Li-ann Thio

Earlier this week, we discussed the discovery of potentially anti-Semitic graffiti in Vanderbilt Hall, the home of NYU Law School. Yesterday Dean Richard Revesz issued a forceful response to the law school community via email, condemning the graffiti as “highly offensive and hurtful” and declaring that “[s]uch hateful conduct is deplorable and has no place in our community.” (We’ve reprinted Dean Revesz’s message in full at the end of this post.)

Some observers, however, questioned whether the graffiti was really that bad. First, it was vague and conclusory, reading simply, “Damn Orthodox Jews.” Second, rather than reflecting animus from a non-Jew against Jews, the statement might have reflected tensions within the Jewish community itself. Several commenters raised the possibility that the graffiti was written by a less religious Jew who objects to the greater religiosity of Orthodox Jews.

Dean Revesz’s response raises another issue, namely, whether the administration at NYU Law takes anti-religious discrimination more seriously than discrimination based on sexual orientation (even though both are part of the school’s non-discrimination policy)….

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Thio Li Ann Visiting Professor NYU Law School.jpgYesterday we posted a letter from the NYU Law School chapter of the ACLU to Dean Richard Revesz. In its letter, the ACLU requested that a “town hall” meeting to discuss the controversial visiting professorship of Dr. Li-Ann Thio go forward as planned, even though Dr. Thio has canceled her visit to NYU.
We’ve learned that the town hall meeting will be going forward as planned. It should be an interesting event; perhaps we’ll cover it. NYU folks, please email us with the info once it’s available.
In addition, the NYU ACLU sent us a message to clarify one matter. Based on some of the comments to our last post, it seems some readers think the ACLU was arguing for rescission of Dr. Thio’s offer. The ACLU wanted to emphasize that it never took that position and that it respects Dr. Thio’s right to free speech.
If you’re tired of this story, then stop reading here. If not, you can read the full statement of the ACLU, after the jump.

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(And the town hall meeting is happening.)”

Jeez. Even we are sick of this story — and that’s saying a lot.
But apparently some folks think, despite the endless navel-gazing and handwringing over the (canceled) visit of Dr. Li-ann Thio to NYU Law School, that there is more to be said here.

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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.

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Thio Li Ann Visiting Professor NYU Law School.jpgDetails are still sketchy, but word on the street is that Dr. Li-ann Thio will not be coming to NYU Law School this fall. It appears that Dr. Thio has voluntarily decided not to serve as a visiting professor.
As many of you know, Dr. Thio has been heavily criticized by some in the NYU community (and beyond) for the allegedly anti-gay views she professed as a member of Singapore’s Parliament. But up to this point, Dr. Thio has enjoyed the support of Dean Richard Revesz and the NYU administration.
We previously reported that early returns showed low student registration for Dr. Thio’s classes this fall. A petition protesting her appointment garnered over 800 signatures. It’s too early to tell if any of this affected her decision to withdraw.
We will let you know when we receive official word from the law school or Dr. Thio.
UPDATE: The official announcement is now available. Check it out after the jump.

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Update: Official NYU statement now available.

Thio Li Ann Visiting Professor NYU Law School.jpgThere’s a minor new development in the saga of Dr. Li-ann Thio, the NYU visiting law professor whose views on homosexuality have made her the legal academic everyone loves to hate. It’s an online petition, addressed to the NYU law school and university administration, expressing “deep dissatisfaction with New York University School of Law’s appointment of Dr. Thio Li-Ann as a Global Visiting Professor of Law.”
The petition concludes by articulating the belief “that the Administration’s decision to appoint Dr. Thio was a grave mistake and her designation to teach ‘Human Rights in Asia’ is inappropriate and offensive.” There’s an additional option, selected by many (but not all) of the signatories, calling upon the administration to rescind Dr. Thio’s appointment.
You can check out the position, and sign it if you like, by clicking here. Currently the petition has 564 signatures.
A notable signatory, after the jump.

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Thio Su Mien Dr Su Mien Thio Li Ann Thio mother.jpgWe sometimes like to think of the figures we write about in these pages as characters in a novel. Viewed in this way, Dr. Li-ann Thio, the visiting NYU law professor who apparently isn’t a fan of gay rights, is one of the most compelling we’ve come across recently.
We have a weakness for strong, outspoken Asian women — hi Mom! — and this description fits Dr. Thio to a T. Our only disappointment: Dr. Thio was whiny when attacked. (We agree with Professor Brian Leiter — playing the victim card was weak, Dr. Thio.)
Now, meet an even more compelling character — one who wouldn’t have responded to a random IT guy by playing victim, but by treating him like Obama treated that fly. She’s the original Dr. Thio: Li-ann Thio’s mother, Dr. Su Mien Thio (pictured), who taught Thio the Younger everything she knows (e.g., that gay sex is evil).
From a tipster:

It looks like Dr. Thio’s mother — a former judge who inspired Li-ann Thio’s own rise in politics — was involved in some serious anti-gay drama this year, after battling what she saw as a conspiracy to generate a “generation of lesbians.”

