Posts Tagged ‘gay rights’

Thio Li-Ann is coming to (down)town!

July 12, 2009

Thio Li-Ann’s appointment as a visiting professor in NYU for the upcoming fall semester has been met with dissent by some NYU law students.  An excerpt from an open letter by an NYU law student (unlikely to see the light of day in Singaporean mainstream media):

You are quite correct, however, that in the face of bullying, one must have courage. It also helps to have supportive gay friends. One of the nice things about gay folks is that we tend not to belong to either the “liberal camp” or “communitarian camp” which you described in your speech. We’re just into camp. Likewise, the gays at NYU don’t by any means have a problem with you, your right to your views, or academic freedom. We just don’t think that state power to imprison or discriminate against sexual, racial, or other minorities is a particularly “academic” question. Again, that’s American English for you.

Another generally appreciated feature of the gays is our sense of taste, which has been highlighted in television shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” You are a bit mistaken if you think that the gays at NYU want to censor you. It’s just that, like mixing polka dots with plaid or having George Wallace teach a course on civil rights in the American South, we tend to think NYU’s hiring you to teach a class called “Human Rights in Asia” demonstrates a lack of taste.

Get this – Thio is teaching a class entitled “Human Rights Law in Asia”.  I’m not sure if NYU meant it as a gag, until they finally made an official statement in response a few days ago.  The memo can be read here:

Whatever their areas of expertise or views, Global Professors’ appointments are decided on their record of distinguished scholarship and teaching and their ability to contribute to intellectual exchange within our community. So, while many in our community sharply disagree with, or are offended by, Professor Thio’s 2007 remarks to the Singaporean Parliament, it is important to bear in mind that she was appointed as a visiting professor based on her published scholarship, not on views she expressed as a legislator.

To be clear, the Law School categorically rejects the point of view expressed in Professor Thio’s speech, as evidenced by our early and longstanding commitment to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Yet we believe academic freedom requires that this disagreement express itself through vigorous, civil debate, rather than an attempt to suppress those views. We fully expect that Professor Thio will embrace the values of academic freedom as well, and be open to the kind of respectful conversation that marks a great institution of higher learning.

What could the reception to Thio Li-Ann be?  Something along the lines of the recent NYU occupation riot?

Maybe she can avoid tough questions about gay rights by giving the same answer as President Ahmedinejad’s when he spoke at Columbia University – “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”

Some background about what Thio has said in Parliament about Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore, which, according to Wikipedia, is “the main remaining piece of legislation which criminalises sex between mutually consenting adult men”.  The transcript can be found here.

I like the part about 3:10 into the video where she says:

We cannot say a law is “regressive” unless we first identify our ultimate goal. If we seek to ape the sexual libertine ethos of the wild wild West, then repealing section 377A is progressive.

I highly recommend that she use this Will Smith classic as her theme music at the start of every lecture, a la Rocky Balboa and professional wrestlers: