higher ed

Anti-Gay Singapore Prof Li-Ann Thio Won’t Be Coming to NYU. So, That’s Good?


Surely the New York University community was saddened this week to learn Dr. Li-ann Thio, of the National University of Singapore, was canceling her plans to teach there this fall. Or not: She was a giant bigot.

The coming arrival of Thio on NYU’s law school campus set off a firestorm of backlash. Students demanded to know why the university, with their tuition dollars, was paying for a so-called humanitarian hero to teach them when she also stood by Singapore’s laws that makes it a crime for two men to have sex with each other.

Amidst the furor, Thio wrote the entire NYU Faculty with an 18-point argument about why she should be welcomed on campus. Among her reasons:

My objection is not to gay people; it is towards the nature of the homosexual political agenda and the vicious and degrading tactics of some activists. I say “some” because there were gays in Singapore who (a) agree that homosexuality should not be mainstreamed or coercively taught as having moral equivalence with heterosexuality as a social norm) (b) disagree with me but reject the tactics of insult and death threats.

In her correspondence, she added: “If the NYU law community is unable to welcome me because of my convictions, they should say so. I am sure many faculty members are doing some soul-searching, perhaps regretting their original invitation. I am not naive.”

Nor is she coming. Dr. Thio has rescinded her acceptance to NYU’s invitation.

And: It seems, the NYU law community is saying so. Sort of. Dean Richard Revesz, who initially defended inviting the doc, has offered this for-and-against question-and-answer letter, which addresses things like academic freedom and human rights, without actually saying whether inviting Thio was one giant mistake.

Should an academic opposed to the recognition of certain important human rights be allowed to teach a human rights course?

An academic’s views on a substantive issue should be irrelevant to his or her suitability to teach a course in a particular area as long as the opposing views are treated fairly in the classroom: A proponent or opponent of the death penalty can be equally qualified to lead a seminar on capital punishment, for example. The contrary position would be a serious affront to academic freedom, would lead to endless political litmus tests, and would greatly impoverish academic institutions, which gain so much from the robust discussion of controversial legal issues.

What say you?



Greetings Dean Revesz,
cc: members of Hauser Global, Professor Li-Ann Thio,

While I can understand your position and reasoning in displaying solidarity to the larger NYU School of Law community regarding Hauser Global’s decision to bring in Professor Li-Ann Thio (see attached email), I must state my strong objection to her appointment and the official NYU Law defense of said appointment.

As an African-American man working in the LawITS department, and simultaneously a student at NYU, I could never imagine the day would come when NYU would allow the appointment of a legal scholar who held the opinion that African-Americans practice acts of “gross indecency”, that African-Americans who strive for diversity should be rebuffed because “diversity is not a license for perversity”, describing the private intimate acts between African-Americans as trying to “shove a straw up your nose to drink”, among other intellectually and morally shallow absurdities.

I would also never imagine the day in which a legal scholar who held the opinion that African-Americans are inferior to Whites or any other racial/ethnic group would be granted a platform here at NYU Law, simply due to interest in not squelching “other” views.

In fact, I can state the unequivocal belief that that day would absolutely never come. Not only would the members of the Hauser Global group and any other group at the Law School not stand for it, I feel absolutely confident that neither would you Dean Revesz.

As a Gay man as well, however, it seems that it is still an acceptable position within academia to hold these opinions about LGBT individuals and community without repercussion.

You stated:

“Needless to say, the value of the program would be seriously diminished if the visiting scholars all thought of legal issues in the same way. Much of the benefit of engaging with the world lies in confronting profound differences in viewpoint and experience. We can learn from these visitors, and-we hope-they can learn from us.

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.”

It is my sincerest hope that you truly do not believe the intellectually dishonest and bankrupt position that no other scholars among the 6-billion people who populate this planet have the legal heft, and offer the same benefits, that Professor Li-Ann Thio brings to NYU Law, but without her incendiary belief structure regarding valued members of this community (faculty, administrators, student body, parents, friends, alumni, etc).

Suffice it to say I could not imagine your defense of Professor Li-Ann Thio being made regarding a legal scholar who was an avowed supporter of the KKK, or one who publicly and legally sympathized with the violence and vitriol espoused by Al-Qaeda, for example.

In short, this is not an issue of perceiving “legal issues in the same way”. This is an issue of fundamental human rights, human dignity, and human respect. Until the day comes in which these so-called “opinions” regarding the LGBT community are no longer tolerated in polite company, the blot on those who provide intellectual shelter and comfort, in this case, NYU Law and Hauser Global, to those who espouse anti-LGBT views will continue.

It is wrong, it is immoral, and it is highly disappointing for an institution such as NYU, which has most certainly been a member of the vanguard on these and other civil rights issues, to willingly allow this to pass.

I ask that you rethink your official position and take into consideration the harmful effects someone of Professor Li-Ann Thio’s stature has, not only on members of the NYU community, but the LGBT community in Singapore which continues to suffer gross oppression at the hands of their government. An oppression which the good Professor strongly desires continue.

Her unnecessary appointment does nothing but tarnish the LGBT-positive legacy that NYU has built over the past several decades.

That said, I welcome discussion on this matter going forward and sincerely hope that in the end NYU Law will take the right course of action and terminate its relationship with Professor Li-Ann Thio and all others who hold these incendiary viewpoints regarding minority groups, whether they be by sexual orientation, gender, race/ethnicity, or religion. Thank you for reading.

Malik Graves-Pryor


Dear Sirs and Madams,

1. I am a little tired of the torrent of abuse and defamation that I have been receiving, and blatant emotive misrepresentations of my position. I was going to stay above the fray but given this insidious attack on my academic reputation (aside from many ad hominem insults), I feel I must cast some clarity on certain issues.

2. Let me clarify some issues. I do not know if Mr Graves-Pryor is trying to be incendiary by suggesting I am racist or if he is trying to lump all forms of what he calls “discrimination” together and so to incite hatred towards me. As a woman and a person of colour, I find this incredibly offensive. As an Asian, I find this bullying and rage makes me wonder about the state of both academic freedom and civil discourse in the US – I was unaware that you had to subscribe to a certain orthodoxy before one could be welcomed into a certain academic community, as Mr. Graves-Pryor seems to be insinuating. As a scholar, I would point out that the norm prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is one that is (a) very much depends on the issue at stake i.e. which right is being contended for and (b) is not universally accepted as a matter of law, though it is probably universally contended for as a matter of politics. It is neither an “Asian” nor “Western” issue, it is something contested within all societies, including the US, though admittedly, a minority opinion in most law schools.

3. I am tired of the insinuations that I am in favour of oppressing any community in Singapore or elsewhere. I think an appreciation of the context of Singapore and of the truth of things is needed. The law on sodomy is a law on the books and was kept on the books after full free and very robust democratic debate. It has since been exercised a few times, to my knowledge. The government applies it with restraint and has adhered to its policy that it will not be pro-active (for example, in the 1980s there used to be police operations in public places where homosex activities were known to be taking place). In Singapore, people do not really care whether someone is homosexual or not, as we tend to look at the merit of a person, for example, in the workplace. I would be the first to oppose discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or ideological persuasion in the my own academic environment. It is the truth or strength of an idea that counts in scholarship and teaching,
and we teach, we do not propagate one ideology. Perhaps things are done differently in a foreign land. My own view, and the way I conduct my classes, is to subject any topic to scrutiny, presented as an object of analysis rather than one of allegiance or affection. People will have their own opinions as opinions are cheap and easy to have. But my task as a professor is to subject things to academic interrogation and let people draw their own conclusions.

