of those who won’t tolerate homosexuality.” A law professor? How is it not completely clear, at this point, what a huge logical fallacy that is?

  11. shah8 says:

    A couple of points…

    1) Plenty of US politicians (and plenty of Democrats) have the same attitudes, they simply don’t express them as a Singaporean would (and my oh my, you can find plenty of similar comments wrt race as well). I have found Singaporeans quite verbal about much of this kind of thing–not so much undercover psuedoliberality. N.B. I know and work for Singaporeans.

    2) Her attitudes are pretty representative of where she came from. More than that, in many parts of the world, even in pretty much first and second world areas, most of the interesting people will also have this attitude. To some degree, Thio is actually being singled out. Plenty of foreign teachers are going to be very homophobic (even if they weren’t a politicians playing to a homophobic audience). Most of those aren’t going to be a voluable as a Singaporean, and most will have learned to hold to some discretion.

    I make no comment on her acceptability to Yale or whatever. I certainly don’t subscribe to her views, but I would be very careful about the politics. This sort of thing can be quite subterreanean, and Dr Thio’s paranoia might be valid.

  12. shah8 says:

    Her wiki is a bit more helpful in showing, well, she is pretty nutbar about homosexuality. She started her political prominence based on anti-gay rhetoric via a homophobic flame in the Strait Times.

    No, I wouldn’t be very interested in hiring her.

  13. anarchafemme says:

    I am against physical violence towards all people as a fundamental norm, but ironically, those who paint themselves as advocates of personal liberty have no hesitation in squelching mine. Lets be tolerant but not tolerate whom we consider intolerant. That is totalitarianism by any other name

    Ok, let me see if I have this right…making a public objection to someone’s views and pointing them out as immoral is equivalent to physical violence, but maintaining the criminalization of a group of people and thus subjecting them to being targeted by the group the state gives a monopoly on violent enforcement of its laws isn’t violence. And people raising objections are squelching personal liberty, not someone maintaining the criminalization of behavior between consenting adults. And debate is totalitarianism?

    I agree with Holly, and am sadly not shocked with the number of logical fallacies used by a law professor.

  14. William says:

    I don’t disagree that Dr. Thio Li-ann has disagreeable views. However, it is to NYU Law’s credit that they have been willing to weather the inevitable and foreseeable storm in order to hire a well-qualified professor. There is a lot that she would be able to teach about human rights, especially the structure by which we begin to enumerate new rights.

    You see, lost in the debate is the fact that Dr. Thio Li-ann is incredibly smart as well as accomplished. She earned degrees from the University of Oxford, Harvard Law School and the University of Cambridge. She was elected to to Parliament in Singapore, where she helped rewrite the penal code, and had to face death threats as a result of her work. There is no doubt that we all can learn valuable lessons from her experiences, if only more ideas we disagree with.

    It is not the case that there has been a universal recognition of homosexual rights. It’s a stretch to even say there has been such a consensus in American when our federal statutes don’t even protect against discrimination on that basis. Heck, when put to the people of California, gay marriage was constitutionally banned. Gay rights is a notion that we barely have in the US, much less anywhere else. And if there’s a country that would illegalize gay sex, it would be Singapore, which executes drug traffickers and canes vandals.

    In this context, I would be very interested to see how the infrastructure Dr. Li-ann proposes to deal with minority rights would evolve to perhaps one day recognizing gay rights. We can see how the United States deals with the evolution of rights. (Populist mess, utter fail.) How would Dr. Li-ann’s proposal work? If she is academically honest enough to have this discussion, and there is no reason to expect that she is not, I think it would be incredibly fascinating to have her explain if and how her brainchild might grow up to revolt against her.

    It would be a huge mistake to boycott her class. We would be guilty of academic cowardice if we let our prejudices prevent us from learning. NYU Law made the right call in having Dr. Li-ann teach. I only hope that its students are wise enough to learn from her.

  15. Kristen J. says:

    Wow…umm….well….I think she should be booted from NYU for incompetence. How can you learn to create an effective argument from this woman? Seriously. Spaghetti logic.

  16. Jill says:

    It’s not cowardice to boycott her class, any more than it’s cowardice when NYU Law students protect and boycott military recruiters who come on campus, because Don’t Ask Don’t Tell violates our anti-discrimination policy. William, read Holly’s comment above — it’s very apt.

  17. amandaw says:

    If we are going to change this world for the better, some opinions and positions are going to be pushed out of discourse, and that’s for the better, so that we don’t have to repeatedly argue, on the same ground over and over again, for the basic humanity and rights of women just as for me[n], for black people just as for white, and for gay people just as for straight.

    YES.

    It’s never comfortable when you’re challenged on something you’re wrong about. And not just wrong, but seriously wrong, and not just seriously wrong, but seriously wrong in such a way that it makes other people’s lives substantially harder — or contributes to ending them altogether.

    Yeah, it’s not nice to make other people uncomfortable, but you know what, it has to happen.

  18. William says:

    You see, lost in the debate is the fact that Dr. Thio Li-ann is incredibly smart as well as accomplished. She earned degrees from the University of Oxford, Harvard Law School and the University of Cambridge. She was elected to to Parliament in Singapore, where she helped rewrite the penal code, and had to face death threats as a result of her work. There is no doubt that we all can learn valuable lessons from her experiences, if only more ideas we disagree with.

    That would be a compelling argument if she wasn’t teaching a class regarding human rights in Asia. Herbert Spencer was a brilliant man, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with him teaching a class on the effects of Poverty and Class in American society. Why? Because his blatant classism would likely lead to a pretty one-sided treatment of the materials. Beyond that, the argument over gay rights is largely settled when it comes to what the different sides represent. One side believes that people ought to be free to have relationships with consenting adults of their choosing, the other thinks that their disgust/cultural expectations/vague ramblings of dead patriarchs ought to have the force of law upon the bodies of others. There isn’t much to learn about anymore.

    The free flow of ideas is vital to any liberal society, but just because ideas are allowed to flow freely does not mean that all ideas are of equal merit. I’d fight to defend the right of the KKK to call people of color animals, but at the same time I would fight to exclude their hate speech from institutions in which I claim membership. Part of a free flow of ideas is a marketplace of ideas, and the end of that marketplace is that bad ideas end up in the dust heap. Dr. Thio’s views on homosexuality are neither new nor unique, they’ve likely been encountered by just about everyone who has an opinion on the subject. It seems that the people who have already encountered them have rejected the ideas, and feel that the dollars paid to employ Dr. Thio would be better spent on something less repugnant. Welcome to the marketplace.

  19. Drel says:

    The sad thing is that I, as a Singaporean, feel utterly sick at the way she can say this. She was probably one of the more vocal people demanding that the law in our country should continue criminalizing sodomy and homosexuality.

    I can only say that I hope she would be disinvited. Surely there are other Singaporean law professors they can invite.

  20. William says:

    Jill. You’re missing the point. So is Holly, who says that Dr. Li-ann’s views “clearly involve denying rights to a large segment of humanity…”

    There is no consensus those rights exist. There is no right to gay marriage in the United States. The federal laws banning discrimination do not recognize sexual-orientation as a protected class. Proposition 8 democratically showed gay marriage is not ready for prime time yet. If you argue that you can bar Dr. Li-ann because she denied rights, you have to prove that rights exist. Otherwise, you have no argument.

    You and Holly also completely miss the point about free speech. An idea never becomes so wrong you can’t talk about it, especially if you use popular support to draw that line. That’s censorship. You are moving us towards Germany, where a Holocaust denier was arrested for publishing a book “investigating” the Holocaust.

    But even though you are a book-burning fascist, I support your right to free speech. I would not ban you from speaking on campus. I would not ban you from teaching. I only reserve the right to come out to have civilized debate with you about your ideas.

  21. William says:

    I forgot to point out that Dr. Li-ann was referring to the concept of libel per se. Accusing a person of incompetence in her career obviates the need to show malice to obtain general damages. The NYU student said she was “unfit to teach human rights”. Undoubtedly, the good doctor spotted the issue of libel per se. It seems to have skipped right over our heads.

    Accusations of having loathsome diseases or of dishonesty in business dealings are also covered by libel per se.

  22. William says:

    Jill: There should be a tongue-in-cheek tag. I was using the “call you a rights denier then call you a bad person to justify telling you to stop talking” approach to argumentation.

    You see how it’s a bad argument to make? And I actually have a right (that of free expression) behind me. There is no consensus that there are gay rights.

  23. Rebecca says:

    I don’t disagree that Dr. Thio Li-ann has disagreeable views. However, it is to NYU Law’s credit that they have been willing to weather the inevitable and foreseeable storm in order to hire a well-qualified professor. There is a lot that she would be able to teach about human rights, especially the structure by which we begin to enumerate new rights.

    A class taught by this professor is not a safe environment for LGBT students, and the university has an obligation to provide a safe environment for its students.

    You see, lost in the debate is the fact that Dr. Thio Li-ann is incredibly smart as well as accomplished. She earned degrees from the University of Oxford, Harvard Law School and the University of Cambridge. She was elected to to Parliament in Singapore, where she helped rewrite the penal code, and had to face death threats as a result of her work. There is no doubt that we all can learn valuable lessons from her experiences, if only more ideas we disagree with.

    And Bill O’Reilly has two masters’ degrees, including one from Harvard, and I shouldn’t need to tell you about the kind of people who get elected to public office. Also what William said.

    It is not the case that there has been a universal recognition of homosexual rights. It’s a stretch to even say there has been such a consensus in American when our federal statutes don’t even protect against discrimination on that basis. Heck, when put to the people of California, gay marriage was constitutionally banned. Gay rights is a notion that we barely have in the US, much less anywhere else. And if there’s a country that would illegalize gay sex, it would be Singapore, which executes drug traffickers and canes vandals.

