A mathematics professor at Oakland, California's Laney College was placed on leave after a chain of email between him and an Asian American student went viral.
The emails—in which the professor pointedly and repeatedly insists the student "anglicize" her name—drew wide criticism and accusations of xenophobia and racism.
The student's sister shared screenshots of some of the professor's emails on Instagram.
The Laney College professor, Matthew Hubbard, insisted Vietnamese American student Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen change her name.
He claimed it "sounds" like a vulgar insult in "his language."
A second Instagram post was added with video captioned:
"Update: he now refers to her as P Nguyen. I wanna know why he can't just ask my sister how to pronounce her name"
Dion Lim of San Francisco ABC7 News shared coverage of the professor's actions on Twitter.
She included a screenshot of the email and a response from Laney College.
Hubbard never asked the student how to correctly pronounce her name in his emails. He only looked at the spelling and made assumptions about the way it would be pronounced.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Laney College's student population for the 2019 academic year was 27% Asian, 26% Latinx, 20% Black/African-American, 15% white, 6% multi-ethnicity, 2% Filipino, 0.6% Pacific Islander, and 0.2% Native American.
The student's sister pointed out:
"If you read the last page [of the Instagram post], he's calling my sister's name an embarrassment and that it's sounds like an insult."
"I love that my parents want to keep my culture alive by keeping our Vietnamese name. If you can't say it then ask."
"In addition, Hubbard said that English is his language. But also forgot that my sister also spoke English and that's not his language."
It was then reported Hubbard posted an apology on Twitter after his emails went public.
The apology on Twitter has since been deleted or made private, but not before being screengrabbed.
Laney College President Dr. Tammeil Gilkerson issued a statement about the incident, which Nguyen said in an interview with San Francisco's ABC affiliate KGO left her "shook."
While Gilkerson's statement stopped short of naming Hubbard, it was unsparing in its summation of his emails with Nguyen.
"...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..."
"...we also recognize that our college and its community is a reflection of broader society and we must actively fight ignorance with education."
"We do not tolerate racism, discrimination or oppression of any kind."
Gilkerson also specified that Hubbard was placed on administrative leave while the college investigates the matter.
Speaking to KGO ABC7 News, Nguyen described how the exchange made her feel.
Laney College professor accused of telling Vietnamese American student to 'anglicize' her name youtu.be
As Nguyen put it:
"I was shook because growing up, there were problems with how to pronounce my name, but they would ask me how to pronounce my name... he's being an ignorant person and not trying to learn my name."
On Twitter, people were outraged by the racist and xenophobic overtones of Hubbard's emails.
As for other Asian Americans for whom an incident like hers might be embarrassing, Nguyen told KGO:
"People should not be embarrassed of their name and they should be proud of their name. I hope they'll feel more comfortable using their real name rather than using a whitewashed name."
Nguyen's sister confirmed to KGO that Professor Hubbard has since emailed her a personal apology.