UCLA professor sues university after facing backlash amid George Floyd protests

Professor Gordon Klein's response to an email asking him to grade his students differently who may be undergoing 'racial trauma' was met with calls for his termination

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Gordon Klein, a long-time professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), has sued the college in response to a suspension he faced after he refused to grade Black students more leniently.

Klein detailed his side of the story in a blog post published in late September.

Klein filed suit against UCLA and Antonio Bernardo, dean of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management where he teaches, on Sept. 27, according to Insider. Klein is suing for defamation, labor law violations, breach of contract, violation of privacy and interference with his consulting business.

Klein stated that last year he received a letter on June 2 from a “non-Black student” requesting that he use better “leniency” when it came to grading assignments from Black classmates.

According to the letter, the student rationalized their plea because they felt the unjust killings of Black Americans by law enforcement and other whites, along with the effect the COVID-19 pandemic was having on the Black community, may be causing them stress that might affect their classwork.

UCLA Anderson School (UCLA)

“The unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the life-threatening actions of Amy Cooper and the violent conduct of the [University of California Police Department] have led to fear and anxiety which is further compounded by the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on the Black community,” the student wrote. “As we approach finals week, we recognize that these conditions place Black students at an unfair academic disadvantage due to traumatic circumstances out of their control.”

Klein found the student’s letter “patronizing and offensive” and replied back to the student: “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?”

Following Klein’s reply, a petition to fire the professor was sent out for being “woefully racist” in his response. The petition garnered 20,000 signatures within two days. By June, the school suspended him. Klein, who has been teaching at UCLA for 40 years, pointed out in his blog post that the school even tweeted about him amid the suspension.

Gordon Klein (UCLA)

“Respect and equality for all are core principles at UCLA Anderson. It is deeply disturbing to learn of this email, which we are investigating,” the tweet, posted June 3, 2020, said. “We apologize to the students who received it and to all those who have been as upset and offended by it as we are ourselves.”

Death threats were also sent to Klein after his suspension including one that expressed they wished he could have been gassed like Jews were during the Holocaust.

Klein wrote that UCLA suspended him as a “well-timed publicity stunt” in an effort to “distract attention away from the school’s reputation as an inhospitable place for persons of color.”

“The problem was Anderson’s reputation,” Klein wrote. “It hadn’t granted an African-American professor tenure in decades. It had but a handful of tenured Latino professors. Black students made up about 2% of the student body.”

Klein also said that the school’s U.S. News and World Report and Bloomberg Businessweek ratings were in decline, and that male students outnumbered female students two to one, to the point that some students deemed it the MANderson School of MANagement.

Although the suspension ultimately only lasted three weeks, Klein contends that the incident cost him $500,000 in lost income after being dropped by consulting firms amid his suspension.

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