4. I have colleagues and students who identify themselves as homosexual. Some are hostile to the views I have expressed as a politician, some are hurt (and I have had really difficult conversations with such students whom I greatly liked as individuals, who expressed their disappointment at me for my views but I had to point out that everyone is entitled to their convictions which are complicated things. Some understand and know I respect them as people and some do not want to have conversations with me anymore. That is their prerogative)

5. That said, there is in Singapore a great concern when activists campaign to change social norms and to equate heterosexuality with homosexuality as a basis for changing policies and cultural understandings. If you wish to enter into the free marketplace of ideas, you must contend with opposing views. As must I. What I object to is the colouring of any principled moral opposition to homosexuality as “bigoted” and ignorance or “hatred”. What I find ironical are the tactics of those who call themselves “oppressed” to oppress. Some activists have no qualms in destroying reputation, insulting, slandering those who do not agree with their political agenda.

6. I have friends who identify as ex-gay. They point out to me that the homosexual community is the most vicious when they try to speak out. What about this oppressed minority group? One of them said to me: If they have a right to sexual orientation, do I not have the right to sexual re-orientation? All they get is vilification and abuse and charges that homosexuals are ‘born that way’ and it is a fallacy to believe they can seek to mute unwanted same-sex attractions if that is their choice. I appreciate this is a controversial matter, but that is the point. It is controversial and unsettled. What I see as a scholar is an attempt by one side to censor another out of ideological preferences. That is intolerant and totalitarian. It is the attempt to impose a dogma about a theory of human good and nature in the name of a fake ‘liberal neutrality’ which is in fact a substantive and contested ideology, even if it is the ideology of preference to many in western democracies.

7. I trust that members of the academic community appreciate that in matters of public morality, as oppose to commercial legal frameworks, one is apt to find the greatest divergence of values on a global level though there are convergent trends as well. The Singapore government takes a pragmatic stance towards the issue of homosexuality. While I do not think anyone should lose their job because of sexual orientation (as this is irrelevant to the performance of the job), I would not support for example, same-sex marriage which is also based on a discrimination against sexual orientation paradigm. Sexual orientation is relevant to the institution of marriage. What A sees as an equality issue (and that is a substantive argument masquerading as a formal one), B see as an issue the definition of ‘marriage’ or ‘family.’ It is a substantive issue. Is there only one view in relation to moral controversies? Or, may only one view be taught at a law school while competing views are sni
ckered at on the basis of a false intellectuality?

8. Homosexuals in Singapore are by and large affluent and literate; building developers target high quality residences for their consumption. They have space to lead quiet lives which is what most of us want. They are basically left alone in practice. However, when you enter the public arena and demand to change social norms, which others resist, do you expect a walkover? When reasoned arguments are presented against the homosexualism agenda, which any citizen in a democracy is entitled to do, what happens? Homosex activists hurl abuse, death threats. They have demonstrated nothing but abuse towards their detractors. This is not the way to win respect. This is not conducive to sustainable democracy in the long-term. I argue it is a horizontal chilling of speech by the most malicious of methods. Homosex activists may see it as a “rights” issues (and I have academic friends and feminists who disagree “sharply” with my viewpoints but refuse to vilify me because they know who I
am and respect me as a scholar), others see it as a matter of a “goods” issue, about the nature of public morality and social norms. And these debates are played out on a global basis.

9. I appreciate I am in a minority in the context of US academia for holding this view, but does this then disqualify me as immoral (let me say what Mr. Graves-Pryor considers immoral, others recognise as highly moral, principled as well as the need to have moral courage to articulate views which elicit vicious responses) and “unfit to teach human rights?” That’s libel. Mr Graves-Pryor is wrong to assume that expressing viewpoints that attract vitriolic attacks is an opinion held “without repercussion.” Does he appreciate the repercussions I have sustained to my academic reputation for my political views expressed in the context of parliamentary debates in an independent country? I have paid the cost for my convictions and principles. Is he now wanting to be my debtor?

