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UCLA Professor Sues University After Refusing to Grade Black Students More Leniently

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

An UCLA has filed a lawsuit against the school after he was placed on leave and faced threats of termination for refusing to grade black students more leniently than non-black students. 


"Recently, I was suspended from my job for refusing to treat my black students as lesser than their non-black peers," Gordon Klein wrote in an op-ed Thursday.

Klein noted that the controversy began back on June 2, 2020, eight days after the death of George Floyd, after a white student emailed him requesting a "no harm" final for black students, meaning that low scores would not be counted, because of the "unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd."

Klein described the proposition as "deeply patronizing and offensive" to black students.

He responded to the student, whose name was not included, by asking if there are "any students that may be of mixed parentages, 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," Klein wrote in the op-ed. "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."


His response prompted students to blast him as racist. A petition demanding he be fired circulated that garnered around 20,000 signatures over two days.

Klein further noted that the dean of UCLA’s business school launched an investigation, placed him on leave and nearly terminated him. 

"It was around that time that I started to receive death threats on voicemail and email. One email, dated June 11, read: ‘You are a typical bigoted, prejudiced and racist dirty, filthy, crooked, arrogant Jew k--e mother f--ker! Too bad Hitler and the Nazis are not around to give you a much needed Zyklon B shower,’" Klein wrote. 

Klein said he was reinstated after nearly three weeks of suspension, "But this story is not over."

"You see, 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. The students involved in this escapade may have moved on to other causes. I have not. I’m not sure I ever will," Klein said when explaining his reasoning for the suit 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," he continued.

Klein went on to highlight the importance of academic freedom and how American business schools are "supposed to be training the next generation of innovators."

"If we don’t maintain our standards — if we’re not allowed to push all of our students to do their very best — we will be disarming unilaterally. I refuse to do that, and I’m convinced, this recent episode notwithstanding, that most of my students and colleagues feel the same way," he concluded.

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