California professor who asked student to 'Anglicize' name put on leave

Laney College in Oakland placed one of its teachers on leave over the weekend after he asked a Vietnamese student to go by a different moniker because her name sounded like an insult in English.

The school's president confirmed to the East Bay Times on Sunday that an unnamed member of the faculty was put on administrative leave after an Instagram post revealed an email exchange between him and the student.

The screenshots of the message show Matthew Hubbard asking freshman Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen if she could "Anglicize" her name. Nguyen demanded Hubbard call her by her birth name and threatened to file a complaint if he refused to comply.

"Your request for me to 'Anglicize' my name feels discriminatory and I will move forward with filing a complaint with the Title IX Office if you can not refer to me by my given birth name," she wrote.

Hubbard reportedly sent a follow-up email trying to explain why he made the request, adding that he would change his name if the cultural circumstances were reversed.

"You need to understand your name is an offensive sound in my language,” he replied, according to the Bay Times. "If I lived in Vietnam and my name in your language sounded like [vulgarity], I would change it to avoid embarrassment both on my part and on the part of the people who say it.”

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The school president, Tammeil Gilkerson, provided a statement to the East Bay Times about the incident and painted Hubbard's actions as ignorant and racist.

“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,” she said. “While our mission has been bold and unrelenting, 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.”

Nguyen spoke with KGO-TV on Saturday and claimed that she'd never heard the vulgar term Hubbard was referring to. She also accused him of not wanting to learn her real name.

"I never heard that before. At that moment I was surprised, so I Googled the meaning -- I didn't know what it meant so I called my best friend to ask him what does that mean?" Phuc said during a Zoom interview.

"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," she added. "He's being an ignorant person and not trying to learn my name."

Fox News reached out to Gilkerson's office to follow up on Hubbard's status but did not receive a response to the request for comment.

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After reports of the email broke on Thursday, Hubbard tweeted out an apology, according to The Associated Press, before deleting his Twitter account altogether.

"I apologize for my insensitive actions which caused pain and anger to my student, and which have now caused pain and anger to an untold number of people who read my two inappropriate emails on the internet," he wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report