10. Now, as a scholar, I have not written about homosexuality and the law in any direct sense. Simply because it is not a research interest of mine, or has not been up till now. It is also an area which attracts a great deal of personal attack, which no sane person invites, as this current furore shows. The only time I can think of where I indirectly referenced it in a law review article was in relation to issues of definition and how one identifies a ‘human right.’ That is, is a human right natural, is it a subject of political preference, an object of political capture? If human rights are meant to be universal, why is there so much local resistance? Is same sex marriage, for instance, a human right? Some may like it to be as a matter of personal conviction or politics, but it is not a global right, certainly not a customary international law norm, though there have been treaty-based interpretations of it e.g. ICCPR and ECHR jurisprudence. That is how I teach the subject. I see it as a regional legal right, a contested one at the UN (though as a scholar, I will observe that the dominant view is to see sexual orientation as a right without defining the broad term) and a constitutional/ civic rights issue in many countries, particularly those in western liberal democracies (though not limited to the ‘West’). For example, the Delhi High Court recently interpreted a sodomy law as unconstitutional, but that is limited to the state of Delhi and the next day, a famous guru took out a motion to challenge this. This shows that it has become a politicised issue of significance in India but it also shows the sharp divergences of views in that country. This is how I teach. I examine views of both sides. I let my students make up their minds. I do not evangelise my students into one way of thinking as I know some professors do, perhaps because they hold different views about teaching and the role of an academic. People will disagree. As a scholar, I adhere to the principle of audi alteram partem (hear the other side). As a Singapore citizen, I will defend my right to speak to my domestic politics. As a politician, when I was in the House, I did. I may have opinions about the US but I do not have the standing to speak to American politics. I do not presume to. Do Americans then presume to speak to Singapore politics? Of course they can express opinions, an the internet age facilitates the free spread of ideas, but I would say, butt out, let Singaporeans debate it amongst ourselves. We have brains. We do not wish to be neo-colonised. And if you think that the homosexual community is oppressed in this way, you speak from ignorance. The government of Singapore may be politically controlling in many areas pertaining to actual political power, but it takes a fairly hands off view on matters of public morality.

11. I am deeply offended at Mr. Graves-Pryor characterisation of me / my views as immoral. I disagree with his views but I do not threaten his job. I am offended by the insinuations of some that I am unable to teach in a manner which reflects both intellectual integrity and basic courtesy to colleagues and students, particularly those with “sharply disagreeing” views. Perhaps this is a function of American law schools where classrooms become political platforms rather than venues of academic enquiry. I do not know, I have no first hand experience.

12. I am disappointed at the basic lack of reciprocity. When some NYU professors come to Singapore and articulate views which may be disagreeable to official policy of the government, or the views of academic colleagues, we afford them the basic courtesy in the interests of authentic intellectual exchange, to express their views. We do not allow a song and dance and vicious attacks to be made on them. Perhaps, (some) Asians are more polite after all.

13. I was invited to NYU by the Law School. I was honoured by this recognition of my academic scholarship. I looked forward to meeting a new community of scholars of a respected institution. Now my ‘colourful’ political views have been “outed” so to speak (it is old to me, I have already gone through a local round of abuse in 2007, death threats and other acts of viciousness) and I have been roundly insulted and attacked. This is how you treat your visitors? Do you mean only those with acceptable political views or those who keep their political views personal for fear of such vicious responses are to be entertained? You will breed academic cowardice and a paralyzing homogenisation if this is the case. I am not suggesting that NYU in fact does this, I am merely pointing out the logical consequences of this kind of action / reaction / inaction.

14. I am tired of this obsessive and narcissitic obsession with ONE of the speeches I made during my 2.5 years tenure in Parliament. Perhaps my detractors would like to review the range of my speeches, from organ donation to foreign workers to women’s rights to by-election motions to the right to vote, before they so readily condemn me. Perhaps they would like to review my academic record before sitting in judgment, with such hubris and incivility. Perhaps they need to reflect that the ‘culture wars’ are called ‘wars’ for a reason but that they can model reasoned and civil discourse rather than perpetuate a culture of vulgarity and violence.

