A California college professor was placed on leave after he allegedly asked a Vietnamese college student to “anglicize” her name because it “sounds like an insult in English.”
“This teacher had the ignorance and audacity to tell my sister to anglicized her name is disgusting,” wrote a person who identified herself as the student’s sister on social media, alongside screenshots of her sibling’s correspondence with the instructor on Thursday. “As a professor, he should be trying to learn her name and culture and not try to white wash her name.”
Matthew Hubbard, a mathematics instructor at Laney College in Oakland, told the student, Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen, that her name “in English sounds like F-ck boy” and that she needs to “understand” that her name is “an offensive sound in my language,” according to the screenshots.
“If I lived in Vietnam and my name in your language sounded like Eat a D—, I would change it to avoid embarrassment both on my part and on the part of the people who had to say it,” Hubbard wrote. “I understand you are offended, but you need to understand your name is an offensive sound in my language.”
Nyguyen told Hubbard that his request for her to change her name felt “discriminatory” and that she planned to file a complaint with the Title IX Office if he did not “refer to her” by her “given birth name,” according to the screenshots. Title IX protects people from discrimination on the basis of sex in education and other federally funded activities.
The emails were not dated and neither the student’s sister, who also posted a video of Hubbard addressing Nyugen as P. Nyguen” on a Zoom call, nor Nguyen, responded to NBC News’ messages requesting comment.
According to a statement from Tammeil Gilkerson, president of Laney College, the school is “aware of the allegations of racist and xenophobic messages from a faculty member at our college with a student about the pronunciation of their name” and has placed Hubbard on administrative leave pending an investigation.
“On the surface this incident is obviously disturbing and comes after decades of discussing and working to combat structural racism, xenophobia, and violence in both the Black and Asian Pacific Islander community,” Gilkerson wrote, adding that while this week’s Supreme Court rulings “were huge victories” in longstanding battles for LGBTQ+ and immigrant protections, “the need to still actively combat the deeply rooted anti-immigrant, anti-queer, and anti-Black racism spawned by white supremacy in this country” persists.
Hubbard told NBC Newsthat he will not comment during the ongoing investigation, which was opened after the sister’s post garnered attention online.
“I love that my parents want to keep my culture alive by keeping our Vietnamese name. If you can’t say it then ask,” the student’s sister wrote. “In addition, Hubbard said that English is his language. But also forgot that my sister also spoke English and that’s not his language.”