UCLA suspends professor after he refused to move final exams amid Floyd protests

UCLA suspended professor Gordon Klein after he refused to exempt black students from final exams in wake of George Floyd’s death and protests.


CBSLocal reports a longtime UCLA professor has been placed on leave after facing backlash over his response to a student’s request to postpone the final exam for African American students, considering the impact of George Floyd’s death.

Gordon Klein received the email on June 2, and rejected the request, stating the following, according to a change.org petition calling for his termination:

Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota. Do you know the names of the classmates that are black? How can I identify them since we’ve been having online classes only? Are there any students that may be of mixed parentage, such as half black-half Asian? What do you suggest I do with respect to them? A full concession or just half? Also, do you have any idea if any students are from Minneapolis? I assume that they probably are especially devastated as well. I am thinking that a white student from there might be possibly even more devastated by this, especially because some might think that they’re racist even if they are not. My TA is from Minneapolis, so if you don’t know, I can probably ask her. Can you guide me on how you think I should achieve a “no-harm” outcome since our sole course grade is from a final exam only? One last thing strikes me: Remember that MLK famously said that people should not be evaluated based on the “color of their skin.” Do you think that your request would run afoul of MLK’s admonition? Thanks, G. Klein

Klein is on leave until June 24 as school officials decide how to move forward.

An on-campus advocacy group and a counter-petition are calling for UCLA to reinstate Klein and for him to be issued an apology.

“As a public institution, UCLA is bound by both the First Amendment and the laudable promises of academic freedom it makes to its faculty members,” Katlyn Patton of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote in a letter to UCLA officials Wednesday. “Those obligations and promises
are of even more importance during a crisis. Given that Klein followed institutional policy when he refused to alter his final exam procedures, this investigation is almost certainly based on the tone or viewpoint of his email, which was — however brusque — protected expression on a matter of profound public interest. Klein must be immediately reinstated, and UCLA’s leaders must make clear that their commitment to academic freedom is stronger than an online mob.”

UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, where Klein has taught since 1981, said Klein’s classes have been assigned to other faculty, saying the following in a statement on Wednesday:

“The lecturer is on leave from campus and his classes have been reassigned to other faculty. Due to confidentiality and privacy laws and concerns, we are unable to comment further on this matter at this time.”

“That said, UCLA and UCLA Anderson are committed to creating a learning, working and living environment that is free from discrimination, harassment or retaliation.”

“To this end, all reports of such conduct are carefully and impartially reviewed. The Discrimination Prevention Office and Title IX Office process all such claims in accordance with published procedures that protect both the integrity of the investigation and the due process interests of all parties. These offices take every report seriously while ensuring that no case is prejudged. To promote transparency, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion also publishes annual public reports with aggregated data on complaints, investigations and findings.”

Per USNews, Klein said he meant nothing offensive in any of the remarks.

“I come from a Detroit family where my mother taught in inner-city Detroit, where my father was an accountant for auto workers’ unions and where I co-taught an African American studies class at the University of Michigan,” he said. “I abhor the identification of individuals by their race, whether you plan to disfavor them or favor them. I believe in a race-neutral world.”

In a brief statement Wednesday, UCLA said, “The lecturer is on leave from campus and his classes have been reassigned to other faculty.”

The statement added that UCLA is “committed to creating a learning, working and living environment that is free from discrimination, harassment or retaliation” and that the university investigates all allegations involving those issues.

Klein said he plans to defend himself vigorously and has enlisted the aid of the nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has accused UCLA of violating his free-speech rights.

“I would like to get my reputation restored, and I will engage in all lawful means from our legal system to ensure that occurs,” he said, adding, “It is the height of ludicrosity for anyone to suggest that a single bone in my body is racist.”

After a brief phone call with his dean the day after the emails, Klein learned he was being placed on involuntary leave until June 24.

Klein holds a law degree, is a certified public accountant and the author of the textbook “Ethics in Accounting: A Decision-Making Approach,” according to his UCLA bio.