In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in 2020, a white student asked a professor to lower grading standards on the final exam for black students because of the “unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.”
Accounting professor Gordon Klein thought this would be demeaning to black students.
“Shocked by the student’s email, which struck me as deeply patronizing and offensive to the same black students he claimed to care so much about,” Klein wrote, “I collected my thoughts and, 20 minutes later, emailed back: ‘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 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.'”
Klein said that he cited Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he hoped his children would be judged by the content of their character and not by their skin color.
For the record, racial preferences in California are illegal. In 1996, 54 percent of California voters barred their government from discriminating against or granting preferences to individuals or groups on the basis of race and sex in government hiring, contracting, and admissions.
Students circulated a petition demanding that UCLA fire Klein, who’s taught at the school for 40 years. You’d think that a university serious about academic principles would back a professor who refused to treat students differently based on race. But not UCLA. It suspended him and banned him from campus. The school eventually reinstated him.
Klein has his job back, but the suspension has impacted his reputation. Consulting jobs have dried up. He’s filed a lawsuit against the University of California system over the loss of this income.
Professors everywhere who believe in fairness and diversity of opinions should take Klein’s words to heart:
“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.”
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