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Prof. Suspended Because He 'Refused to Discriminate Against My Students' Sues University

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After he allegedly refused to give black students special treatment at the request of a “non-black” student amid protests over the George Floyd death last year, University of California-Los Angeles professor Gordon Klein was essentially shuffled off to the back room by his school.

He was suspended and the university tried to terminate him, the accounting and finance professor said. That didn’t work, but by the time the ordeal was over, he’d lost most of his income, which came from his consultancy. UCLA had all but called him a racist in public statements.

Now, Klein, who started teaching at UCLA in 1981, according to a school biography,  is suing the University of California system.

In a piece written for former New York Times journalist Bari Weiss’ Substack newsletter and published Friday, Klein said he had been singled out because “I refused to discriminate against my students.”

The dust-up began after a June 2, 2020, email from a student who said black students should be graded with more “leniency” due to the trauma caused by the death of Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Klein did not identify the race of the student, but described him as “non-black.”

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“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 reportedly 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.”

The student then suggested that the final be counted as a “no-harm” test for black students, meaning it only counted if it helped their grades.

Klein said the email “struck me as deeply patronizing and offensive to the same black students [the writer] claimed to care so much about.”

“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?” he wrote back.

Do you think this professor has grounds to sue?

“Also, do you have any idea if any students are from Minneapolis? I assume that they are probably especially devastated as well. 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.”

Once this email was publicized, a petition for Klein to be fired garnered almost 20,000 signatures in a period of days. The school suspended him just three days after the email, with the dean of his school saying that it was “deeply disturbing to learn of this email, which we are investigating. 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.”

“This implied I didn’t believe in equality for all — when that was exactly what I believed and continue to believe,” Klein wrote.

The professor also received death threats, he said, such as one he said came June 11, 2020 that read:

“You are a typical bigoted, prejudiced and racist dirty, filthy, crooked, arrogant Jew k**e mother f***er! Too bad Hitler and the Nazis are not around to give you a much needed Zyklon B shower.”

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And yet, Klein wrote that UCLA’s threat manager didn’t reach out to him until 10 days after this incident.

Within three weeks, after an attempt to fire Klein failed, he was reinstated, Klein wrote. However, the money from his consultancy dried up after he was pilloried in public, costing him “the lion’s share of my annual income,” he said. That’s part of the reason why he’s filing suit.

“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 wrote.

“As the Supreme Court ruled in a 1967 case in which a university professor refused to sign an oath stating he was not a communist, professors should never be coerced into an unthinking timidity. ‘Academic freedom,’ Justice William Brennan wrote, ‘is of transcendent value to all of us.’”

In an interview with the Daily Caller, also published Friday, Klein said that at UCLA, “[professors] are becoming more like robots … They avoid anything that may be controversial or colorful or humorous … Anyone who goes anywhere near a controversial topic runs the risk of being cancelled, being fired, being suspended.”

He also said the dean of students for UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, Antonio Bernardo, set the tone for the school with staff emails and public memos on racial issues that name-checked, among others, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors on the issue of defunding the police and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The dean seems to believe he is a racial justice crusader as opposed to someone in charge of giving people an objective and elite education,” he added. “The purpose first and foremost of a dean is to run a fine educational institution and maintain its elite status. In that regard, by any subjective or objective measure, he has horrifically failed.”

As has the University of California system. Klein’s case is emblematic of how far academia has degenerated, where “academic freedom” only means the freedom to repeat certain leftist outlooks.

If you find yourself outside of that, you’ll end up reaping a whirlwind of hate the way Gordon Klein did — and that’s not even taking into account the career consequences. Given the enormity of the failure, one hopes injunctive relief is in the cards.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture