UCLA Professor Suspended and Under Police Protection After Refusing To Exempt Black Students From Final Exam

Ucla_logoGordon Klein, an accounting professor in the Anderson School of Business, has taught at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) for almost 40 years.  He is now suspended and under police protection in his home.  The reason? Klein refused to exempt black students from his final exam and sent a pointed rebuttal to students asking for the “no harm” exam. The response was certainly mocking in tone, more so than I would have considered appropriate.  The school has launched a formal discrimination investigation. However, the suspension, investigation, and death threats against Klein reinforce the fear of many in the academy of a raising orthodoxy on campus and a lack of support for faculty involved in controversies.

According to Inside Higher Ed, a group of students asked Klein for a “no-harm” final exam that could only benefit students’ grades as well as shortened exams and extended deadlines.  They cited recent “traumas, we have been placed in a position where we much choose between actively supporting our black classmates or focusing on finishing up our spring quarter . . . We believe that remaining neutral in times of injustice brings power to the oppressor and therefore staying silent is not an option.”  They specifically noted that this was not “a joint effort to get finals canceled for non-black students”  “but rather an ask that you exercise compassion and leniency with black students in our major.”

Klein wrote back to one student that he was being asked to make a distinction that he could not possibly make. This is the entirety of the message:

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 controversy led to immediate demands for the professor to be fired.  Thousands have signed a petition that declares Klein must be fired for his “extremely insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist response” and “blatant lack of empathy and unwillingness to accommodate his students.”

UCLA has launched an investigation that could lead to such termination and issued a statement that “We apologize to the student who received it and to all those who have been as upset and offended by it as we are ourselves.”  It has also agreed to extend all exams, presumably for all students.  I think that the extension of the time was a good idea for the school as a whole and I can certainly understand the school objecting to the tone of the response at a time of great unrest and trauma in our society.  However, the email was a poorly crafted effort by Klein to object to what he viewed as an unworkable, race-based system of accommodation.  One can certainly disagree with those objections, but the principle of academic freedom is to allow such views to be stated without fear of termination.

UCLA is also dealing with another demand for termination after Political science lecturer W. Ajax Peris, read aloud MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which includes the n-word. He also showed a documentary to the class in which lynching was discussed.  This might have been inappropriate in Klein’s accounting case but Peris was teaching the history of racism.  Students demanded that he stop the discussion but he apologized for any discomfort and continued his lecture.

The Political Science Department condemned Peris and  referred Peris to UCLA’s Discrimination Prevention Office for an investigation. UCLA will host a town hall for students in Peris’ classes to discuss the “controversy.” While Peris has apologized in a writing and video, students are demanding his firing.

Such actions are applauded by many faculty who have supported the increasing limits on free speech and academic freedom on campus. There has been a startling erosion of such protections for those with opposing views at universities and colleges.  Many faculty are intimidated by the response in these controversies and fear that supporting academic freedom or free speech will result in their being labeled racist or lacking of empathy. In three decades of teaching, I have never seen the level of intolerance for free speech that we are seeing across the country.  As I noted, there are valid objections to raise in these incidents, but the response of universities is clearly designed to send a message to other academics that they cannot expect the protections of the universities in such controversies.

173 thoughts on “UCLA Professor Suspended and Under Police Protection After Refusing To Exempt Black Students From Final Exam”

  1. Everyone needs to be able to distinguish between the use of words as current-day insults vs. discussing historic documents that use those words. It makes no sense to pretend that historic documents don’t include the words in question; we need to understand what they actually said. We need to understand our racist history.

    MLK Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail (https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html ) is an important text, and I’m astounded and disappointed that any university dept. would argue that words be omitted when reading it.

    1. Well, I could care less if they read MLK’s letter or not. They can stop teaching Mark Twain if they want too. Ooops, they already have. But when I was taking Amer Lit honors in high school, Huck Finn was considered one of the top 3 American novels, along with, Moby Dick, and the Scarlett Letter.

      How can you appreciate the feelings of Americans in that time about slavery without a book like Huck Finn? that humanized a slave? No matter. Ideas do not really matter as much as professors like to believe. Ideas for leaders, yes. Ideas for the underlings, no. They are sheep who the leadership always prefers to keep inside the gate, and under control.

      as Orwell observed, they use “revolutionary” ideas to control the sheep just as much as they do old-fashioned ones.

