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July 23, 2009


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Eric Fink

If I were a Freudian, I might raise an eyebrow over Prof. Thio's penchant for metaphors like "forcing the genie of sexual impulses into the marriage bottle" and "shoving a straw up your nose to drink". Since I'm not a Freudian, I'll just breathe a sigh of relief that she won't be gracing the students at my alma mater with her wit and wisdom this Fall.


I thought you guys might be interested in a recent letter from Thio to a newspaper in Singapore. You should know that this is in the context of a concerted effort by the (powerful) Christian Right there to smear those who support the decriminalization and any tolerance of homosexuality as violent and abusive.

The link is here :,-a-so-called-memo-and-threats

Nuance, a so-called memo and threats ... Letter from Professor Thio Li-ann 05:55 AM Jul 27, 2009
"I WRITE to clarify a few points in "Former NMP calls off professorship at NYU"(July 24).

First, the online petition asserting I was an "opponent of human rights" over-simplistically assumes "gay rights are human rights".

Certain countries legally recognise the controversial idea of "gay rights", but this is not a universally accepted human right. Further, the idea of "gay rights" may cover anything from prohibiting workplace discrimination (which I support) to same-sex marriage (which I oppose).

Nuance is needed; simplification is sensationalistic.

Can a capitalist teach Marxism? Could someone who supports the death penalty (which many at New York University disagree with) teach human rights?

There is no settled theory of the source of human rights; many competing interpretations exist. There are core (prohibiting torture) and contested (same-sex marriage, euthanasia) rights.

Second, no 18-page rebuttal was sent to the NYU law faculty. I do not know who posted the so-called "18-point memo" circulating online. This was an internal email I wrote in response to a non-law NYU staffer's email copied to the Dean (who made no response) and others, strongly criticising my appointment.

This was just one of the hostile, often vulgar messages I received, some insulting my intellect, gender, ethnicity and country.

I sought to clarify misrepresentations and rebut potentially defamatory allegations made to personnel involved in the Global Faculty programme which invited my visit.

It is disappointing the NYU law dean would label my response "offensive" and "hurtful", while ignoring the offensive, hurtful and even threatening messages directed against me.

To say I was "disappointed by the hostility" minimises the virulence of the attacks I received. A cursory glance at the invective online explains why many friends worried for my safety.

An American NYU alumnus wrote to the NYU law dean (copied to me), saying he had the impression the dean was "not troubled by the kind of atmosphere" that I was "expected to endure" had I decided to teach at NYU.

Some NYU faculty, staff and students also sent supportive emails; a gay New Yorker apologised for the bullying tactics of certain activists who did not represent him.

Academic freedom dissipates in a hostile environment - by this I do not mean mere viewpoint disputation. Why prejudicially assume I would create "an unwelcoming atmosphere" in class, as opposed to politicking students or frosty faculty members?

Why assume I would not permit free discussion when it is "political correctness" which chills free debate? An email from a Harvard law graduate noted of this affair: "Things just got a little bit darker down at NYU." "


What was NYU thinking? I don't care about "political correctness." If you're going to offer courses on human rights, at the very least get someone with an objective understanding of human rights! She doesn't have a secret agenda on the issue; she painted that agenda in huge red letters across the side her house!

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