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Dental Instructor Draws Anger in Thailand

By William C. Skinner, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: February 15, 2016, at 9:20 a.m.

A Harvard Dental School instructor has been accused of fleeing scholarship loan debts in Thailand, prompting massive outrage in the country among its citizens.

In 1993, Dolrudee Jumlongras allegedly agreed to a scholarship loan of Thai Baht 8 million—which under current exchange rates amounts to roughly $220,000—whereby Thailand’s Mahidol University would sponsor her to study dentistry at Harvard and she would repay the loan upon returning from her studies by working at Mahidol, according to English-language news outlet the Bangkok Post.

However, she is now being accused of violating her agreement by remaining at Harvard as an instructor and not paying back the loan in full.

In an email to The Crimson, Jumlongras wrote, “The most important issue that I would like to address first in this statement is that it has always been my intention to repay the scholarship that I obtained from Mahidol University—be it in the form of serving the university or in monetary terms.”

Jumlongras also wrote that her requests for the payment plan to be extended over a longer time frame were rejected. She added, “Due to severe financial and personal hardships related to visa status and the denial of passport renewal by Mahidol University, I was unable to work for a number of years.”

The Thai university claims that, per the original agreement, she would repay the loaned money by teaching at Mahidol University once she completed her Ph.D. program at Harvard. As part of her scholarship loan agreement from 1993, Jumlongras had four co-signers, or guarantors, that would be forced to repay the loan in the event that Jumlongras failed to repay her debts.

Officials at the university could not be reached for comment.

The nationwide firestorm erupted in part after the publishing of a Facebook post from Padej Poonwithayakij, a Thai dentist who said he was one of the four co-signers of her loan-based scholarship from Mahidol University. In the post, he alleges that Jumlongras is currently not abiding by the loan agreement, and as a result each of the four co-signers have been required to pay back one-quarter of the actual cost of the loan, according to an article in Coconuts Bangkok, an English-language outlet.

In his post, Poonwithayakij included a photo of a check that he said showed he was paying 2.2 million Baht to Mahidol to cover his share. He also added that Jumlongras had only contributed some money toward repaying the loan, leaving the rest of the bill to her co-signers.

A lawyer for the co-signers of Jumlongras’s loan sent a letter to University President Drew G. Faust, according to Poonwithayakij’s Facebook post.

According to the Bangkok Post, additional letters from Poonwithayakij have been sent to Harvard Medical School and Dental School ombudsman Melissa Brodrick. While the Bangkok post claimed Brodrick said she was investigating the matter, Brodrick denied the claim in an interview, saying her office has no involvement in investigating the matter.

In recent days, there has been widespread speculation that the Harvard University Facebook page has been blocked in Thailand, as thousands of Facebook users in Thailand have repeatedly given Harvard one-star ratings and authored scathing criticisms of the University’s administration for allowing Jumlongras to remain at Harvard. Since Poonwithayakij’s Facebook post, Harvard’s Facebook rating has dropped to 2.3 stars. Several months ago, it was more than 4 stars, according to retrieved screenshots of the page.

Jumlongras received her Ph.D. from the Dental School in 2003 and works at Harvard as an instructor at the Dental School.

—Staff writer William C. Skinner can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @WSkinner.

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