    Your point?

    In this context, I would be very interested to see how the infrastructure Dr. Li-ann proposes to deal with minority rights would evolve to perhaps one day recognizing gay rights. We can see how the United States deals with the evolution of rights. (Populist mess, utter fail.) How would Dr. Li-ann’s proposal work? If she is academically honest enough to have this discussion, and there is no reason to expect that she is not, I think it would be incredibly fascinating to have her explain if and how her brainchild might grow up to revolt against her.

    I, too, would be interested in seeing the infrastructure an opponent of human rights would propose to extend human rights. I doubt, however, that she is intellectually honest enough to have that discussion, in light of the letter posted here.

    It would be a huge mistake to boycott her class. We would be guilty of academic cowardice if we let our prejudices prevent us from learning. NYU Law made the right call in having Dr. Li-ann teach. I only hope that its students are wise enough to learn from her.

    “We would be guilty of academic cowardice if we let our prejudices prevent us from learning”? You say this to people angry that a person who opposes human rights is teaching a class on human rights? Don’t you think that’s a case of someone letting her prejudices prevent her from teaching?

    I’ve got to say, though, from some of your phrasing, I don’t think you’re arguing in good faith. It would also be nice if you would call her “Dr. Thio,” as that is her name. Unless you would call Sec. of State Kissinger “Dr. Henry.”

  24. Flowers says:

    William, the issue isn’t JUST Thio’s free speech. She CAN say what she wants. The issue is that NYU is hiring her as a Human Rights professor. NYU doesn’t allow homophobic organizations to recruit on campus, because that’s they’re right to free speech, and they should NOT bring an anti-gay Human Rights professor to campus to teach. It’s free speech on both sides. Speech includes actions that express a point of view. We want NYU to use their right to free speech to enforce their own policy of non-support for homophobic organizations and people.

  25. Ens says:

    William, nobody is suggesting we arrest Dr. Thio. Nobody has a responsibility to give this doctor *their* platform, or their time, just because she has a right to say and believe it.

    There’s a LOT of learning in the world to do. Nobody will learn less overall by not attending a particular class. We all have our filters and insisting that we must listen to her is drawing an arbitrary line of false moral high ground, unless you also listen through every timecube rant, every alien invasion conspiracy, and every last little thing that people say. I guarantee you don’t engage every one of them (or you simply aren’t paying attention). And anyway, we just read an 18 point argument from Dr. Thio right here.

  26. julian says:

    Is Dr. Thio’s repeated use of “homosex” a language thing, and that’s why it’s been ignored? Because while it’s obvious that sie believes homosex (lol!) is inherently immoral in ways that heterosex is apparently not, the repeated referral to “homosex” instead of, well, homosexuals makes me think (without surprise) that sie doesn’t see gays as people at all, but just that one act that some of us may take part in (and, hell, a lot of hetero people do, too!).

    At first I was going to dismiss it as just a language barrier, but the more I think about it, the more it irks me. Based on the quotes here from Dr. Thio, I would say sie’s certainly better with the English language than I am.

    As if the rest of that bullshit wasn’t bad enough… now gays aren’t even people, but just a straw up a nose.

  27. Rebecca says:

    There is no consensus those rights exist. There is no right to gay marriage in the United States. The federal laws banning discrimination do not recognize sexual-orientation as a protected class. Proposition 8 democratically showed gay marriage is not ready for prime time yet. If you argue that you can bar Dr. Li-ann because she denied rights, you have to prove that rights exist. Otherwise, you have no argument.

    Oh look. NYU Code of Conduct VI. Respect for the Rights and Dignity of Others:
    New York University is committed to a policy of equal treatment, opportunity, and respect in its relations with its faculty, administrators, staff, students, and others who come into contact with the University. Every member of the University is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender and/or gender identity or expression, marital or parental status, national origin, citizenship status, veteran or military status, age, disability, and any other legally protected status; physically assaulting, emotionally abusing, or harassing anyone; and depriving anyone of rights in his or her physical or intellectual property, under University policy, or under federal, state, and local laws.

    You and Holly also completely miss the point about free speech. An idea never becomes so wrong you can’t talk about it, especially if you use popular support to draw that line. That’s censorship. You are moving us towards Germany, where a Holocaust denier was arrested for publishing a book “investigating” the Holocaust.

    And Dr. Thio is perfectly welcome to talk about it, but we oppose her being given a position of power and respect from which to do so.

    But even though you are a book-burning fascist, I support your right to free speech. I would not ban you from speaking on campus. I would not ban you from teaching. I only reserve the right to come out to have civilized debate with you about your ideas.

    You’re continuing to argue disingenously. The problem is not that Dr. Thio is setting up her soapbox in the middle of the quad. The university has invited her, not only to speak, but to teach a class. It is not a violation of free speech to withdraw that invitation from a person who does not merit it.

  28. William, RE: the whole “gay rights aren’t universally recognized” argument of yours —

    It wasn’t that long ago that slavery was not only legal, but considered to be A-OK, in large swaths of the world. (It still is practiced in a few locales, often quite openly.) And it wasn’t that long ago that women were considered not much more than chattel in Europe and North America. (They are still considered chattel in much of the rest of the world.) Civil rights for gays and lesbians is at most only a few decades behind civil rights for women and African-Americans. (In fact, gay men in America might actually achieve full citizenship and personhood before American women do, as there’s more chance of repealing DADT and DOMA than there is of passing the Equal Rights Amendment, which was first drafted over eighty-five years ago.)

  29. mzbitca says:

    This is the same old arguement that appears anytime anyone with a platform says something racist/sexist/transmisogynist/homophobit. Dr. Thio wants the right to speak her beliefs from any platform that will have her. She has the right. The students of NYU have the right to vocally protests a professor who goes again what they view as beliefs that are incompatible with their schools platform. They both have the right to do that. The school then gets to pick who’s side they want to fall on. Dr. Thio’s right to free speech is not being trampled by having people speak out against her.

    It always seems that the people have have the biggest platform and loads of opportunity to utilize their free speech are the first to scream “foul” when those who don’t have that opportunity use theirs to call them out.

  30. Ned says:

    Rebecca, excellent response to William. I am a South Asian lesbian student at NYU who has just completed a Master’s in psychology from there. I find this appointment outrageous. There are many sex acts that I personally do not like and would never engage in, but I strongly believe that the state should not be interfering in private consensual sex acts between adults.

    Freedom of speech is fine, but in practice there is always a trade-off between freedom of speech and respect for human dignity. We can’t condone hate speech in the name of freedom. And as Rebecca said, Dr. Thio Li-Ann is free to hold her opinions and shout them out from any private forum of her own, but for NYU to be hiring her as a professor of *human rights* is pretty ridiculous.

  31. anarchafemme says:

    Rights don’t exist when they’re legally recognized, they exist independent of governmental recognition, and people have them simply by virtue of existing. I would be shocked if Dr. Li-ann Thio was not familiar with this concept, and while the fact that the natural law concept of human rights has been heavily influential on many legal systems isn’t sufficient alone to prove that gay rights are human rights, it does indicate that it would be a pretty commonly accepted argument in philosophy of law that just because a right is not recognized by the State, does not mean it doesn’t exist.

    I would argue that interfering in acts that occur entirely between consenting adults is a violation of their rights, and I think that’s a view one can easily derive from a variety of philosophers. I don’t think many of us would argue that other oppressed groups had no rights until they were granted them by the State; their rights were denied them by the State until the State was forced to recognize rights that they already were born with.

    The concept of natural rights, in addition from going from the Stoics into Roman law, to England, and to former English colonial possessions (including the US, where Dr. Li-ann Thio will be teaching and many of their students will be practicing law), is also an important concept in Islamic Law, and shapes the way the UN handles human rights.

  32. Ned says:

    Please bear in mind that India is now moving to repeal Section 377, the same sodomy laws that Dr. Li-Ann supports. This has been widely hailed as the right move, and even conservative religious leaders in India are saying that while homosexuality is immoral, it is not something to be criminalized. If she is going to teach a course on human rights in Asia, what is she going to teach about India? That India is making some terrible mistake by repealing barbaric sodomy laws that are used, in India, to persecute/harass queers (usually effeminate men and masculine women), to forcibly separate gay couples who have been together for years, and that have directly led to suicides by queer people?

  33. FashionablyEvil says:

    Julian, I also noticed the “homosex” thing. I think it must be intentional because at other times she uses homosexual as an adjective multiple times.

    (She also lost me with the use of the word “ironical”).

  34. exholt says:

    You see, lost in the debate is the fact that Dr. Thio Li-ann is incredibly smart as well as accomplished. She earned degrees from the University of Oxford, Harvard Law School and the University of Cambridge.

    Ted Kaczynski attended Harvard and University of Michigan, Jeffrey Skilling went to Harvard, George W. Bush attended Yale and Harvard, many of the chief executives of the bankrupted Barings Bank were Oxbridge graduates*, etc……….

    Hate to break it to ya….but there were plenty of unaccomplished, socially destructive, and intellectually challenged folks who also attended and graduated from Oxbridge or your Ivy/Ivy-level schools as the examples above illustrate.

    Though one can potentially gain an excellent education from such institutions……it does not necessarily follow that all of the students take enough advantage of them to gain that education. W’s is an illustrative case in this regard…..

    * Kinda pathetic how a long established banking institution ran mostly by Oxbridge graduates ended up being bankrupted mainly by the actions of trader Nick Leeson….someone whose sixth form grades were so bad that he was dissuaded from considering attending a university. What’s more pathetic was that even he admitted that he wouldn’t have been able to pull off his scheme at most other banking institutions as Barings’ governance and compliance checks were so lax as to be practically nonexistent.

    It would be a huge mistake to boycott her class. We would be guilty of academic cowardice if we let our prejudices prevent us from learning. NYU Law made the right call in having Dr. Li-ann teach. I only hope that its students are wise enough to learn from her.

    Academic cowardice?!! More like the exercise of one’s academic choices and prudence. Not all Profs are of equal educational worth or even suited to teach as most of us who attended undergrad/grad schools experienced. If someone wants to boycott classes out of personally felt principles….that’s their right….and a far better sign of an active conscious student living their principles than the apathetic majority IME.

    It is also interesting how you seem to feel Dr. Thio Li-ann should be respected mainly because of her position as an accomplished academic, status as a former politician, and her educational pedigree….regardless of whether her expressed views and actions have contributed to the oppression of others….especially considering she was a politician who had a role in determining penal codes….. :roll:

    FYI, it was this very mentality which allowed ossified moribund dynastical bureaucrats with highly prestigious imperial examination degrees in the late Qing dynasty to stifle innovations and reforms which contributed to and aggravated the very decline and weakness of China during the 19th and early 20th centuries which not only caused its collapse, but also left China vulnerable to Western Imperial powers for decades.

  35. Mr. Graves wasn’t suggesting that she is racist. He was comparing homophobia to racism, in the sense that they are both bigoted views wherein a dominant group marginalizes and oppresses a minority group, whether through legislation or through the normalization of certain social codes.

    What kind of pathetic dumbfuck excuse for a law professor doesn’t even possess the critical thinking skills to make this obvious distinction? If for nothing else, this asshole should be shitcanned by NYU Law for rank fucking incompetence.

  36. exholt says:

    I should also add that if Dr. Li-ann felt the need to send an 18 point email expressing how maligned she is because of the benign polite email from Malik Graves-Pryor, she wouldn’t last a day at Oberlin assuming the administration is addled enough to even consider inviting her to teach as a Visiting Prof.

    Graves-Pryor’s letter to the dean was far more polite and diplomatic than anything the dean and president of the college would have received from the student body if this actually came to pass IME. If she’d come….she’d be serenaded by a series of loud in-your-face campus-wide protests populated not only by the vast majority of the student body…but also most of the faculty. And those protests make the ones I’ve seen at NYU and Columbia look like welcoming committees for those they were protesting against…..

  37. Manju says:

    “this isn’t about politics or a difference in political ideology — this is about fundamental human rights. He argues that NYU Law would never support the work of an academic who made similar comments about other traditionally marginalized groups”

    This doesn’t make sense. The difference between Locke an Lenin is surely ideological, but this ideological difference represents a fundamental difference over basic human rights….what they are and how society should protect them.

    Many Marxists were deeply skeptical about the very concept of rights, believing the idea to be merely an ideology, which in the Marxist sense means a false system of thought designed to protect the interest of the ruling bourgeoisie. Having undermined the concepts of rights philosophically, their descent into an Orwellian tyranny was rather predictable.

    Having said that, to restrict academia to academics who believe in Human rights as the ruling neo-liberal ideology constructs it, is to strangle the very idea of a liberal university. This is the one place more than any other where the unthinkable must be allowed to be thought.

    NYU should support her.

  38. William says:

    There is no consensus those rights exist. There is no right to gay marriage in the United States.

    While I’m sure its a bit confusing that we’re using the same name, I’ll keep in the ring for the time being. Now, perhaps you’ve spent enough time in law school and the court room to begin venerating the law, but you need to remember your history. Rights have nothing to do with consensus, nor with legal recognition. You could go back and read your Locke and talk about natural rights, or you could read some Paine and pay attention to the evolution he present of that same idea, or you could pick up a copy of On Liberty and see what Mill had to say about the tyranny of the majority. Regardless, you’ll find the same refrain: a government that does not protect rights is a system of tyranny to be done away with, violently if necessary.

    So, not to put too fine a point on it, fuck the consensus. There wasn’t a consensus regarding slavery in this country when Dred Scott was decided, but the abolitionists moved on and I consider the concept of slavery beyond the pale. There was a consensus in favor of Jim Crow in the south, but bussing started anyway. “Cross dressing” and dancing with people of the same gender was illegal in New York in 1969, but marches are still held every year with chants of “We’re here! We’re Queer! Get used to it!” to commemorate when a bunch of queers rioted against both the law and the common consensus, damaged property, and tried to burn police alive in a bar. Thats how rights work. The majority attempts to restrict them, and the minority fights back. Neither the government nor the majority are the source of rights, anyone who argues otherwise is, simply, a tyrant.

    The federal laws banning discrimination do not recognize sexual-orientation as a protected class.

    Although an astute observer would notice that the machinery is in motion to change that.

    Proposition 8 democratically showed gay marriage is not ready for prime time yet.

    Law banning miscegenation were widely popular for years, the Klan ran Indiana for a century, and until recently a good majority of the country was opposed to abortion despite it being enshrined as a right by the supreme court. Your point?

    If you argue that you can bar Dr. Li-ann because she denied rights, you have to prove that rights exist. Otherwise, you have no argument.

    Actually, thats not the way its supposed to work. We might have strayed far enough from our ideals that we’ve forgotten, but the basis of this American experiment was the idea that rights are fundamentally negative, not positive. The government has restrictions upon it’s power, the people do not have allowances upon their behavior. Moreover, the government is supposed to need to prove a compelling public interest before any limitation of liberty can happen. That means the burden is on opponents of gay rights to prove first that there is no such thing and second that the behavior they seek to prohibit does material harm to others. Last I checked two guys getting to visit one another in the hospital and inherit property doesn’t hurt me, nor does those same men engaging in any manner of sex acts. You’re more than welcome to attempt to make an argument, but it been a loosing one for going on 40 years.

    You and Holly also completely miss the point about free speech. An idea never becomes so wrong you can’t talk about it,

    She has the right to say whatever she wants whenever she wants. She does not have the right to be paid to say it. Thats the difference. If she wants to march down main street talking about “homosex,” I’ll take up arms to defend that right. If she wants to do the same thing at an institution where I spend my money, then I will use that financial influence in any way I see fit. Thats how the free market works, friend.

    That’s censorship.

    Which is only a problem if its enforced by the coercive power of government. Kind of like two people of the same gender fucking. You can ban it in your house, you can choose to have nothing to do with it, but the moment you try to have a cop beat them into submission you’ve crossed a line that sets you apart from civil discourse.

    You are moving us towards Germany, where a Holocaust denier was arrested for publishing a book “investigating” the Holocaust.

    As tends to be the case in discussions like these, you seem to misunderstand censorship. Germany prosecuting someone for denying the holocaust is repugnant because it is using the power of government to restrict the individual freedom of expression. NYU refusing to pay someone to spread speech they disagree with is not censorship because no one is in danger of losing their liberty. The good doctor can still spout whatever she chooses, she just can’t draw a paycheck for it.

  39. Manju says:

    “A class taught by this professor is not a safe environment for LGBT students, and the university has an obligation to provide a safe environment for its students.”

    This is certainly a conundrum. The best way to deal with this is to separate ideas from action. The professor should be free to teach her hate but not be allowed to punish homosexual students. The students should be free to record the proceedings as proof, as conservative students have been doing for years now, documnsting unfair treatment from leftist professors.

    columbia university has had a similar problem with their middle eastern department dabbling in anti-semitism in the name of anti-Zionism. students have been documenting it and the universities positions to keep a fine dividing line between speech and action, which i think is the best solution. there’s even one prof there (joesph massad) who has some deeply homophobic beliefs but is still allowed to teach.

  40. Rebecca says:

    This is certainly a conundrum. The best way to deal with this is to separate ideas from action. The professor should be free to teach her hate but not be allowed to punish homosexual students. The students should be free to record the proceedings as proof, as conservative students have been doing for years now, documnsting unfair treatment from leftist professors.

    I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as you seem to think it is. Speaking as a queer person, I would not feel safe in a class taught by a professor who thinks I should have fewer human rights than her straight students. I would be uncomfortable having to worry that every criticism or low grade had homophobic overtones.

  41. Kristen J. says:

    Rights don’t exist when they’re legally recognized, they exist independent of governmental recognition, and people have them simply by virtue of existing.

    William…

    THIS.

  42. shah8 says:

    It’s not so much that she’s homophobic, it’s that it is very easy to trigger her homophobia. I suspect that she would not be an impartial judge under certain circumstance (whether the target is homosexual or now). What’s more, people like her aren’t *just* homophobic, they usually have other issues as well.

  43. Manju says:

    “I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as you seem to think it is. Speaking as a queer person, I would not feel safe in a class taught by a professor who thinks I should have fewer human rights than her straight students. I would be uncomfortable having to worry that every criticism or low grade had homophobic overtones.”

    I hear you, but your not alone. I have no doubt some Jews feel unsafe at Columbia university, as was documented in the film Columbia unbecoming. i’m sure a religious student would feel uncomfortable in the presence of richard dawkins, and there’s now a huge caseload of conservative students being mistreated by leftist professors.

    But to allow their feelings of uncomfortableness trump academic freedom would undo the very concept of a liberal university. We have to wait until they act, even if they have good reason to feel uncomfortable.

  44. Manju says:

    “Rights don’t exist when they’re legally recognized, they exist independent of governmental recognition, and people have them simply by virtue of existing.”

    I agree with this but this is a matter of opinion, not fact. To only hire professors who agree with this concept is to restrict the university to liberals. In fact, it would restrict it to right-wing liberals since much of the left has rejected natural rights, at least philosphically if not in practice.

    What would a university be without communists, radical relativists, nietzschean, or monarchists? They should be allowed to teach, and even teach schools of thought that they don’t adhere to, providing they’re qualified to pass on the knowledge. Agreeing with the concept should not be a requirement to teach it.