15. What seems to be getting activists in a twist is my speech in support of the government’s stance to retain the sodomy law. Please note, it was not even up for discussion until another MP raised it in a specific targeted parliamentary petition, full of fine sounding rhetoric and little substance. This matter was debated in Singapore for months. I played my role in the democratic process by uttering the views of the majority of Singaporeans. Most MPs who spoke to it supported the retention of the law. They recognise Singapore is a socially conservative society and were faithfully expressing the views of their constituents, to rebut the homosex activist campaigners who also had their mouthpiece in Parliament. Anyone concerned with the democratisation of Singapore society should view this as a progressive step. Anyone only concerned with their agenda will of course only seek to attack their detractors. But then, is politics about the common good or just partisan agendas? Is this not a fit subject to academic enquiry?

I had the support of the vast majority of the House as well (though of course, it may surprise you, there are dissenting voices in Parliament and even within the ruling party). After the debate, many were grateful that I had not bowed down to the intimidatory tactics of the homosexual community and been their voice. Many within and without the House came to thank me personally. Some weeping. Many were concerned with my welfare after the flurry of vicious attacks I received after the speech, as they recognised how vile many were. I am sure Mr Graves-Pryor will say: serves you right for speaking such bigoted views. I wonder whether he sees the bigotry and intolerant ‘tolerance’ in that kind of reaction and the double standards rife in this type of discourse? I am against physical violence towards all people as a fundamental norm, but ironically, those who paint themselves as advocates of personal liberty have no hesitation in squelching mine. Lets be tolerant but not tolerate whom we consider intolerant. That is totalitarianism by any other name

16. Now, I do not expect you to agree with my views. But does Mr. Graves-Pryor expect me to conform with his? What bullying. But that is something I have come to recognise as a common tactic of some activists. This is in fact a threat to a free society, whether to equality of citizenship, religious freedom and free speech.

17. Mr Graves-Pryor and I am sure, many in the NYU community may dislike the tenor of my speech, but it boils down in substance to differing conceptions of the common good and the good life, over epistemology, ethics, morality. And let me put things in context

a. I am not a member of the Singapore government. I am not in the position to “oppress” anyone. I am in the position as an individual, to be oppressed. Which is what has happened.

b. My support for what you sir may consider an oppressive law is a function of my right to speak to matters of law and policy as a Singapore citizen and as I was then, a member of Parliament.

c. My objection is not to gay people; it is towards the nature of the homosexual political agenda and the vicious and degrading tactics of some activists. I say “some” because there were gays in Singapore who (a) agree that homosexuality should not be mainstreamed or coercively taught as having moral equivalence with heterosexuality as a social norm) (b) disagree with me but reject the tactics of insult and death threats.

d. Does Mr Graves-Pryor believe that someone should be fired because they are gay? Or that someone should be subject to heterosexual sensitivity training to ‘cure’ their ‘deviant’ beliefs? Of course not. Now, does Mr Graves-Pryor believe that someone should be fired because they believe heterosexuality and family values (yes, we can debate ‘family’) should be socially supported and the social norm? Or that someone should be subject to homosex sensitivity training because they believe heterosexuality to be the norm?

e. One reason I spoke out as clearly as I did was because that was my constitutional function, to bring forth an alternative view. I am not a professional politician. I am interested in the soundness of argument rather than perception. I am aware of how politicised this issue is and how emotion drives most of the argument, particularly on the side of those who denigrate their detractors as emotional, while manifesting that same trait. That comes from my training as an academic.

f. Another reason is frankly, a tiredness with this sort of bullying towards anyone who opposes the gay agenda. (And I know gays who oppose the gay agenda). One of my colleagues, an untenured professor, wrote an Op Ed supporting the retention of the sodomy law and the policy of non active enforcement. An argument raised was that law has an educative function in signalling social mores. Removing the law would signal a different set of values that colleague was opposed to. What happened? That colleague received a torrent of abuse. People wrote to our dean demanding that colleague(a) be removed from her job (b) be subjected to homosex sensitivity training (c) be required to teach pro-gay cases from abroad (which in fact were referenced in lectures while not celebrated). We do not tolerate such self-righteous intolerance in Singapore. At stake is genuine academic freedom and civil discourse. Who is the oppressed and who is the oppressor in this context? Or does an unrelenting hubris occlude the ability to see the truth of things in different contexts?

