UCLA has reinstated a professor who was suspended over the “tone” of an email to a student who wanted him to ease up on his grading and requirements for black students during protests of the death of George Floyd.

The professor, Gordon Klein, refused to postpone exams for black students, arguing “special treatment” would “run afoul” of Martin Luther King Jr.’s admonition not to judge people based on the color of their skin.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, had asked UCLA to reinstate Klein, citing the university’s commitments to academic freedom and its obligations under the First Amendment.

“We’re happy to confirm that Gordon Klein is teaching once again, and hope that in the future UCLA will consider its constitutional obligations before throwing educators out of the classroom,” said Katlyn Patton, the author of FIRE’s request to UCLA.

TRENDING: Nation’s rulers removing Islam as ‘official state religion’

“UCLA investigated his ‘tone’ in an attempt to quell public backlash,” she said. “But regardless of how many people demand his firing, UCLA cannot justify using that anger to erode Gordon’s rights.”

Klein’s suspension caught the attention of constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, who said that in three decades of teaching, he has never seen “the level of intolerance for free speech that we are seeing across the country.”

His comment in his email response to the student’s request:

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 student who emailed Klein wanted extended deadlines, shorter exams and a policy “that would ensure an exam could only help, not harm, a student’s grade,” FIRE said.

The student later sent a note to Klein thanking the professor.

But UCLA put Klein on leave, and Dean Antonio Bernardo told the university that Klein had “a disregard for our core principles,” calling his email was an “abuse of power.”

UCLA, however, closed down the investigation a few weeks after it was begun.

“UCLA is a public institution, legally bound to respect student and faculty First Amendment rights,” FIRE argued. “The First Amendment and UCLA policy protect Klein’s academic freedom rights, including the right to manage the content and direction of his course and comment on matters of public concern.”


You Might Like
Learn more about RevenueStripe...