      There is no getting around this social fact: every society is a hierarchy.

      Some clique of leadership may spit on the word hierarchy, but hierarchy always remains.

      anyhow, clearly, the humanities are dying and nearly dead at universities.

      1. Political Science is a social science dept., not a humanities dept.

        Have whatever opinion you want, but the readings for a course are determined by the faculty who teach the course. MLK Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a relevant and important text for a variety of social science courses.

        1. political “science” is just a fancy name for politics as a variety of philosophy, political theory, political economy, etc.

          I’m not against that reading, certainly not because it uses the scary “n word” that we have all heard ten thousand times, but because there are many more worthy things to read. it is relevant yes, i just think if I were designing the curriculum, it would be a footnote.

          but nobody is hiring me to teach this, that’s for sure!

          1. evolutionary psychology is an important key to understanding politics. that is one thing that has finally caught on recently, although, the California system censored and punished one of its best evopsych professors many years ago, and the “free speech” advocates ignored the story.

            Kevin MacDonald, CSULB, in case you really want to know

            you heard of Dawkins but you never heard of him. until now perhaps.

            1. Kevin McDonald is a rank-and-file psychologist who publishes strange books about Jews.

              And ‘evolutionary psychology’ is a dubious bit of business right there.

          2. The linked article says “The letter was read in tandem with [Peris’] lecture on the history of racism against African Americans in the United States.” Letter from a Birmingham Jail is an important text for that topic.

            Turley suggests the entire course may have focused on racism: “Peris was teaching the history of racism.” Neither Turley nor the other article identify the course name or number, so it’s hard to confirm the focus of the course or this particular lecture.

  2. The elephant in the room just keeps getting bigger, and the shit just keeps getting deeper. Dear Prof. Turley, this article again demonstrates your surprising willingness of late to resort to ‘tone policing’ in order to appear woke and rational at the same time, which only leads to nourishing the goliath pachyderm to even greater size. We profess that only our targets du jour (whom we ever-more disingenuously challenge in our worship of political correctness) dissemble, but here in 2020 we are living in a endlessly novel hell of outrage and willful ignorance, inundated on all sides with solemnly proffered fake truth. Please don take this personally, we’re all guilty. I imagine the fabled ghost of Diogenes ever more avidly haunting our public discourse to this day, still fruitlessly searching for just one honest man.

  3. Squeeky told me that she has apparently been banned since none of her comments today would go through, so she asked me to tell her friends here, “Good bye!” for her!

    She specifically mentioned mespo, PaulCS, young, Cindy Bragg, this is absurd, and others!

    She also said for you to keep up the good fight!

    1. Penelope Dreadful – have Squeeky check with JT to see if she has been officially banned and if so for how long. Say hi for me. 🙂

      1. I will let her know. I am at her place now working on a brief, and I will let her know after she finishes getting it typed up for me. Does she know how to contact them?

    2. I hope she’s mistaken—I LOVE your fine spice and pluck Squeeky! — maybe some kind of glitch? Aren’t we informed if cowardly charged with pc heresy from the shadows, and banned? Please don’t give up Squeeky! Perhaps if you kneel to the censors and recant, they will reinstate you? Haha, I’m glad I’m old and can see an end to all this abhorrent modern nonsense in sight… ‘safe spaces’ don’t belong in public discourse, but who will listen in this Tower of Babel?

    3. I doubt she was banned but if so, it’s likely temporary. If so, hail and farewell. Resurrect yourself with another IP address as we’d miss the poems.And for the name try “Leslie Van Ho(o)ten.”

      1. mespo – I know Darren has been more active on here, but I never look to see if my stuff has been deleted.

    4. Squeeky is not one to accept being silenced. And if our host is as principled about his defense of all speech as he pumps on this blog, then he hasn’t banned her. If he has, then sadly future posts will ring hollow as he has succumbed to the enemies of our once cherished rights.

      1. OLLY – I am not so sure he is not be hyper-cautious in these turbulent times.

        1. That would be very disappointing Paul. Truly principled people don’t abandon their principles. It made me look up the origins of this quote:

          If they don’t stand for something, they will fall for anything.