18. I wonder whether Mr. Graves-Pryor bothered to read the entirety of my speech and to appreciate the context and the fact that I will not let any of my junior colleagues be bullied by intemperate activism if I can help it. I also wonder whether Mr. Graves Pryor saw the bottom line in my parliamentary speech which was and remains this: “As fellow citizens, homosexuals are entitled to expect decent treatment from the rest of us; but they have no right to insist we surrender our fundamental moral beliefs so they can feel comfortable about their sexual behaviour.” I am sure it will not go far enough for him or those who share his views in this politics of identity. This disagreement is socially magnified many times.

If the NYU law community is unable to welcome me because of my convictions, they should say so. I am sure many faculty members are doing some soul-searching, perhaps regretting their original invitation. I am not naive. But just reflect on how this makes me feel. I do not feel welcomed as a person; I feel unfairly treated and greatly disrespected. Would any academic (who is reasonably sane) want to go into a situation where hatred of a person, as oppose to “sharp disagreement” with their views, is the order of the day? Mr Graves-Pryor and those who share his views have succeeded in communicating their extreme disapproval of me / my views. They may rejoice in speaking freely, as the US Constitution protects, while seeking to intimidate others from exercising that same right through intimidation and abuse. I maintain my disagreement with their views and the viciousness of expression but this is perhaps to be expected, given the intractable nature of law and profound moral disagreement where an overlapping consensus is not possible or elusive.

If NYU Law as an institution is committed to a genuine diversity of viewpoints and respectful interlocution, it would be an institution I would be honoured to be given the privilege to teach at. If not, then be frank and say so.

Dean, if you wish to circulate my views and clarifications to the faculty, that is your prerogative. I have no desire to come into a hostile working environment where people believe half truths and false insinuations about me. If they wish to dislike me or my views, let it be for the views that I actually hold, not the ones maliciously imputed to me.

I remain respectfully,

Li-ann Thio


I am writing to let you know that Professor Li-ann Thio informed me today that she is canceling her Fall visit to NYU Law School as a Global Visiting Professor as a result of the controversy surrounding her views regarding homosexuality and gay rights. She explained that she was disappointed by what she called the atmosphere of hostility by some members of our community towards her views and by the low enrollments in her classes. The Law School will therefore cancel the course on Human Rights in Asia and the seminar on Constitutionalism in Asia, which she had been scheduled to teach.

This issue has been delicate and challenging since it brings into tension certain important principles and convictions that normally coexist in harmony and define our institutional identity.

NYU is fully committed to the principle of academic freedom and intellectual diversity. The Hauser Global Law School Program– under the auspices of which Professor Thio was invited as a visitor for one semester–grew out of our early recognition that the practice of law has escaped the bounds of any particular jurisdiction, and that legal education must take account of the intertwined nature of legal systems. At heart, the program seeks to expose our community to legal scholars who come from and have been shaped by their experiences in different countries, regions, and cultures. Needless to say, the value of the program would be seriously diminished if the visiting scholars all thought of difficult legal issues—including issues of sexual moraility–in the same way. We can learn from these visitors, and–we hope–they can learn from us.

Whatever their areas of expertise or views, the appointments of global visiting professors 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, including me, 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.

We are also proud that NYU and the School of Law extended partner benefits to gay couples long before New York law mandated such benefits, that in 1978 NYU Law School became the first law school in the United States to deny access to its career services to employers that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and that in 1990 the Association of American Law Schools required accredited law schools in the U.S. to follow our practice. We also were leaders in the suit by the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) to challenge the Solomon Amendment.

Over the last month, many members of our community have shared with me their views on the appointment. I am very grateful for the many thoughtful messages that I received and would like to take this opportunity to give you my personal perspectives on the major questions that have arisen by responding to some recurring questions I have received.

At the time that the faculty voted on Professor Thio’s appointment, was it aware of the speech she made to the Singapore Parliament on October 23, 2007, forcefully arguing against the decriminalization of consensual sexual acts between men?