  45. Jill says:

    Manju, not the same. There’s a big difference between making an argument about someone’s beliefs versus someone’s identity; there’s a difference between Richard Dawkins saying “God is a myth” or a professor saying “Israel violates human rights” and someone agitating for the criminalization of consensual sex between men, because it’s “unnatural” and “perverse.” If you can’t understand that distinction, I’m not sure where this conversation will go.

    Again: No one is arguing that these topics shouldn’t be discussed. Certainly slavery is discussed at length in law school classrooms (especially in human rights classes), as are differences in treatment of sexual and racial minorities. No one posits that those topics are off limits. But we do argue that there are certain fundamental norms embraced by the community at NYU — norms that transcend the political. Norms like “No one should be enslaved” and “People deserve a full array of rights regardless of their gender or race or place of birth.” NYU ostensibly includes sexual orientation on that list; that’s why this is problematic. Not because we can’t discuss the ways that homosexuality is not universally treated the same as heterosexuality, but rather because it’s problematic to have a professor who asserts that homosexuals should be treated differently than heterosexuals.

  46. Kristen J. says:

    The best way to deal with this is to separate ideas from action.

    Accept she has taken action. Bigoted, hateful action.

    Let’s review:

    1) Dr. Thio said hateful, bigoted things that reinforce social discrimination against a group of people.

    2) Dr. Thio (with others) specifically continued the criminalization of private sexual behavior and in doing so violates their human rights.

    3) Dr. Thio takes a position teaching about human rights even though she denies the rights of gay men, who happen to also be human beings, to engage in private sexual behavior.

    4) Human rights activists say…what the…? Shouldn’t a human rights professor support all humans, not just the ones she doesn’t think are disgusting? How can she teach about human equality and human rights law when she doesn’t believe “certain” people fall into the “human” category. (okay, slightly specious there…how about “when she doesn’t believe rights exist without government approval…which is logic epic fail…since if the rights were approved by the government we wouldn’t need human rights litigation or lobbying)

    5) Dr. Thio responds by saying “But, but, STOP PERSECUTING ME!!!” and additional logic epic fail as described above.

    So from this we know two things:

    a) I like lists with letters and numbers

    b) Dr. Thio has poor argumentation skills.

    c) Dr. Thio has personally caused harm to human beings that happen to be gay and is unapologetic for that harm.

    d) Dr. Thio does not believe that liberty and privacy are necessarily human rights. She limits human rights to what she personally finds acceptable and her class will likely reflect this logic epic fail since it is the topic of the class.

  47. Rebecca says:

    But to allow their feelings of uncomfortableness trump academic freedom would undo the very concept of a liberal university. We have to wait until they act, even if they have good reason to feel uncomfortable.

    At what point do words become action? Dr. Thio has denied the human rights of LGBT students. This brings to mind another incident I read about where a professor called his Muslim students terrorists, murderers and Nazis. At this point I would have no problem saying that those students were not receiving an education equal to that of non-Muslim students, and likewise I would have no problem saying the same of any LGBT students in Dr. Thio’s class, or any Jewish students in Prof. Massad’s class.

  48. chava says:

    Academic freedom exists to protect freedom of research within your field.

    Nothing else.

    And I say this as an elitist foodie east coast liberal academic.

    No one is taking the dear professor’s tenure away, no one is firing her from her job. We’re talking about a temporary lecturing gig as a visiting professor.

  49. chava says:

    Also, as Jill might know being an NYU grad—

    They like to pull this shit on us in the summer when the students and grad students aren’t around to protest. NYU has a long history of using the summer term to do questionable crap.

  50. Manju says:

    Jill:

    I agree there’s disnition but its still problematic. NYU may have certain norms and insitutionalized values but they shouldn’t restrict their faculty to those who embrace said values, anymore than the usa should restrict the rights of citizens who don’t believe in, well, rights. to do so would be to undermine the very concept of rights, ironically.

    But if we were to follow your lead, NYU’s commitment to gay rights would prevent them from hiring jospeh massad, a prof who teaches that gay rights are a social construction of western cultural imperialism. Theoretically, many communists don’t believe in rights at all, so where would their place be on the NYU campus? Could the IQ debate take place in such an environment?

    In order to protect academic freedom and the pursuit of knowledge, NYU should enforce the norms you speak off only when it comes to action (a prof engaging in discrimination for example), but not when it comes to ideas.

    • Jill says:

      Manju, would it be acceptable for NYU to seek out and invite a professor who taught that slavery was good, and that white Westerners should continue to enslave others?

      I’m not saying that slavery is analogous with criminalizing sodomy; I don’t think it is. My point is that we do draw lines around what is and isn’t acceptable, and that NYU drew a line in its own antidiscrimination policy that it’s now going back on. I don’t think that Dr. Thio should be fired or blacklisted or anything like that, I’m just troubled by the fact that NYU sought her out. And I think that if the community opposes her views, they should react by not registering for her class. That doesn’t shut down her right to free speech at all.

      As for actions vs. ideas, where do we draw the line at “actions”? Dr. Thio doesn’t just promote the idea that homosexuality is bad; she advocates and legislates it. She has gone well beyond simple discourse. Or would it only be “action” if she tried to get a gay NYU student arrested? Is that the line?

      Look, I have a tendency to be confrontational, and I support to the death the rights of people to say all kinds of abhorrent things. I even think they have the right to say them while still on a university’s payroll. The fact that the university sought out people like Dr. Thio to guest-lecture is troubling to me, but I’m honestly more offended by her reaction. If the whole point of this exercise is really to engage in vigorous intellectual debate, then fine, let’s have it — it’s embarrassing for NYU and I think it reflects poorly on them, but that’s their call. But Dr. Thio isn’t interested in having a vigorous debate. She shuts down detractors by calling them “bullies,” blames the “homosex agenda” for the opposition she faces, and paints herself as a victim when challenged. So the whole idea that this is about academic freedom and the pursuit of knowledge seems countered by Dr. Thio’s own words and actions.

  51. chava says:

    Manju–

    Have you even *read* Desiring Arabs? I mean, I’m not a huge honking fan of Massad’s, but the argument isn’t homophobic in the way we commonly think of the term.

    As for the Columbia issue people are fussing about– Yeah, it was bad. Who exactly did what or said what is somewhat debatable. It’s one of the main reasons I didn’t take a spot in their PhD program. But it isn’t cut and dry, zomg anti-Semitism.

  52. chava says:

    Manju, Massad doesn’t work for NYU, he got tenure at Columbia this year. He stops by at our department’s lectures occasionally, but I assure you he’s not ours.

  53. Manju says:

    “At what point do words become action?”

    I agree it gets murky rebecca, but the example you give is where the line should be. The professor should have the right to believe in bigotry in the abstract but not be allowed to practice it.

    what goes around comes around. if you prevail i bet you conservative students will go after islamic professors like massad. progressives who believe blacks can’t be racist or whites can’t be anti-racist will be almost certainly come under scrutiny. say goodby to teaching the liberation theology of rev wright.

  54. chava says:

    PEOPLE aren’t “Islamic,” Manju. Joseph Massad, whom I fracking know in RL, is a Muslim. He is not an “Islamic.” Wtf.

    If this woman were an NYU professor who suddenly started spouting these views, no, she should not be fired UNLESS she crossed the line Rebecca describes.

    But there is zero wrong with not *inviting* her into our space. That doesn’t infringe on academic freedom because * we are not threatening to take away her professorship due to her ideas.* Got it?

  55. Rebecca says:

    I agree it gets murky rebecca, but the example you give is where the line should be. The professor should have the right to believe in bigotry in the abstract but not be allowed to practice it.

    So it’s okay for Prof. Massad to be an anti-Semite as long as he says what he says on national TV and not in the classroom? What I’m trying to say here is that telling your students they do not deserve human rights is practicing bigotry. And it’s also fucking stupid to hire a professor who believes that to teach a human rights course.

  56. chava says:

    Actually (shame on me), Massad is not even a Muslim, he’s Christian. And that just showcases how we assume all Arabs are Muslims, even those of us getting a fracking PhD in the subject. Sigh.

  57. Rebecca says:

    If this woman were an NYU professor who suddenly started spouting these views, no, she should not be fired UNLESS she crossed the line Rebecca describes.

    Which line – the specific names, or the fact that he said it to the students instead of merely in a place where the student was likely to hear it?

  58. Manju says:

    “but the argument isn’t homophobic in the way we commonly think of the term.”

    i don’t necessarily agree with that but yeah, its debatable. My point is the debate must be allowed to exist. to give the university administration the power to shut it down is even more dangerous because of the possibility of abuse.

    since its a judgemnt call there’s no way to maintain an exception for the massads of the world, even though it may be justified. i know the analogy of academic freedom to free speech is not exact, but its the same logic we use to respect the power of government rn via the bill of rights. the govt must be as value neutral as possible because of the possibility of abuse, the inevitable corruption that comes with unlimited power, and of course the slippery slope.

  59. chava says:

    Further, I am uncomfortable with the comparison of Massad and Thio on so many levels. On one hand you have a Palestinian with strong beliefs that his country, culture, and people are being slowly destroyed. On the other you have a bigoted homophobe.

    He gets in people’s faces sometimes, and he occasionally crosses the line where “anti-Israeli” becomes another way to say “anti-Jew.” I don’t even particularly LIKE the man.

    You know, though, I AM Jewish, and I get the line between those two identities (Jew and Israeli) confused sometimes. It’s a difficult thing to negotiate well, and calling Massad out here seems inappropriate at best.

  60. Manju says:

    “What I’m trying to say here is that telling your students they do not deserve human rights is practicing bigotry.”

    Too broad. There are whole schools of political thought that don’t believe in human rights. Nietzsche, Lenin, and Mao wouldn’t be invited to teach by this standard.

  61. Manju says:

    “PEOPLE aren’t “Islamic,” Manju. Joseph Massad, whom I fracking know in RL, is a Muslim. He is not an “Islamic.” Wtf.”