It all started with unrest over a screening of Spider Lilies, a lusty Taiwanese movie about an Internet cam girl [Ed. note: A cam girl? Like SexyLexus?] falling in love with another girl. The elder Dr. Thio, filled with the same heroic indignation as her daughter, filled with the same heroic indignation as her daughter, ended up locked out of a building after a failed takeover of a feminist organization.

And the trailer for the movie is totally hot!

Update: Not surprisingly, given her staunch opposition to homosexuality, Dr. Thio Su Mien is also against abortion. A headline from Roll on Friday: “Leading Singaporean lawyer blames abortion for SARS.”
More about the Spider Lilies controversy and Dr. Su Mien Thio’s impressive résumé, after the jump.

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Thio Li Ann Visiting Professor NYU Law School.jpgOr close to nothing. That’s the likely enrollment in Human Rights Law in Asia, the course that Dr. Li-ann Thio, the visiting professor from Singapore with controversial views on gay rights, is scheduled to teach at NYU Law School this fall.

An NYU law student reports:

I think there’s a point everyone is missing about this story, and it is this:

We just had to submit our bids for fall courses. A grand total of five people applied for Dr. Thio’s class. It is totally going to get canceled. In comparison, Kenji Yoshino’s Con Law classes got 230 primary bids PER SECTION. NYU Law voted with its feet.

It’s not clear whether the student is referring to Human Rights Law in Asia (3 credits) or Constitutionalism in Asia (2 credits). Other sources tell us, however, that both courses are severely undersubscribed. NYU Law alumna Jill Filipovic, who over at Feministe expressed the hope that nobody would sign up for Dr. Thio’s classes, must be pleased.

(In case you’re not familiar with him, Kenji Yoshino is the openly gay law professor that NYU hired away from Yale last year. He is a leading scholar of gay rights and queer theory.)

UPDATE: We now have greater clarity, from our original tipster:

She’s teaching 2 courses. Human Rights got 9 bids, 5 primary and 4 alternates, and Constitutionalism got 5 bids, just 1 primary and 4 alternates. The results of bidding will be available next week so we’ll know more about how many people actually end up in the class then. But I think it’s pretty safe to assume NYU is not going to run two seminars with just a handful of people in them.

We contacted the law school, to confirm the registration numbers and to see if Dr. Thio’s classes were in danger of being canceled.

Read their response, plus additional discussion, after the jump.

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Thio Li Ann Visiting Professor NYU Law School.jpgWhen last we checked in on the saga of Dr. Li-ann Thio, the incoming NYU Law visiting professor who equated anal sex to drinking by shoving a straw up your nose, Dean Richard Revesz was defending the invitation extended to her.
But over the weekend, an information technology professional who works for NYU law (and who is also an NYU student) asked the dean to reconsider. Here’s part of the letter from Malik Graves-Pryor:

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.

In response, Dr. Thio unleashed an 18-point defense that she sent to the entire NYU Law faculty. Apparently, she feels unfairly maligned:

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.

More fighting after the jump.

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Thio Li Ann Visiting Professor NYU Law School.jpgNYU Law gays, consider yourselves warned: Dr. Li-ann Thio is not afraid of you. The outspoken professor, who vehemently opposed decriminalizing gay sex as a member of the Singapore parliament, is ready to rumble:

We can be united in commitment to this principle [of academic freedom], without slavishly bowing to a demanded uniformity or dogma of political correctness set by elite diktat. I cannot say I am impressed by this ugly brand of politicking which I hope is not endemic….

I am disappointed at the intolerant animosity directed at me by strangers who do not know me and have decided to act on their own prejudices, forged from whatever sources, I am nonetheless glad that there are still some at NYU, who uphold a commitment to academic freedom and who entertain dissent with respect. As a recent NYU graduate, a Muslim friend of mine said, one must have courage in the face of bullying.

Dr. Thio can’t be prejudiced. Some of her best friends are Muslim!
Although her defense of the Singaporean statute against gay sex has been dismissed by one prominent American law professor as “dumb” and “embarrassing[],” Dr. Thio is not unaware of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in this area:

[C]ertain Americans have to realize the fact that there are a diversity of views on the subject and it is not a settled matter; there is no universal norm and it is nothing short of moral imperialism to suggest there is. Correct me if I am wrong, but there is no consensus on this even within the U.S. Supreme Court and American society at large, even post Lawrence v. Texas.

Dr. Thio is fighting political correctness with political correctness, accusing LGBT activists of cultural imperialism. Yikes! Find something to bite down on, kids, ’cause she’s not planning to use lube pull her punches.
Meanwhile, the NYU Law School administration has (finally) issued a public statement on L’Affaire Thio.
Read the statement, after the jump.

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