A professor from Laney College in Oakland has been placed on administrative leave after asking a student to “Anglicize” her name.
On the second day of class, Laney College mathematics professor Matthew Hubbard asked Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen to “Anglicize” her name because “Phuc Bui sounds like an insult in English,” Hubbard told Nguyen in an email obtained by CNN.
Nguyen told CNN she was shocked and felt disrespected upon receiving the email.
Nguyen said the professor had never seen her before or asked her how to pronounce her name.
Nguyen replied back to Hubbard’s email and told him his request feels “discriminatory” and warned him she would file a Title IX complaint if he did not refer to her by her birth name. He responded by saying her name in English sounds like “F*** Boy.”
Hubbard added, “If I lived in Vietnam and my name in your language sounded like Eat a D***, I would change it to avoid embarrassment.” He also repeated his request in the reply.
Laney College President Tammeil Gilkerson said in a statement on Thursday that the college was aware of the incident.
“We are 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,” Laney College said. “We take these allegations seriously and immediately placed the faculty member on administrative leave pending an investigation.”
Hubbard declined CNN’s request to offer any additional comments on the incident other than what he told The New York Times.
“The first email was a mistake, and I made it thinking about another student willing to Anglicize,” Hubbard told The Times. “But it’s a big difference with someone doing it voluntarily and asking someone to do it. The second email is very offensive, and if I had waited eight hours, I would’ve written something very different.”
Nguyen, who is a freshman at the community college, said she felt empowered not to change her name at his insistence.
“I decided to fully embrace it and let everyone know that they should be proud of their name,” Nguyen said.
Through this incident, Nguyen said she was able to raise awareness of what’s happening and has helped others be prouder of their culture and identity.
Nguyen said she is still waiting for a sincere and professional apology from Hubbard.
Nguyen’s sister, Quynh, said Hubbard gave her a two-sentence apology that she felt was not professional or sincere.
“He wasn’t being accountable for his actions,” said Quynh Nguyen, who explained that her whole family is affected by it. “I was so shocked and I was so disappointed at his ignorance and at the school.”