    You lost me, chava. he lectures on islam, thats all i meant.

  62. chava says:

    Rebecca, first of all, it’s past time for me to be in bed, so I’m going to flesh this out as coherently as I can:

    If you have a professor who (following your example) felt those things about his Muslim students, and made his opinions known to his students after he had been hired, there are a few steps I would like to see taken:

    1) a hearing called for diciplinary action to determine the truth of the allegations
    2) if determined to be true, the professor should be given several options depending on the severity of his offense (i.e., he could elect to publicly apologize and not teach for a period, take a pay cut/publicly apologize, etc).
    3) if the professor refused any of the above, he should be fired by his peers on the basis of not being able to fulfill his job requirements without violating NYU’s code of conduct.

    I do have sympathy for those wishing to protect academic freedom (being an academic). There was a professor in Cairo fired a year or so ago for a book he wrote on the Koran which was deemed blasphemous and disgusting. However, the book was *part of his research* on Islam. As far as I know, insulting your students is not.

  63. chava says:

    He doesn’t lecture on Islam, Manju.

  64. Manju says:

    “Manju, would it be acceptable for NYU to seek out and invite a professor who taught that slavery was good, and that white Westerners should continue to enslave others?”

    Well, Martin Heideger taught and supported the Nazis. I’ve had professors who identified communist and supported the soviet union. more than a few intellectuals flirted with totalitarianism, including jean paul sartre, paul de Mann, and angela davis, for example.

    i don’t think you have to worry about the above scenario since intellectuals tend not to lean that way, but yes, dangerous radical thought that kills should be allowed.

  65. Manju says:

    “He doesn’t lecture on Islam, Manju.”

    Lecture on Islam, Psychoanalysis, and the Other of Liberalism by Professor Joseph Massad

    http://www.birzeit.edu/news/19652/news

  66. chava says:

    –Actually (shame on me), Massad is not even a Muslim, he’s Christian. And that just showcases how we assume all Arabs are Muslims, even those of us getting a fracking PhD in the subject. Sigh.

  67. Mille says:

    Hey Check this out. Burqa is a form of women oppresion?

    http://muslimsvoiceofamerica.com/blog/2009/06/french-intolerance-towards-burqas/

  68. anarchafemme says:

    @Manju in #44: I’m not saying in general that people need to adhere to a specific concept to teach in a university; on the specific concept of natural law/natural rights, (and as an aside I’m noting that this is yet another issue when communists/socialist infilitrate anarchist movements – anarchism is based on the concept of natural rights – so I certainly wouldn’t say it’s solely a neo-liberal construct (though human rights in mainstream discourse in the US is a neo-liberal construct), even at this point in time) however, in a law school in the US, where in theory the US governmental system is founded on natural rights (but certainly doesn’t operate that way), for someone to make the argument that a set of human rights does not exist because it is not supported by law, without addressing that their personal idealogy differs from that of the system they are going to be educating the majority of their students to function in. It’s not so much their views as much as it is their unwillingness to engage in the concept they are teaching about; I’m a bit suspicious of a human rights prof who seems to think human rights only exist when and where a state recognizes them.

    Plus, as many other people have noted, it’s not their ideas, it’s their oppressive actions. Speech can be action, and thus, while people can express whatever ideas they want, but when they use that speech to oppress others — and their maintaining of the sodomy law in Singapore causes real harm to gay men there – a community has a right to defend itself from those actions. In this case, that defense is denying giving someone a platform to continue to use their speech to harm others. As Kristen J. points out in 46, it’s likely to make for a poor class, and is likely to cause harm to the community. Either Dr. Thio is against the concept of human rights, or they are logically inconsistent. Neither of which is particularly good in a law professor teaching a course on human rights. So, NYU is bringing in a visiting professor who is going to likely, objectively, teach poorly, and also harm the community.

    And as Jill points out in #54, Dr. Thio is showing that they’re against the idea of vigorous academic debate when it applies to them, which is embarrassing.

  69. Hibiscus says:

    Do a google search on her and her lawyer mum, Dr Thio Su Mien, and their church, Church of Our Saviour, and a women’s action group called AWARE… there was a big debacle in Singapore involving mum’s attempted take over of AWARE to rid it of gay bias etc…. it’s a fundamental Christian push at their church. Quite an unsavoury experience… but it revealed to many that the whole anti gay rant is rooted in her own religious persuasion… and that is rather unfair in a country that is multicultural, multiracial, multireligious etc. And for the record, she was Nominated Member of Parliament… not elected to office, but put forward by a an interest group and then selected from other nominations by a committee. So her run as a politician was limited to her being able to voice whatever she fancied without having constituents. Unfortunately she is best remembered for her involvement in the anti gay agenda…

  70. PTS says:

    Two things I would like to note and a bigger point.

    1) As sad as it makes me to point out, Thien’s views are within the mainstream in the American legal academy. Positivism about international human rights (that “human rights” are constituted by international legal practice) and Thomistic/Lord Devlin type arguments about need to legislate sexual morality (see John Finnis, one of the most cited legal professors currently alive) are both live positions advocated by tenured professors all the time. How Thien reconciles the two would be a pretty neat trick…if she could do it.

    2) Thien is overwhelmingly qualified qua legal scholar to teach the class.

    Thus, while I think Thien’s views are abhorrent and grossly wrong, I don’t see how calls that she be removed from the position can really be justified. However, this should not be taken to mean that people should cease criticism of her views.

    -Finally, Thien rejects “formal” equality and freedom, arguing that “liberal neutrality” is really a substantive view of political morality that states are justified in rejecting.

    Yet, notice that Thien falls back on the formal notion of “everyone should get their say,” despite the fact that she has rejected the Millian/Kantian liberalism that undergirds the kind of robust freedom of expression that she demands.

    ON HER OWN VIEW, the homosexual community is perfectly justified in deploying political power against her, as she is using the ersatz “fig leaf” of liberal neutrality to hide a substantive disagreement of political morality. And due to her own Devlin type communitarian argument (which she makes in her speech), there is nothing wrong with a community having differential standards and using force to protect those standards even if it means violating liberal bromides.

    Hoist on her own petard.

  71. Justin says:

    “Homosex activists hurl abuse, death threats. They have demonstrated nothing but abuse towards their detractors. This is not the way to win respect. This is not conducive to sustainable democracy in the long-term. I argue it is a horizontal chilling of speech by the most malicious of methods.”

    The “homosex activists” came together on May 16 this year to a park in Singapore to celebrate diversity and love. Check out how abusive they can get:

  72. Justin says:

    Here’s the link to the embedded video above:

  73. Rebecca says:

    Too broad. There are whole schools of political thought that don’t believe in human rights. Nietzsche, Lenin, and Mao wouldn’t be invited to teach by this standard.

    Don’t argue in bad faith, Manju.

    Chava – I’m still interested in whether you think the line is the specific names or the place where the professor says them. Would you say that Dr. Thio should also go through steps 1, 2, and 3?

  74. Rights don’t exist when they’re legally recognized, they exist independent of governmental recognition, and people have them simply by virtue of existing.

    If the US Supreme Court hadn’t fucked up Ninth Amendment jurisprudence so severely over the years, this would be a constitutional truism.

  75. Just Some Trans Guy says:

    Uh, why the talk about gay marriage? Totally irrelevant. Dr. Thio was speaking against the decriminilization of certain sexual acts based on sexual orientation.

    And, you know, the U.S. law DOES in fact have an official stand on that. It’s in Lawrence v. Texas.

    Also, as a law grad from a virulently homophobic and transphobic school, I can attest to how corrosive this professor will be to her LGBT students. Even if she doesn’t stand up there and explicitly say, “Death to queers!” her students will know. And the already homophobic students will indulge in their queer hate to their heart’s delight, and she will allow them to do so with smiling approval–I’ve seen it over and over and over.

  76. baffling says:

    Homosexuals in Singapore are by and large affluent and literate; building developers target high quality residences for their consumption. They have space to lead quiet lives which is what most of us want. They are basically left alone in practice. However, when you enter the public arena and demand to change social norms, which others resist, do you expect a walkover?

    Li-ann Thio believes that most of the gay people in Singapore are affluent, and therefore can afford to live quietly in high quality residences. Correct me if I am wrong, and perhaps I am reading this with an overtly sensitive eye, but is she suggesting that the rich gays should be happily “locked up” in their nice condos and be contented with that? That there are developers who will build this type of pink gulags, and rich gays can live happily ever after in their own private fairy tale as long they do not bring along their pixie dust the moment they leave these pink gulags?

    And if you cannot afford one of these high quality residences, sorry, you can’t be gay. Or, maybe she believes the less affluent cannot be gay. Only the affluent ones.

    She is one very confused and twisted woman.

  77. chava says:

    Rebecca–

    I don’t think it is the specific names. I think if you have a pattern of verbally abusing or harrassing students those steps should be taken. I do think that homophobic, misogynistic, or racial slurs should be treated with extra gravity, though.

    Dr. Thio isn’t a member of the faculty, so no, I would say she just shouldn’t be invited to be a visiting professor.

  78. Jill says:

    Thus, while I think Thien’s views are abhorrent and grossly wrong, I don’t see how calls that she be removed from the position can really be justified. However, this should not be taken to mean that people should cease criticism of her views.

    PTS, that’s a good point. For the record, I’m not sure that NYU should rescind their invitation; I do, however, think that students should refuse to take her class, and that NYU should think twice in the future before extending invitations to bigots. For now, what’s done is done, and it would look questionable on NYU’s part to now go back — like it or not, I do think it would be seen as lacking the ability to deal with views that differ from our own (even though I think that’s a silly argument). But if students don’t take her class, NYU is wasting its resources — and if there’s one thingI can safely say about NYU, it’s that the school is a business first and foremost. Cut into its bottom line and send the message that there are lots of highly-qualified professors out there, so why extend legitimacy to someone like Thio?

