A professor at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is suing the institution after putting him on involuntary leave of absence. Gordon Klein, a professor of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management for 40 years, says he has been unfairly reprimanded for his ethical and fair behavior.
Klein wrote an op-ed published September 30 on Bari Weiss’s “Common Sense” newsletter on Substack to explain his situation and defend his actions. “Recently, I was suspended from my job for refusing to treat my black students as lesser than their non-black peers” wrote Klein.
Klein’s column, “Why I Am Suing UCLA” was accompanied by the telling subtitle, “I refused to discriminate against my students. Then the problems began.” Klein explains how an email interaction with a Black student asking for a lenient grade on a finals exam led to “a growing online campaign directed at me…I started to receive death threats on voicemail and email.”
The student emailed Klein with what Klein perceived to be a “form letter he found online and neglected to change the subject” requesting their final exam be a “no harm” exam – meaning it would only be counted if it boosted their grade.
The student cited “the unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd…” which “led to fear and anxiety which is further compounded by the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on the Black community.” Klein writes:
Shocked by the student’s email, which struck me as deeply patronizing and offensive to the same black students he claimed to care so much about, I collected my thoughts and, 20 minutes later, emailed back: “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 are probably especially devastated as well. I am thinking that a white student from there might possibly be even more devastated by this, especially because some might think that they’re racist even if they are not.”
Klein’s response was circulated and within a “day or two” nearly 20,000 had signed a petition demanding he be fired. The school placed Klein on suspension. Roughly three weeks later, after “UCLA’s Academic Senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom condemned Anderson’s administration for violating my rights and ‘chilling’ other professors into not voicing unorthodox opinions. The university’s Discrimination Prevention Office declared…the case did not warrant an investigation.”
Additionally “76,000 concerned individuals from around the world…signed a petition demanding my reinstatement.” But the damage was already done. Klein goes on to explain “most of my income comes not from teaching at UCLA but from consulting to law firms and other corporations. Several of those firms dropped me after they got wind that I’d been suspended — the better to put distance between themselves and a ‘racist.’ That cost me the lion’s share of my annual income.”
Klein concludes, “As a result, I have just filed a lawsuit against the University of California system. No employee should ever cower in fear of his employer’s power to silence legitimate points of view, and no society should tolerate government-sponsored autocrats violating constitutional mandates.”