A University of California – Los Angeles accounting professor has been suspended and is under police protection after he refused a request for leniency toward black students on his final exam.
The incident began when a white student emailed professor Gordon Klein, asking him for a “no harm” final that wouldn’t impact their grade in the class.
“We have been placed in a position where we must choose between actively supporting our black classmates or focusing on finishing up our spring quarter,” the student wrote, according to Inside Higher Ed.
“We believe that remaining neutral in times of injustice brings power to the oppressor and therefore staying silent is not an option,” the email continues. “[It’s] 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.”
“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?” he replied.
“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,” the email states.
“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?
A Change.org petition was soon launched to get Klein removed over his response.
“We ask for your support in having Professor Klein’s professorship terminated for his extremely insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist response to his students’ request for empathy and compassion during a time of civil unrest,” the petition states.
Klein said he denied the request at his direct supervisor’s order.
“I have been placed on involuntary leave for three weeks, and it looks like it may end up being more than that,” Klein told the New York Post.
His classes have also been reassigned as a discrimination investigation is carried out, according to UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.
FIRE spokeswoman Katlyn Patton said Klein’s disagreement was not harassment or discrimination.
“As a lecturer at a public institution bound by the First Amendment, Klein has significant rights to manage the content and direction of his course, and his disagreement with the students' reasoning does not amount to harassment or unlawful discrimination," Patton said, reports The Washington Free Beacon.
He is now receiving police protection after receiving threats.