  79. It’s also worth pointing out that over the last few decades NYU Law has dramatically increased its national reputation via a two-pronged strategy of (1) explicitly sucking up to huge-ass corporate law firms and (2) explicitly creating an environment that is welcoming to a very diverse student body. Pulling this kind of shit with Thio is very risky for the school, as it threatens the stability of the second prong, and risks repelling some of its best current and potential future students.

  80. chava says:

    Manju, it’s somewhat besides the point, but that lecture you googled was a one-shot thing at a different university, and more about psychoanalysis and interactive teaching.

    The point holds, he isn’t a theology professor and he doesn’t teach primarily on that topic. I would not call him a “professor of islamic studies,” even if that was what you meant, rather than “islamic professors.” He’s a professor of politics and intellectual history.

    Your use of the guy as a straw man while you clearly aren’t familiar with his work is still frustrating.

  81. Alara Rogers says:

    How could you possibly teach a class on human rights if you don’t believe in human rights?

    If you’re a mathematician who’s an anti-Semite, your anti-Semitism has no bearing on math, so you could be a decent professor. But if a person had a philosophical framework that rejected the concept of natural human rights, as Manju points out the Marxists do, they would have no business teaching a class on human rights, any more than a person who is opposed to the belief in evolution has business teaching evolutionary biology.

    So either Dr. Thio does not believe in the concept of natural human rights, in which case she should not be teaching a class on human rights, or she does, in which case her beliefs that homosexuality should be criminalized are *wrong*, because they are not supported by the framework that supports the belief in natural human rights (ie, that rights exist whether supported by law or not, and the government must make a case for taking powers away from people rather than people making a case for why they should have powers.) One can believe “I am profoundly uncomfortable with homosexuality and think it is morally wrong” and still support human rights if one does not believe homosexuality should be criminalized or discriminated against by the government. But you can’t believe in natural human rights and believe the government should criminalize homosexuality without being a hypocrite.

    On this basis she is not fit to teach the class she’s teaching. If she were teaching a class on Marxism, her homophobia wouldn’t prove that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but you CANNOT TEACH a class on human rights if you think certain people do not deserve human rights.

  82. chocolatepie says:

    I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as you seem to think it is. Speaking as a queer person, I would not feel safe in a class taught by a professor who thinks I should have fewer human rights than her straight students. I would be uncomfortable having to worry that every criticism or low grade had homophobic overtones.

    Exactly.

    “I don’t like gays and I think they’re icky and gross and an abomination to the lord, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to treat YOU any differently!”

    Which reminds me of a born-again Christian girl I went to school with who said to a Jewish classmate, “I really hope you see the light, because I’d hate to see a nice guy like you end up in hell.”

  83. Rebecca says:

    Further, I am uncomfortable with the comparison of Massad and Thio on so many levels. On one hand you have a Palestinian with strong beliefs that his country, culture, and people are being slowly destroyed. On the other you have a bigoted homophobe.

    I still think that accusing a student of killing people based on his nationality is crossing the line. As is using a student’s eye color to tell them they have no right to an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Prof. Saliba)* Because whatever your beliefs about the political situation, if you’re targeting students based on their ethnicity (or national origin, or sexual orientation), you are not giving them a fair chance at an education in your class. If Thio was against same-sex marriage, I would still consider her a bigot, but I would not oppose her being given this post. But she has publicly stated that queer people do not deserve human rights.

    *standard disclaimer: if the incidents in Columbia Unbecoming are true – neither student offers any corroborating testimony, including the student who supposedly had this happen at a well-attended public lecture.

    I don’t think it is the specific names. I think if you have a pattern of verbally abusing or harrassing students those steps should be taken. I do think that homophobic, misogynistic, or racial slurs should be treated with extra gravity, though.

    I guess it’ll have to wait until she’s teaching.

    2) Thien is overwhelmingly qualified qua legal scholar to teach the class.

    The point some of us are trying to make is that while her degrees are vey impressive, her position on human rights does not qualify her to teach a class on them.

    Thus, while I think Thien’s views are abhorrent and grossly wrong, I don’t see how calls that she be removed from the position can really be justified. However, this should not be taken to mean that people should cease criticism of her views.

    I’d still justify it by the code of conduct, which forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation. It might have to wait until gay rights actually come up in the class, though.

  84. exholt says:

    For the record, I’m not sure that NYU should rescind their invitation;

    Even if we ignore her expressed views and her actions as a politician, her 18 point email alone proves she cannot seem to tolerate the types of vigorous give-or-take debate and scrutinization of her arguments and views that students and especially Profs should expect as part-and-parcel of being part of an academic community without developing an overwrought persecution complex, especially when the email she was complaining about was quite civil and polite.

    Quite disturbing enough if this happened at the undergrad level where such debates were part and parcel of the educational process in developing critical thinking and analyrical skills. I cannot imagine how much worse it is for law students for whom I would think such debates are essential in one’s training to become a good lawyer.

    Jill and others who have attended law school, correct me if I’m wrong, but is my observation above correct in light of your own experiences as a law student/practicing lawyer?

  85. Rebecca says:

    and what Alara said.

  86. chava says:

    Heidigger, Manju? Seriously? The man was a menace. And actually, he WAS suspended from teaching after the war, for about 5-8 years, I believe. His Jewish peers asked for him to be reinstated after a period.

    He wrote just as well from home. In fact, he wrote Being and Time BEFORE he was given his professorship.

    When Sartre flirted with totalitarianism, it was as a philosophy professor. Hence, related to his research.

    Paul de Man was a member of the Nazi Youth movement and wrote a few articles, BEFORE he was ever a professor, and while he WAS a professor, did not harass his students anti-semitically, and had a wonderful friendship with Derrida and many other Jewish intellectuals. He was ashamed of his actions and ostracized for many years when they were found out.

    So…yeah, your examples are irrelevant.

  87. chava says:

    @ Rebecca–

    Yeah, I do see your point re: Columbia Unbecoming. On the other hand, I’ve met a lot of these people or if not they, then their colleagues. I’ve definitely felt uncomfortable as a Jewish student, but Muslim students I know have felt uncomfortable in the Jewish studies department. I mean, we had to move the departments into two seperate *buildings,* there was so much ill feeling.

    My point is just that the situation at Columbia/NYU re: Middle Eastern Studies is much more complicated than this case. I would compare what I’ve seen to a minority professor occasionally overstepping his/her bounds when telling a student to check their privilege and *listen* than anything else. Not necessarily acceptable, but more understandable.

  88. Ned says:

    Dr. Li-Ann’s claim that gays are always affluent, rich people who live in condos is again completely outrageous. Again, I can’t speak for the Singaporean context, but at least in South Asia, queerness is found in all social classes and castes. I personally know working class butch lesbians in Pakistan who suffer greatly because of the same Section 377 that Dr. Li-Ann defends in Singapore (it’s a vestige of British colonialism found in a number of former colonies).

  89. Shinobi says:

    I just gotta say, I mean, maybe it is a law professor thing. But that was really long winded whine on her part, my first reaction: Defensive Much?

  90. Ned says:

    Following on from the previous comment: in fact, at the end of the day, the sodomy laws affect those who are poor and lower class, not those of us who have money, a Western-style education, and can immigrate to America, Canada or Europe whenever we want.

  91. William says:

    Too broad. There are whole schools of political thought that don’t believe in human rights. Nietzsche, Lenin, and Mao wouldn’t be invited to teach by this standard.

    Incidentally, I think you need to go back and re-read your Nietzsche. If you actually pay attention to what the man wrote, rather than what the Nazis and various other propagandists argued he wrote, you begin to develop a view that allows for no option other than human rights. Nietzsche’s most impassioned work, his attacks upon religion, essentially boil down to the horror he has for the way in which they limit and constrain human beings, for the ways in which they force everyone down to the same level of abject misery.

    As someone who has not only read a lot of Nietzsche, but incorporated significant aspects of his thought into a dissertation on the necessity of an almost absolute view of patient autonomy in clinical settings, I can tell you that your analysis is not only counter to what Nietsche wrote but counter to the current state of scholarship on his writings.

    This isn’t splitting hairs or getting off-topic either. By invoking Nietzsche you’re attempting to dodge the issue here. Nietzsche was a philosopher and a theorist, he argued mostly about the way in which human beings experience the world and relate to one another. What he offered were ideas, some of which were objectionable, which were intended to become part of a discussion. More importantly, at no point did Nietzsche ever conceal his opinions or intentions, he was always aggressively clear. The thing about Nietzsche, though, was that he wasn’t much involved in public policy and his work was largely theoretical. Dr. Thio, on the other hand, has actively engaged in the oppression of specific groups through legislative action.

    Having Dr. Thio teach a class on human rights would be like having Nietzsche teach a modern Women’s Studies class. Sure, he might bring some interesting insights into the discussion, but the more likely outcome would be that his personal baggage would end in invective and a mountain of horseshit. The same would not be true of him teaching an ethics class. Dr. Thio’s horror at the idea of two people of the same gender playing with one another’s genitals has nothing to do with human rights theory or the law, it has to do with her culture and her religion. She doesn’t have data or theory, all she has disgust and faith. Last time I checked those weren’t generally too high on the ladder of scholarly sources.

  92. Ryan Golden says:

    Any NYU students or alumni on facebook opposed to the invitation to Thio Li-ann can join my facebook group.
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=100580602739

    Unfortunately this group is limited to those in the NYU network, so we can adequately demonstrate to the University the degree of opposition.

    We will be circulating a formal petition shortly.

