BANGKOK — Outrage spread Monday at one of the nation’s top universities over a veteran professor’s conduct and comments toward transgender women.
Students have demanded that the university look into repeated homophobic comments about transgender women, known as khatoey, made by an assistant professor in the education department they allege also barred a student from his class.
Niran Sangsawat’ students complain that he has told them in class that “being a kathoey is no different than being a lunatic” and that “kathoeys are sexual deviants, they shouldn’t be teachers.”
A former student body president and activist posted an online petition calling for Niran to be probed by the university board.
Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal said he’s heard complaints about Niran for a long time from his friends in the Education Faculty. He posted the petition after one transgender student went public in the media to say Niran barred her from his class because she dressed in a female uniform.
“We don’t want [Niran] to be fired. We just want a platform in which every student can express their opinions freely without their grades being affected,” Netiwit said.
Despite Chulalongkorn University’s making strides by allowing transgender students to wear uniforms according to their gender preferences at graduation, Netiwit said there is still a prevalent culture of seniority and hierarchy in the Faculty of Education.
Niran has taught at the university over 30 years. Attempts to reach Niran at the faculty were not successful Monday. Someone answering the phone at the Education Faculty said he was not available.
Netiwit said a group of student activists this afternoon would visit Niran at the faculty for a “civilized” talk to seek a solution.
The Undergraduate Student Council of Faculty of Education last night asked on Facebook, “Can a third-gendered person be a teacher?” The post has shared more than 3,000 times and drew a mostly angry response.
“Personally, I think this question shouldn’t have been asked in the first place. Being a good or bad teacher is not at all related to gender,” wrote Jakkrit Tompayorm, or “Kru Tom Kam Thai,” a Thai language teacher and TV show personality. “The right question should be ‘Do homophobic teachers deserve to teach?’”
“Why is the Education Faculty at Chulalongkorn University still so behind the times? This question shouldn’t be asked in a civilized world,” Facebook user Apiwat Ratanawaraha wrote.