Thio Li Ann Visiting Professor NYU Law School.jpgAbove the Law’s commitment to bring you all of the latest details about the crazy saga of Dr. Li-ann Thio is unmatched. On Wednesday night, we broke the news that Dr. Thio decided against teaching at NYU Law School this fall.
Now we have Dr. Thio’s official statement explaining her decision to withdraw as a visiting professor. According to the resignation letter she sent to NYU Law Dean Richard Revesz, a lack of tolerance changed Dr. Thio’s mind about NYU Law:

As an Asian woman whose legal training has spanned the finest institutions in both East and West, I believe I would have something of value to offer your students. However, the conditions no longer exist to proceed with the visit, given the animus fuelled by irresponsible misrepresentation/distortions and/or concerted invective from certain parties. Friends and colleagues have also expressed serious concerns about my safety and well-being.

I am convinced that a primary condition for learning and teaching, especially in my chosen fields (which are rife with contested concepts) – human rights and constitutional law – is a tolerant, serene environment where different viewpoints emanating from a variety of worldviews are heard with mutual respect and carefully evaluated, in a civilised fashion. I have always striven to ensure my classroom would exemplify such conditions and had planned to bring this practice to my NYU classroom.

Dr. Thio Li-ann appears to be arguing that NYU Law students should respect her beliefs. But some of her beliefs sound pretty disrespectful to gays and lesbians in the NYU Law community. Unless “shoving a straw up your nose to drink” counts as a respectful way of discussing sexual practices.
Of course, since we are dealing with Dr. Thio, the letter goes on. Brevity is not her strong suit. Read more after the jump.


It’s pretty clear that Dr. Thio feels persecuted by people who disagree with her. But it’s also clear that she felt supported by the NYU administration, right to the very end:

Outside the classroom and the academy I am an engaged citizen. I have also served as a parliamentarian. Some of my views – expressed in the altogether different idiom of politics – have angered some and created, as you know, a campaign against me and my appointment as a Visiting Global Professor. I understand that you, too, have been under great pressure to rescind the invitation. I appreciate the commitment NYU has shown towards the principle of academic freedom in resisting this pressure; to yield to politicking would be deleterious to the academic enterprise. Today’s heresy can become tomorrow’s orthodoxy and viceversa.
Despite this, it has become clear that the fraught atmosphere of hostility towards me is inimical to an effective teaching and learning environment. As you know, the ireful campaign against me has negatively affected class enrolment, a sad commentary on this present noisome state of affairs.

We did wonder if low enrollment played a role in Thio’s decision. Now we know — voting with your feet does matter.
Take it from someone who knows: holding controversial views does open you up to criticism. Most people think that is a great thing about our system.
Read Thio’s full letter below.
DR. LI-ANN THIO — RESIGNATION LETTER TO DEAN RICHARD REVESZ
Dear Dean Revesz,
I write to inform you of my decision to cancel my pending visit at NYU as a Visiting Global Professor.
I was honoured by this invitation which NYU told me was extended on the basis of my academic scholarship and reports of my teaching abilities which were found to meet the high standards associated with your Global Law School Program.
As an Asian woman whose legal training has spanned the finest institutions in both East and West, I believe I would have something of value to offer your students. However, the conditions no longer exist to proceed with the visit, given the animus fuelled by irresponsible misrepresentation/distortions and/or concerted invective from certain parties. Friends and colleagues have also expressed serious concerns about my safety and well-being.
I am convinced that a primary condition for learning and teaching, especially in my chosen fields (which are rife with contested concepts) – human rights and constitutional law – is a tolerant, serene environment where different viewpoints emanating from a variety of worldviews are heard with mutual respect and carefully evaluated, in a civilised fashion. I have always striven to ensure my classroom would exemplify such conditions and had planned to bring this practice to my NYU classroom.
I am proud to belong to an Institution which counts amongst its teaching staff professors professing a wide range of political views on issues of consequence. including those implicating this present controversy. Many of my colleagues share the same respect for the primacy of an open, pluralist classroom and eschew the descent into unreflective dogma, pretensions of false neutrality and ad hominem argument. We seek to inculcate in our students the ethos of hearing both sides of an argument, regardless of our own convictions, and so, not to allow political differences to compromise the free, un-intimidated exchange of views in a civil setting. Only then is academic discourse over intractable issues pertaining to law and profoundly divergent moral values compossible.
Outside the classroom and the academy I am an engaged citizen. I have also served as a parliamentarian. Some of my views – expressed in the altogether different idiom of politics – have angered some and created, as you know, a campaign against me and my appointment as a Visiting Global Professor. I understand that you, too, have been under great pressure to rescind the invitation. I appreciate the commitment NYU has shown towards the principle of academic freedom in resisting this pressure; to yield to politicking would be deleterious to the academic enterprise. Today’s heresy can become tomorrow’s orthodoxy and viceversa.
Despite this, it has become clear that the fraught atmosphere of hostility towards me is inimical to an effective teaching and learning environment. As you know, the ireful campaign against me has negatively affected class enrolment, a sad commentary on this present noisome state of affairs.
I regret the lost opportunity to interact with those NYU students, staff and faculty who value free academic enquiry after the finest classic liberal tradition, whether they share or disagree with my views. I appreciate the pains they took to communicate their support, welcome, and distaste for bullying, intellectual intolerance and vulgar incivilities.
However, as an invited guest, I do not seek controversy nor do I think it appropriate to visit an institution if my presence is unwelcome or prey to politicised manipulation, with its disruptive effects. It defeats the purpose of educational exchange and dialogue, would be counter-productive, and enervating to all concerned parties.
This is an unhappy outcome but, with respect, I trust you will accept my decision.
Yours sincerely,
Professor Li-ann Thio
Dr Thio Li-Ann’s full letter to NYU law school dean [Singapore Today]
Earlier: NYU Professor of Human Rights: Not a Fan of Gay Rights?
Dr. Li-ann Thio v. Random NYU Law IT Guy
Dr. Li-ann Thio: Much Ado About Nothing?
Breaking: Dr. Thio Is Not Coming To NYU Law


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