Faculty Senate Committee makes Dean reinstate faculty member he falsely accused of racism

The Committee is the UCLA Senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom, here. The Dean is the UCLA Anderson School of Management Dean Antonio Bernardo, here. The faculty member is UCLA lecturer in accounting Gordon Klein, here. The report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education about the events that led to his suspension and now his reinstatement, is here:

UCLA reinstated Gordon Klein. Who will reinstate his reputation?

by Alex Morey October 12, 2020

University of California, Los Angeles faculty member Gordon Klein never imagined a routine email exchange with a student this summer would land him at the center of an explosive national controversy. Accused of racism and abuse of power, and ejected from his classroom, Klein faced termination from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, where he taught with a spotless record for almost 40 years.

“I was following university policy meticulously in refusing to discriminate,” Klein said of his email response to a white student who requested Klein loosen his grading policies to help black students during nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd.

Klein said he simply followed UCLA’s Faculty Code of Conduct, which prohibits the failure to hold exams as scheduled. It also prohibits evaluating students on criteria other than their course performance and engaging in race-based discrimination. 

But Klein’s message, which challenged the student to critically consider the implications of his request by suggesting a series of hypotheticals highlighting the problems with race-based grading criteria, was misunderstood. Soon, a screenshot of the email was all over social media. Klein’s dean swiftly denounced the message publicly as “outrageous” and an “abuse of power,” and UCLA put Klein on leave, indicating punishment would follow. A petition for the professor’s ouster garnered 20,000 signatures.

Soon however, a dueling petition for Klein’s reinstatement garnered more than 75,000 signatures. And after FIRE intervened — publicizing the case and reminding UCLA of its constitutional academic freedom obligations — the university dropped the case in July, admitting it did not even merit an investigation. …

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10 Responses to Faculty Senate Committee makes Dean reinstate faculty member he falsely accused of racism

  1. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    A horrifying story. This kind of stuff is destroying the reputation of universities in circles outside the most woke. Thank goodness for FIRE. I’ll have to answer the mail solicitation I just got from them. I’ll use money that I used to give to academic institutions.

    That said, the professor was dumb to get into an email exchange with a student over such an explosive topic. Which is not to say that UCLA was anything but awful.

    Until they were forced to back down. Administrators are cowards (partly because they know that nobody has their back). They can be rolled when need be, when people fight back.

    • charlie says:

      Nothing stupid about the email exchange. At all. A professor showed how a student’s request couldn’t be fulfilled by indicating the problems inherent with the request. By formulating questions, the prof was doing exactly what a teacher should be doing, allowing the student to think more profoundly of the question at hand, and encouraging a response. Prof. Klein did not, as far I can tell, state this is my decision, take it or leave it. Instead, he asked for feedback for a better understanding of his predicament, while not disparaging the emailer’s sentiment.

      • honest Uncle Bernie says:

        Well, I hope he feels it was worth it. By the way, I said he was dumb, not stupid. Am sure he is not stupid.

        • nope says:

          Jesus, I was going along with this discussion about academic freedom and teaching moments until actually reading what he wrote. That was not a thoughtful ‘teaching’ response. It was obnoxious at best and baiting at worst. That perhaps he should give considerations to any white students from Minneapolis because they might feel even worse than the black students right now because of presumed racism? FFS.

          • Dog says:

            agreed, university professors, if they are the ones commenting on this blog, should always go to first sources, instead of forming opinions and positions on heresay.

            I read the entire email and most it I consider inappropriate and dumb. The two non-dumb comments in the email are

            1) asking the student for help in guiding what should be done

            2) pointing out that white people in Minneapolis (and elsewhere) might be badly affected as well (I had one case of this last spring)

            The final reference to MLK was not at all appropriate given the situation. So yes, this was not a thoughtful response from an experienced academic

            • Anonymous says:

              “university professors, if they are the ones commenting on this blog, should always go to first sources, instead of forming opinions and positions on heresay.”

              Uhhhh, no. A rich white man was accused of racism! The only appropriate response is to grab your pearls and circle the wagons. The actual facts don’t matter.

              What will you do when the Thought Police come and slightly diminish your reputation while leaving your economic standing in tact????

  2. charlie says:

    Whether you’re a professor or not has nothing to do with the issue. Anyone who is a teacher or student has insight, mine being, you and I didn’t read the same the email. Nothing I read remotely describes what you’re claiming. If you had read FIRE’s interview with Prof. Klein, the student and he had known each other for some time. His request for this student’s response was premised on the fact Prof. Klein was dealing with an unprecedented dilemma, mainly dealing with race divides impacting unis. He points out since it is an online class, he doesn’t know who is African American, and his grading decisions are based strictly on merit. Maybe you missed that point, because his invocation of MLK is precisely what Dr. King wanted to occur in his I Have A Dream Speech. If, in your opinion, you find that offensive, imo, you don’t know what you’re talking about.,,

  3. nope says:

    This is not a thoughtful response to a sincere question by a student. This response did not mention the UCLA Code of Conduct or provide any intellectual background. This response was snark. A good teacher could have written a thoughtful, truthful response that would not prompt a student to send it viral. Ineffective outcome, not a good teacher.

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