    Ryan Golden
    Founder: NYU Students opposed to Thio Li-Ann teaching Human Rights

  93. Milan says:

    Great (and exhaustive) rebuttal. However, one thing keeps sticking with me from this ugly episode. Doesn’t Dr. Thio have a point when she complains of neo-colonialism among her detractors? It was only with Lawrence v. Texas a few years ago that the United States Supreme Court struck down state sodomy laws and of course this was not an unanimous opinion. Many countries of course still have laws outlawing sodomy. It’s great that in the West are getting closer to a consensus that sexual orientation is akin to race and gender and is not a fair basis to discriminate against someone(although there is still far to go in the West as well) , but I think Dr. Thio’s critics are overreaching when they say her views are offensive to basic human rights and universal norms.

    In addition, Jill, while I agree that Dr. Thio’s whining is unbecoming, let’s also keep in mind that US norms of free speech are not shared by most other countries. I’m not only referring to the fact that it is far easier to make a case of libel outside of the United States, but also that many countries have a more polite public discourse than we do here in the US. I’m sure it is quite a shock to her system to be assailed by a faceless IT person prior to every setting foot on campus. Would such a thing happen in Singapore or any Eastern country? I’m not saying that anyone should feel sorry for Dr. Thio, but I think we have to try to see her reaction in context, as ridiculous as it might be upon first read.

  94. James says:

    As a Singaporean, I would say its not a matter of lack of freedom of speech that made Dr Thio uncomfortable, but rather that she feels insulted as it showed a lack of respect for her. Especially for the older generations or members of society who feel they represented the “elite” of the society, they feel that they are owed certain “degrees” of respect due to their accomplishments, and their views should be accorded respect or not questioned, on top and above others who have not accomplished as much. There was a recent debacle in Singapore involving her mother who was a Law Dean, and she was similarly very insulted when the audience she was speaking to pushed aside the fact that she was law dean and had her name published in a certain publication, and just wanted her to get to the point.

    Yes, its a culture-clash matter, but probably not in the way many expected.

  95. Joelle says:

    15. What seems to be getting activists in a twist is my speech in support of the government’s stance to retain the sodomy law. Please note, it was not even up for discussion until another MP raised it in a specific targeted parliamentary petition, full of fine sounding rhetoric and little substance.

    Here is what that “other MP” truly said when he made that petition. Fine sounding rhetoric and little substance? I beg to differ.

    http://siewkumhong.blogspot.com/2007/10/speech-on-penal-code-amendment-bill-22.html

  96. Ryan Golden says:

    On Singapore’s strange libel laws:

    Lawyer Siew Kum Hong wrote, “the defamation law is very skewed in favour of the plaintiff”.

    He explained: “It is one of the very few areas of law (in fact, the only one that comes to mind readily), where the defendant has the burden of proving his innocence.

    “The plaintiff only has to show that the defendant said or wrote something about the plaintiff that would tend to make people think less of the plaintiff. That is all he needs to do.

    “To win, the defendant must prove that what he said was true, or that it was a fair comment on a matter of public interest, or that the circumstances of the statement made it qualified – for instance, it was said in Parliament or on the witness stand. That can be a real uphill task.”

    http://www.littlespeck.com/content/politics/CTrendsPolitics-060102.htm

  97. Dustin says:

    At its core, she is ill-equipped to teach the class, despite her qualifications.

    Outside of the repugnant nature of her views, which can be argued to the high heavens, it is more her inability to partake in a proper debate without crying ‘bully’.

    Simply put, she is reacting in this manner because she and her mother have been bombarded by Singaporeans ever since her appeal to retain Section 377, on the basis of her personal moral objections.

    All I can say to that is if she lacks the conviction and tenacity to uphold her views, maybe she could exercise her right to shut up, rather than arguing for her own right to have her views, while crying bully and whining about a torrent of abuse when dissenting views are voiced.

    If you wish to enter into the free marketplace of ideas, you must contend with opposing views. As must I.

    Then, contend with them, don’t bitch about people disagreeing with you strenuously in this manner.

    Homosex activists hurl abuse, death threats. They have demonstrated nothing but abuse towards their detractors. This is not the way to win respect. This is not conducive to sustainable democracy in the long-term.

    You are seeking to criminalize their actions, surely on the scale of abuse, that ranks higher than a strongly worded email. If you are unable to deal with this level of scrutiny, good luck teaching there.

    I believe NYU has made their decision, and if she is going to teach there, so be it. There are 2 ways to go about it, which is to not enroll for her class or apply to the school, specifically stating the reason for doing so, OR to enroll for her class and engage her with such debate in every single lesson.

    If she can’t deal with an email, I would love to see the youtube video of her being inundated with peaceful but strong and reasoned arguments which reveal the deep seeded bigotry within her. A mental breakdown is likely.

    Have a look at her mother losing the plot in the AWARE saga where she allegedly tried to mastermind the takeover of a woman’s rights NGO to further her anti ‘homosex’ agenda, doing so by basing her credentials as a ‘feminist mentor’ on a single sentence in a book which mentions peripherally about her being the first female law dean.

    If there is a case for libel here, it’s the other lawyers and Christian in Singapore that should be concerned about this lot representing them to the world at large.

  98. baffling says:

    James says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 10:26 pm – Edit

    As a Singaporean, I would say its not a matter of lack of freedom of speech that made Dr Thio uncomfortable, but rather that she feels insulted as it showed a lack of respect for her. Especially for the older generations or members of society who feel they represented the “elite” of the society, they feel that they are owed certain “degrees” of respect due to their accomplishments, and their views should be accorded respect or not questioned, on top and above others who have not accomplished as much. There was a recent debacle in Singapore involving her mother who was a Law Dean, and she was similarly very insulted when the audience she was speaking to pushed aside the fact that she was law dean and had her name published in a certain publication, and just wanted her to get to the point.

    You can see this incident here on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2WelPBxTEo

    A quick background on this issue. Li-ann Thio’s mother was the “feminist mentor” who advised members of her church to usurp powers at an NGO for women’s issues, proclaiming them as “pro-gay”. It was done in such a surreptitious and sly manner that it provoked a huge outcry in civic and social consciousness in Singapore. In the EGM, the usurpers displayed nasty tactics such as turning off the microphones when opposing members tried to speak, and even shouted to the floor the now infamous “shut up and sit down” order when members tried to voice their disagreement.

    With such underhanded tactics, of course it got rowdier as members had to shout to get heard. That was when Dr.Thio stood up and demanded respect as an elder, and as she was even mentioned on Page 73 in some journal about her contribution to society, that that the members should show some deference.

    Does it all sound too familiar? Cut from the same cloth.

    It is very clear from their behavior, the Thios do not believe in human rights. They only believe in what is right for them, not humans.

  99. tim says:

    A very obvious indication that Thio is deeply anti-gay: her stance against decriminalizing ‘unnatural sex’ applies only to homosexuals. She had nothing to say when parliament repealed this archaic law in its application to heterosexuals.

    I, as a Singaporean, am ashamed to have elitists and myopic bigots call themselves patriots and defenders of their self-imposed moral code. I am relieved that such blatant acts of hate and discrimination have not escaped the scrutiny of universal believers of tolerance, respect, peace, and understanding.

  100. Rebecca says:

    Great (and exhaustive) rebuttal. However, one thing keeps sticking with me from this ugly episode. Doesn’t Dr. Thio have a point when she complains of neo-colonialism among her detractors? It was only with Lawrence v. Texas a few years ago that the United States Supreme Court struck down state sodomy laws and of course this was not an unanimous opinion. Many countries of course still have laws outlawing sodomy. It’s great that in the West are getting closer to a consensus that sexual orientation is akin to race and gender and is not a fair basis to discriminate against someone(although there is still far to go in the West as well) , but I think Dr. Thio’s critics are overreaching when they say her views are offensive to basic human rights and universal norms.

    That argument might hold water if she weren’t actually trying to deny rights to people. In comparison: the colonial governor of Bengal, Lord Bentinck, banned forced sati/suttee. Was it a part of traditional culture? Yes. Was banning it a good thing? Yes.

    Also, as stated, her views are offensive to the basic standards of decency and rights at the university that invited her, and that should be enough.

  101. mdf says:

    What I also find interesting is that Dr. Thio’s position demonstrates that discrimination is at its heart a power dynamic of the majority over the minority. Ignore her gender and national origin, and you have the same arguments anti-gay white men make in the US.

    Her frequent assertion that democratically majorities determine the validity of moral superiority makes me wonder exactly how she can be a noted human rights scholar. With her method of argument, she provides cover for every government that violates human rights with the excuse that it’s what the majority want. So why bother arguing with human rights violators? Worse, by this logic, human rights as a concept doesn’t even exist.

  102. itsjustme says:

    Clearly NYU didn’t a obtain, or at least review a writing sample prior to extending their invitation.

    She should be humiliated by her clearly visceral reaction, and for submitting this detailed a response to a student’s condemnation. If she believes this reaction of public opinion to be “oppression” and “persecution”, then NYU needs another Human Rights educator, and not because of her anti-gay views..

    Welcome to America, Dr. Thio… the land of the free, and the home of the thick skinned. How long were you panning to stay?

  103. Terri says:

    First, you should find out whether “Dr. ” Thio really has a legitimate PhD, and if so, where she earned/bought it?Second, she makes mistake in assuming that gay people are the only ones who have anal sex, so she obviously doesn’t have much sexual experience or knowledge, even if she did manage to buy her PhD from n internet site or a cereal box.

  104. southpaw says:

    Just popping in to point out that, in this country, there was obviously for quite some time a whole slave society with courts of law and judges and legislatures and, incidentally, universities and law schools where the scourge of slavery was not only accepted but passionately defended. The school of thought that animated that society had to be pushed out of the socially acceptable bounds of discourse (to the limited extent it has been) through war and strife and the silent artillery of 150 years of time.

