OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A Vietnamese American Laney College freshman is seeking an apology from her math teacher after she says he wrote her emails asking her to "anglicize" her name, saying it sounded too much like an "insult in English." It's an interview you'll only see on ABC7 News.
Freshman Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen was looking forward to starting college and using her legal name after years of asking to be called by the nickname "May." But on her second day of classes, she received a request from her trigonometry professor, Matthew Hubbard, via email to change her name to be more anglicized -- a term she wasn't even familiar with.
"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?" says Phuc in a Zoom interview.
The professor even went so far as to then refer to her as "P-Nguyen" later on during a Zoom class.
"I was shook because growing up, they were problems with how to pronounce my name, but they would ask me how to pronounce my name," says Phuc who continued to say "he's being an ignorant person and not trying to learn my name."
When Phuc responded saying she felt his request was discriminatory, Hubbard's response was even more appalling, saying it sounded like "f**ck boy" and included additional language so crude it can't be repeated.
Laney College issued a statement soon after, which doesn't name Hubbard but acknowledges allegations of "racist and xenophobic messages from a faculty member" who is now on "administrative leave."
While calls to the school were not returned, the teachers union sent ABC7 News Anchor Dion Lim a statement saying they "condemn the ideas presented" in the emails. Professor Hubbard also responded in an email - saying he was "waiting to talk to the press."
Despite the drama, Phuc is still looking forward to this new chapter of her life and plans to use her legal name going forward, something she never did in high school.
"It means happiness, blessing." smiles Phuc.
Phuc says she spent time Friday speaking with the vice president of the school, who apologized for what happened. Phuc says she feels satisfied with the school's response but still wants an apology from professor Hubbard himself.
She had this message to other Asian Americans: "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."