At the time that Global Appointments Committee met in December 2007 to recommend that the faculty vote a visiting appointment to Professor Thio based on her teaching and scholarship, none of its members were aware of the speech. That recommendation was considered by the tenured and tenure-track faculty at its meeting of January 30, 2008. I was not aware of her speech at that time and don’t believe that any of my colleagues were aware of it either.

Of course, an electronic search of her public statements would have produced the text of the speech. We did not conduct such a search in considering this appointment, and we have not conducted such searches in considering other appointments: We limit our inquiry to the review of academic publications and works in progress, teaching evaluations, and reputation for collegiality. That is the general norm at academic institutions.

After becoming aware of the speech to Parliament, did NYU Law School ask Professor Thio to withdraw?

It did not.

If the faculty had been aware of the speech, should her opposition to the decriminalization of consensual sexual acts between men have played a role in the decision as to whether to invite Professor to visit?

Professor Thio’s position in that speech is inimical to a strongly held institutional stance that the Law School has taken, over more than two decades, in favor of ending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — a position that I am proud to have been able to further strengthen over the period of my deanship. Nonetheless, the fact that Professor Thio is opposed to our institutional position should not have played any role in the evaluation of her merits to be a visiting professor. Leading academic institutions benefit greatly from a diversity of perspectives, not from hiring only people who share the same views.

Should the nature of the arguments in her speech to the Singaporean Parliament have led to the revocation of her offer?

Once the faculty extends an offer to a professor, whether a visiting offer, a tenure-track offer, or a tenured offer, it does not continue to evaluate the strength of the individual’s work to determine whether subsequent work suggests that the offer be withdrawn. So, even if the faculty had met to evaluate the strength of Professor Thio’s arguments in support of her statement to the Singapore Parliament (which it did not do), and even if it had decided that the manner in which she defended her position called into question the committee’s earlier conclusion regarding her strength as a scholar (which it also did not do), the offer should not have been rescinded. (Of course, such an evaluation would have been relevant to whether a subsequent offer should be extended.)

Under what circumstances would the Law School determine that a faculty member’s views give rise to an atmosphere that is inimical to classroom learning?

In the last few weeks, a number of members of our community wrote to Professor Thio indicating their objection to her appointment as a visiting professor. She considers some of these messages to be offensive. In turn, she replied to them in a manner that many member of our community—myself included—consider offensive and hurtful. These exchanges have been circulated on various blogs. Members of our community have questioned whether Professor Thio’s statements create an unwelcoming atmosphere, one in which students in her classes would have been unable to participate effectively in the learning experience. Determination of where that point is on the continuum of free speech is a difficult, case-by-case judgment based upon context, history of the relationship, and many other factors. But it would be an extraordinary measure, almost never taken by universities in the United States, to cancel a course on the basis of e-mail exchanges between a faculty member and members of the student body. To do so would eviscerate the concept of academic freedom and chill student-faculty debate.

Should an academic opposed to the recognition of certain important human rights be allowed to teach a human rights course?

An academic’s views on a substantive issue should be irrelevant to his or her suitability to teach a course in a particular area as long as the opposing views are treated fairly in the classroom: A proponent or opponent of the death penalty can be equally qualified to lead a seminar on capital punishment, for example. The contrary position would be a serious affront to academic freedom, would lead to endless political litmus tests, and would greatly impoverish academic institutions, which gain so much from the robust discussion of controversial legal issues.

Undoubtedly, the issues raised by Professor Thio’s appointment are among the most difficult faced by academic communities. What are the limits of academic freedom? How should an institution with a proud tradition—as is the case of NYU Law School’s support of the LGBT community– interact with those who disagree strongly with such a tradition? I don’t expect that my answers to the questions raised by our community will be persuasive to everyone. And I want to stress that they are my personal views, not the consensus view of any decisionmaking body at the Law School. But situations such as these, despite the unfortunate pain that they inflict, also serve as learning experiences. I am sorry about the considerable discomfort many members of our community have felt during the last few weeks as these issues were discussed, and I appreciate the thoughtful messages I’ve received from students, alumni and others as the debate unfolded.