    That you (one hopes) will not find a tenured professor at a major university who earnestly propounds a proslavery ideology is a testament to political progress. But it is not, I wouldn’t think, a hallmark of academic freedom. Rather, it’s a testament to evolving social norms.

  105. Craig R. says:

    Parallels to US debate abound in the debate over section 377, if the defense Dr Thio makes and the argument the “without substance” the other nominated MP made
    “…28. But 377A criminalizes consensual sexual acts between men, even if it takes place in the privacy of their own homes. How does the private sexual conduct of consenting adults make Singapore unsafe or less secure?…”

    substitute “same sex marriage” for “consensual/private sexual acts/conduct”

  106. baffling says:

    Actually, I do hope (but not holding my breath) that should Dr. Thio make it to NYU, she would be so enlightened by her American visit based on what I read here that she may, just may, come around to her senses and see how bigoted and narrow her viewpoints are.

    Am I being a fool? Perhaps. Can a leopard change its spots? They say no. But, she will probably never realize this if she continues to live in Singapore. At least, at NYU one hopes through exposure she may even accept just an iota of what she preaches is considered hate.

    One only hopes.

  107. Crossed says:

    The Law Professor who cried “bully”

    Boy, if nothing else, NYU students should be relieved she wasn’t asked to speak about “How to be a credible lawyer…”

  108. MarleneB says:

    Here’s another bigotry argument when hasn’t been brought up yet.

    After the Pearl Harbor attack which sent the US into the Second World War, the United States government *in violation of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment!* forcibly relocated people of Japanese decent (even naturally born citizens!) and sent them into concentration — the government called them “internment” camps for the duration of the war.

    I wonder what the esteemed bigot would have to say about *that* violation of human rights, nu?

  109. beka says:

    As a Singaporean high school student myself, I’d like to ask why Dr Thio is using the term “person of colour” to describe herself. It is a phrase found, to the best of my knowledge, only in the US. As a postcolonialist I find it an uncomfortable term, if only because it entrenches whiteness as the norm. It is not a phrase I would associate with an Asian academic. One term for when within the Asian milieu and another for NY, I suppose.

    My discomfort lies also in the fact that through use of the phrase PoC Dr Thio is trying to position herself as a minority, just as gays are – but in Singapore she is of the ethnic Chinese majority, 70% and with that there is as much privilege as white privilege in the western world; and of the Christian literati. So yeah, totally not the right place to play the “I’m a minority too!” card.

    Please, please don’t assume all Singaporeans share her views. Or suggest she “go back to where she came from” or that she’s an expected quantity in a “police state”. If she leaves NYU well alone, and she “goes back”, there’s still people back home who are affected, even if she isn’t on your side of the pond. In fact that type of response is in its own way hurtful.

  110. Urvashi says:

    Dr. Thio’s views are deplorable. She claims not to be homophobic, but she so is! I cannot believe her lack of insight! But the thing that I find most amazing is that she is supposedly an expert on “human rights”! She obviously does not view LBGTs as humans!

  111. CelluloidReality says:

    One can only pray that she will understand that others who are different from her, should enjoy the same rights as her.

    God gave us free will, end of story.

    Just to let you guys know, her views are not wholly representative of Singaporean society, but there is a sizeable conservative majority who would back her views up at any given notice.

  112. Pingback: Anti-Gay Visiting Law Professor At NYU Causes Controversy « Camels With Hammers

  113. preethum says:

    Why hasnt the dean of nyu law made a formal apology? all he did was justify his capricious method of selecting visitng professors. what he did was essentially to offer someone a treat, removed it, and on top of that, joined up with everyone else to throw cutleries at her when she was at the entrance of the restaurant. He too is no better than a political wimp who doesnt have the guts to apologise to th LGBT group and everyone, even Dr Thio for his selection error in the first place.

  114. Choon says:

    I am from Singapore

    just to give a bit of background info about the “libel”

    Singapore has a culture of using libel suits to curb freedom of speech

    information extracted from wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation

    Singapore
    Rights groups such as Amnesty International have argued that “the misuse of defamation suits by ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) leaders has contributed to a climate of self-censorship in Singapore and restricted the right of those Singaporeans with dissenting opinions to participate freely and fully in public life”.[25]
    Owners of cybercafes may be held liable for libelous statements posted or possibly viewed in their establishments.[26]
    In 2001, a Singapore bank was fined SG$2 million (approx. 1 million euros or 1 million US$ at the time) for accidentally publishing a mildly libelous statement during the heated discussion of a takeover bid. The mistake was corrected very quickly, and there was no intent to do harm. In fact, it was reported that no harm seems to have been done. Nevertheless, the offended parties were awarded SG$1 million each. Apparently confirming the stringency of Singapore’s defamation law, Business Times declined to report on the matter because one of the libeled parties objected.[27]
    On September 24, 2008, the High Court of Singapore, in a summary judgment by Justice Woo Bih Li, ruled that the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) magazine-Hugo Restall, editor, defamed Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

  115. ben says:

    i am just utterly in LOVE with her line

    “In Singapore, people do not really care whether someone is homosexual or not, as we tend to look at the merit of a person, for example, in the workplace.”

    REALLY, professor thio?

    i happen to know, FOR A FACT, that the ministry of education is actively screening out teachers who are gay. of course, they would deny this when confronted with it. and when we declare our sexual orientation in the military (compulsory, not voluntary), our vocations are immediately changed to a much less “sensitive” one.

    i would be really at all ears to hear her arguement about sexual inequality that still very much exists in our so-termed “conservative asian society”

  116. Huang Renxing says:

    Hi, I’m gay and I consider Singapore my home, but because of people like Ms Thio there are times when I really really hate it here.

    I’ve been to NYC twice and I really liked it. I now love it and am so grateful for NYU students having voted with their feet and forcing Ms Thio to show, by her no show, what she really is, a coward for not daring to face an audience willing and able to show her up as a bigoted fraud.

  117. Singaporean says:

    Dr. Thio knew that if she didn’t bow out, she would have been canned anyway. Just trying to save “face”. Face is very important in our neck of the woods. It often drives many to do silly things.

    As for the death threats, I bet my last dollar that she made it up…an excuse to justify a quick exit.

  118. Jules says:

    I would like to thank Jill for blogging about this and all the intelligent responses from everyone who have contributed to the rebuttals.

    I have mixed feelings about this. I didn’t want tla to have NYU in her portfolio. At the same time, it would have done her good to be there. In Singapore, she is a member of the English-educated right wing christian literati. She is not used to rebuttal and disagreement. Usually, she makes statements and people are silenced because of her status and position in society. Obviously she has no courage to face the challenge to her prejudiced and bigoted views.

    It is really embarrassing that a supposedly qualified legal lecturer from the island of Singapore has that kind of response to mere disagreement with and rebuttal to statements she made. Says alot about the qualities and caliber of the academia in Singapore. It is obvious she has had no practice in legal and logical argument and her deep-seated prejudices are religious and cultural in nature.

    It is also telling of her mindset that instead of engaging in what might have been an interesting and lively student-faculty debate, she chose to write a letter of complaint to the faculty and dean. That unfortunately is how the patriachal system of which is she an active member works. Students of NYU are right in deciding that she would not be able to contribute a qualified and dignified higher education in her time there.

    Well, unfortunately she is back on this island and she is our problem. We did after all create the environment in which someone like her thrived and received support for her ideas.

    Warwick University from the UK rejected a place in Singapore because of they feared they would not be able to discuss openly sensitive issues like homosexuality here. Other than Malaysia and countries in Africa, we are one of the few ex-British colonies that have retained the anti-sodomy law for homosexuals. The same law was repealed for heterosexual sex in 2007. Even China is more open than we are. And now we have an anti-gay rights activist rejected by NYU. As a Singaporean, I have no idea where to ‘put my face’.

    Be kind. We are not all like that. We are trying to make changes too.

  119. Number6 says:

    Looking over the quality of her argument here, I would say that nothing is lost in her decision to bow out. Even for those who may think there is value in bigoted people teaching at a University, they should be able to put forward a more well thought out cogent argument than this mess suggests she is capable of.

    The crucial piece on the substance to me is the difference between threatening violence (throwing people in jail is pretty violent) against those you disagree with and yelling at people you disagree with. Someone who simply yells, insults and boycotts those who threaten to throw you in jail is showing incredible restraint.

  120. Dr. Salvador Manuka says:

    I absolutely disagree Dr. Thio’s position regarding the criminalization of consentual sex between gay males, but you’re argument here fails on so many levels that, if anything, it is your argument itself–or rather, your inability to resist the temptation to sink into punditry–that speaks the foulest volumes about the law program at New York University.

  121. Dr. Salvador Manuka says:

    TYPO: What I meant to write is that I absolutely disagree WITH Dr. Thio’s position…etc.

  122. Rebecca says:

    Then perhaps, Dr. Manuka, you can explain how a professor who

    a. does not believe in human rights
    b. discriminates against LGBT students in violation of a university’s code of conduct

    is qualified to teach a course on human rights at that university.

  123. TKB says:

    Brilliant brilliant brilliant BRILLIANT rebuttal Jill.
    So clear and concise and clear-headed.
    It just makes the 18-point rant look even weaker.

    Is Thio’s doctorate for real? Is that indicative of the level of intellectual rigour of whatever university it was she attended?

    I love how this is turning out. These “intelligent” bigots just end up tripping over themselves in public eventually.

  124. Singaporean says:

    TKB says:

    “July 28th, 2009 at 1:18 pm – Edit

    Is Thio’s doctorate for real? Is that indicative of the level of intellectual rigour of whatever university it was she attended?”

    …not so much the university she attended, but the local culture of Singapore. Haven’t you heard?…Singapore, 1st world country, 3rd world mentality. Not everyone, but definite majority. Don’t be fooled by the exterior of Singapore. Spend some time here and you’ll know what I mean.

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