Why are thousands of Thailand’s residents attempting to tank the Facebook ranking of Harvard University? Allegedly, a dental professor, who received her Ph.D. from Harvard, in 2003, has not paid back her educational debt. The Bangkok Post reported that Dr. Dolrudee Jumlongras’ tuition was supposedly funded by Mahidol University, her alma mater, in Thailand. The agreement, however, was that she would use her degree to teach in her home country at the university who provided her scholarship.
According to the Bangkok Post, Jumlongras did not maintain her part of the arrangement, instead, she stayed in the U.S. and took a job teaching at Harvard. Meanwhile, her educational debt has climbed to $850,000 (30 million baht). According to The Harvard Crimson, her scholarship loan was in the amount of $200,000 (8 million baht), originally.
The second week of February, a fellow dentist, Padej Poonwithayakij, from Mahidol University, and one of Jumlongras’ four loan guarantors, wrote a post on Facebook. The post claimed the doctor had broken her contract for the scholarship. According to Coconuts Bangkok, it was likely this post may have been the result of the four cosigners being required to pay one-fourth of the loan each. Poonwithayakij’s post included a picture of the check for his share of the loan, 2.2 million baht ($61,732.770). He did say that Jumlongras had sent money for a portion of the loan.
The Facebook post continued, stating a lawyer, for the co-signers of the loan, sent a letter to Drew G. Faust, the Harvard University president. The Bangkok Post reported Poonwithayakij has sent letters to Harvard Medical School, as well as to Melissa Brodrick, the Dental School ombudsman. Even though the Bangkok Post reported Brodrick was investigating the matter, she denied any such claims in an interview.
In response to the social media post, thousands of Thailand residents chose to express their own indignation on Harvard’s Facebook page, with the intent to tank the university’s rating. As of Feb. 14, their rating had plummeted from 5 stars to 1.3 stars. Although Harvard’s page advertises it has received 9,000 five star reviews, in addition, it now has 43,000 one star evaluations. Many of the posts to the university’s Facebook page, plead with them to fire Jumlongras.
The doctor states the allegations are not accurate and claims she requested some flexibility with her repayment schedule, after sending $50,000 to Mahidol University in April 2015. She further states in an email, “This is a personal matter not in any way related to Harvard University and Harvard School of Dental Medicine. The allegation that I tried to escape and dodge the payment obligation is untrue.”
In her email to The Harvard Crimson, Jumlongras wrote, “The most important issues that I would like to address first in this statement is that it has always been my intention to repay the scholarship…” She also states her request for an extension was denied and that she was unable for work for several years, causing severe financial and personal hardships “related to visa status and the denial of passport renewal by Mahidol University.”
Harvard, however, had no comments about Jumlongras or their Facebook ratings. Gerald Kane, a professor at Boston College, does not believe Thailand’s outrage, or the tanked Facebook ratings will impact Harvard in any way, as it is one of the most recognized names in the world. People will, however, see the low rating and, out of curiosity, read the comments. Then it would be realized the rating drop was due to an isolated incident.
It should also be noted that according to Kane, Harvard has the right to request Facebook clear the negative comments. This petition is granted when the comments do not accurately reflect the owner of the page. Facebook would prefer not to censor users, but to the same extent, they want their reviews to be trustworthy. Therefore, once it was seen that an overwhelming number of the negative comments were concerning the same situation, it would not be an issue for them to remove the bad ratings.
Rumors have claimed this was not the course of action chosen by Harvard. Instead, the Bangkok Post reported, the university allegedly retaliated by blocking all Facebook users in Thailand from their page. When Thailand residents attempt to reach the university’s page, they are redirected to their Facebook home page or receive an error message that states the content is not currently available. However, only the Bangkok Post has reported this occurrence.
Some of the comments that have been posted by Thai residents included the following statements:
“Harvard is harboring this woman.”
“Harvard University continue[s] hiring such immoral persons to be its staff… Shame on Dr. Jumlongras for betraying her own people and country…”
It is unknown how Harvard will truly handle this issue, if at all. The school is known worldwide so it is entirely possible the Thailand Facebook rating tank could be ignored with no real recourse. Regardless, Jumlongras made her choice to take the teaching job with the dental school, but her financial issues are her own.
By Jeanette Smith
Boston.com: Thousands in Thailand are trying to tank Harvard’s Facebook rating Coconuts Bangkok: Thailand BANNED: Harvard blocks Thai users from its Facebook page over dentist drama The Harvard Crimson: Dental Instructor Draws Anger in Thailand Image Courtesy of Márcio Cabral de Moura’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License