A UCLA professor has been accused of being “racist” and was suspended for refusing to delay final exams for black students as the country remains gripped by civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Gordon Klein, an accounting professor at the UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, was accused of being “woefully racist,” divisive, and dismissive after rejecting a request to be more lenient to black students, given the civil unrest sweeping through the West.
Students say that in a response to an email written from a student requesting leniency for black students, Klein gave a lengthy reply they consider racist:
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 has hired an attorney after accepting a voluntary leave following the email exchange, and has since received threats according to The Daily Mail.
A petition on Change.org calling for Klein’s sacking has garnered over 20,000 signatures. The petition claims:
We ask for your support in having Professor Klein’s professorship terminated for his extremely insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist response to his students’ request for empathy and compassion during a time of civil unrest.
Given his background in ethics and liability, one would expect Professor Klein to hold himself to a higher social standard, especially given his position as a steward within higher education. However, his response to students was inappropriate, tone-deaf, and highly insensitive. The killing of George Floyd displayed a brutality that was so casual and so cruel, it reflected an utter dehumanization of Black life. It is understandable, then, that students nationwide – especially Black students – are struggling to focus on their educations when there is massive sociopolitical unrest that concerns both them and the future of their plight in this country.
Professor Klein’s blatant lack of empathy and unwillingness to accommodate his students during a time of protests speaks to his apathetic stance on the matter. His suggestion that a student with one black and one asian parent should only be accommodated half as much as a black student is a preposterously racist notion. Furthermore, his claim that a white student from Minneapolis “might possibly be even more devastated […] because some might think that they’re racist” puts into perspective his ignorance, his bias, and his gross inability to comprehend the gravity of the systematic violence, discrimination, and fear experienced by Black people in this country.
After making its case, the petition asks students to support having Klein’s “professorship terminated for his extremely insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist response” in this “time of civil unrest.”
The petition also lists a series of UCLA email addresses, asking readers to send them encouragements to fire the professor.
However, another petition supports Klein, also with over 20,000 signatures, and calls for the professor to be reinstated:
UCLA Andersen School of Management Professor Gordon Klein was placed on leave after defending equality and promoting Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream protesters are calling for him being fired. Take a stand for Gordon Klein, for equality, for human rights.
The Goal of this petition is to have UCLA immediately allow Prof. Klein to be reinstated if he wishes, and we demand an apology both privately, directly to Gordon Klein and publicly to acknowledge this issue.
The student’s request simultaneously spread stereotypes and promoted both microaggressions and macroaggressions that black, African-American, and other minorities are unable to be graded equally as other races, colors, and origins because of lesser intelligence of any type. This is just not true and should not be supported. Where are the disciplinary actions on the students who believe and say these ridiculous accusations that all people are not equal?
As a reminder of the referenced MLK quote: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Klein now has police protection after receiving threats following these incidents going public.