The social justice mob has come for Gordon Klein, an accounting professor at UCLA. What outrageous act did he commit? He refused to cancel his course’s final exams on the basis of a student’s race, in light of the protests over the death of George Floyd.
Professor Gordon Klein has been suspended from his job for three weeks for refusing to cancel final exams for black students because of the protests. He responded to an email from students who identified themselves as “nonblack allies of their black peers.” They took it upon themselves to ask that final exams be canceled for black students.
In light of recent “traumas, we have been placed in a position where we much choose between actively supporting our black classmates or focusing on finishing up our spring quarter,” the students wrote. “We believe that remaining neutral in times of injustice brings power to the oppressor and therefore staying silent is not an option.”
Theirs was “not a joint effort to get finals canceled for non-black students,” the self-identified allies wrote, “but rather an ask that you exercise compassion and leniency with black students in our major.”
Professor Klein’s response offended the students, though, when he questioned exactly how he would go about determining for whom finals should be canceled – all black students, bi-racial students, only those from Minneapolis, and so on. And a very important question – since the final exam grade is the only course grade, how could it be a “no-harm” exam?
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
The classes have been conducted online, as Klein points out, so his relationship with the students is a virtual one. His response to the students brought about an online petition calling for his termination. It’s 2020 and that is what college students do – they demand those with a different point of view just be eliminated from campus. And, they feel entitled to make the rules, not the administration and the professors. Thursday morning, as I write this, over 20,000 people have signed the petition and the stated goal is 25,000.
Tuesday UCLA’s Anderson School of Management said Klein’s “classes have been reassigned to other faculty” while the claims against him are investigated. Klein says he was following orders from his direct supervisor when he refused to agree to a lenient exam model. In the past, he has extended or even eliminated final exams due to extraordinary circumstances. Mostly the students seem to be offended by the professor’s brutal frankness used in his response. I found his questions to be relevant. The students should have thought their request through instead of making it a general one for those they assume are most aggrieved during the protests, riots, and public upheaval. Was it on the snarky side? Yes. So what? Did they expect that black students should just receive a passing grade without taking the exam? These aren’t kindergarten children. These are college students, budding social justice warriors. Criticism comes with the territory.
On Monday, Anderson School of Management dean Antonio Bernardo sent an email to students announcing an investigation into Klein’s “troubling” behavior. The dean apologized to students for the “added stress” a substitution of an instructor may cause. The message also announced that Klein’s classes would be transferred to Professors Brett Trueman and Judson Caskey, who also serves as the Anderson school’s diversity committee chairman.
An email obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon shows that Caskey urged professors to avoid changing final exam plans in the face of student demands.
“If students ask for accommodations such as assignment delays or exam cancellations, I strongly encourage you to follow the normal procedures (accommodations from the [Center for Accessible Education] office, death/illness in the family, religious observance, etc.),” Caskey wrote in a June 1 email.
It sure looks like Klein was following procedures put in place by his supervisor, doesn’t it? The school has the back of the students, not the professor, which often happens.
UCLA is looking into the matter. A spokesperson from the Anderson School of Management said via email, “Respect and equality for all are core principles at UCLA Anderson. It is deeply disturbing to learn of this email, which we are investigating. We apologize to the student who received it and to all those who have been as upset and offended by it as we are ourselves.”
One professional is speaking up for Professor Klein.
Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, called UCLA’s suspension of Klein “disturbing.”
“Professor Klein is right. Treating students on the basis of equality is morally, ethically, and legally sound,” Wood said. “The fact that his complaining student has gotten traction with her complaint is disturbing.”
Professor Klein is now living under police protection due to multiple threats. And, the students have won concessions. The time students have to complete their final exam has increased, given the “difficult circumstances”.