          The earliest evidence of close match known to QI was published in the January 1945 issue of a journal called “Mental Hygiene”. At the time of publication World War II was still being fought. The adage appeared in an article by the medical doctor Gordon A. Eadie titled “The Over-All Mental-Health Needs of the Industrial Plant, with Special Reference to War Veterans”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 3

          We are trying to show him not only what we are fighting against, but what we are fighting for. So many of these boys have only a very hazy idea of the real issues of the war. About all they see is “going back to the good old days.” This is a dangerous state. If they don’t stand for something, they will fall for anything. They need to realize that we are fighting two wars—the war of arms and the war of ideas—that other war of which the war of arms is one phase.

          This country is already fighting the war of ideas. If they don’t get this right, we’ll be fighting two wars…again.

    5. The only thing that I think could have caused Squeeky’s ban is that the censor wrongfully thought her comments were racist. I don’t think Squeeky is a racist. She is provocative and edgy so instead of a ban her statements should have been unwrapped and placed out there in the sun for I (who despises racism for personal reasons) find a good number of her statements are telling us where we are going wrong on the race issue. Her comments don’t need banning for like the Professor says all the time we need more speech and Squeeky’s speech is a jumping off point to real discussion of the issues that exist in our society.

      1. Allan,
        Squeeky has the temerity to speak truth to the reality of the world, instead of pandering to the thought police. Reality is often provocative. We will continue to regress as a society if we silence those with the courage to articulate the real problems we face, instead of confronting them in open dialogue so that we may get to the root of our problems.

      2. I missed the banning event and what lead to it. I don’t think they ban here for “racism.” Racism is a perjorative word for it were described non-pejoratively, might be called, ethnocentric talk and action.

        I have articulated concepts of ethnocentric talk and action hundreds of times here and never been banned.

        I believe i am free to evaluate race as a factor in human events. I do not presume to be free to insult the other users here who disagree with me. I take a rule of civility to mean that the host requires us to refrain from superficial insults. We obviously have a range of freedom here to make insulting characterizations of each other’s viewpoints, but that is not really personal. For a lawyer, these distinctions are important, and I think Turley & Darren have lawyer’s sensibilities about this.

        I have no idea if that is what she did or not, I am only speaking for myself and my experience of posting at this comments forum. It is a small forum but a valued one. I welcome others to participate.

      3. Don’t be stupid Allan. Squeeky despises blacks and is quite forthright about it. She also repeats false data ad infinitum, even when she’s been shown the true data.

        I doubt he bothered to ban her. She comes and goes at long intervals and he’s never restricted her in the past.

        1. DSS, there is a difference in what people experience. She is provocative and that can be confused with racism. At times her tone changes. She has expressed legitimate gripes that might make you feel she is a racist. I don’t know one way or the other. I’ve met people that I thought were racists and then I found on deeper exploration they were anything but racists. It’s a very overused term when applied to the normal population.

          I’ve been called a racist which is pretty tough to do but the blog can create a greater perception of extremes than actually exist.

          Your data or your interpetation of the data others present can be a product of your perception. Be careful with the simple answers.

    6. Penelope…Oh NO!!! Squeeky banned?! Please tell her I will gladly take her place of banning. She can come back in my place. This blog is not the same without Squeeky!!

  4. The gays want to be on the no fly list so that they can sun in the shade.

  5. If I cannot yest you I cannot give you a grade. It would discriminate against those who take the test and spull better. So. No test, no grade, no graduation, get on the itShay list and complain. Ask me again, I’ll tell you the same.

  6. I am all the way with MLK.
    I am advising a friend’s son who attends that dumb school to go elsewhere. I would hire the prof in a new York minute. The letter is fine. The school is a tool for terrorism.

  7. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the professor’s letter.

    This is insane!

    1. David Benson – I whole-heartly agree with you on this. We both should check into mental health facilities. 😉

      1. Paul C Schulte, no, it’s just that you need to talk to a counselor about your persistent affliction that people owe you something.

        1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-five citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-nine weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – David, you have an obsession with mental illness. Are you projecting?

    2. DBB:
      Oh contraire Professor. You academics are the cutting edge of identity politics and it’s only when your oxen is gored that you belatedly disagree. Share the misery. It’s good for you! Or at least that’s what your leftist masters say.

    3. David, I agree. I hope, however, that you see the logic behind your response when the problem is at anothe person’s doorstep rather than your own. That is what much of the fight is about. Equality and freedom of speech, recognizing these problems even if they do not affect us directly.

      Here is hoping that this event is reopening your mind to what is destroying our nation.

  8. Would it be possible — at lease on this blog — to stop with the n-word crap? Is there anyone here who does not know what n-word means?

    And the investigation of the history professor who quoted MLK in a history of racism class is so absurd that not even the Babylon Bee could come up with the headline.

  9. The day Bill Ayers became a faculty member was the last day academia could claim any legitimacy at all. Until a total cleansing of current faculty ensues, there is no chance in h*ll of any our education industry to claim anything but infamy.

  10. Funny thing, Professor…, when the standard tropes around racism and slavery take a further step into public consciousness things tend to get messy. It’s wildly uncomfortable for those who have become accustomed to their particular cliched quantification of race issues.

    And when a president so often engages in bad faith around the issue of free speech, there tends to be backlash. We’re seeing it right now. It’s obvious.

    Will these times rival when Bush was invading Iraq and any counter input was actively squashed? We shall see. Interesting times, no doubt.

        1. Vacuous statements. Like a trained seal you can only do the tricks you were taught. Blame Trump is all you know.

  11. I agree. The administration response and investigation is a ridiculous caving to fashionable social pressure they will regret..

      1. Genius Mespo has sworn to not respond to my posts, so I guess there is an exception to that so he can attack me on issues on which we apparently agree.


  12. JT: Exactly which parts of the professor’s response to you find “mocking?” Seems to me he was asking legitimate questions.

    These UCLA student’s should be careful what they wish for. Back in the early 70s when the City University of New York announced open admissions, HR managers began passing on candidates from CUNY schools even though they had received their degrees before the policy was instituted.

  13. THE PROFESSOR IS RIGHT. Enough is Enough – they want everything. Simply just given them a degree and say goodbye. UCLA and other schools have lost control. Liberal Students and Nutty Liberal Professors are running wild. A society that is coming aprt and fanned by the activist and the Press.

    1. The administration hasn’t lost control. They’re the source of the trouble.

      1. thats right.

        and if there were an effective socalled right wing in this country, they would aim for pressure on the top not whining about stuff down below. the trustees or boards of governers or whatever, who pick the admins should receive hell over the decay of the humanities not just ignorant students or timid professors.

        it’s all happened on the watch of people who wanted it that way

      2. That’s true. Same can be said for the political leadership and public policies enacted in the dysfunctional cities/states. The problem isn’t simply to be found lurking in the weeds of these communities. The problem is in the leadership that enabled the weeds to grow. What we need is to reform and if necessary abolish the leadership that has led directly to the decay of our civil society.

  14. UCLA is no longer worthy to be a member of the PAC-12. It should be condemned by all the other schools in the conference. The professor is dead right. It is an online course, how the heck does he know what the race is in an accounting class.

    Peris is also right and should not have apologized, it is never enough. And what he did fits with his course. Snowflakes.

    1. Berkeley is a sister and gets the mantra from Mother Janet Napolitano, so it will embrace FUCLA in allvthings stupid like this.

  15. You offer every sort of concession in your commentary to administrators and students who merit no concessions. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

    This is another indication, in case you needed one, that a critical mass of people admitted to places like UCLA have no business being there and that many faculty and most administrators are unworthy of the positions they hold. Of course, the California legislature will do nothing.

  16. This is absurd. I don’t think the tone was too mocking. Is the exam and grade supposed to mean something or is the grade intended to deceive potential employers who think that a student might have actually learned something during their years at school?

  17. the professor should have the right to use a little sarcasm as he sees fit, and especially when dealing with woke idiots.

  18. Treating people equal? Didn’t our unwoke UCLA professor read “Animal Farm”? “Some animals are more equal than others,” is the theme of that Communist Manifesto just like today’s version

  19. Defund the Police, NOW! Priviledged white students have to take the exam, how hypocritical of Black students. They don’t feel they can compete? Oh, maybe the test is easier for white or Latino students.

    1. The test is easier for people who apply themselves. That’s learned. So is perpetual victimhood.

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