A California professor’s lawsuit got the green light from a judge who rejected a UCLA request to dismiss the suit.
The refusal by UCLA Professor Gordon Klein to grade exams of Black students with leniency after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis, Minnesota police led to his suspension.
Some of his students sent an email to the accounting professor asking him to show compassion and leniency for Black student. The email requested a “‘no-harm’ final exam that could only benefit students’ grades, and for shortened exams and extended deadlines for final assignments and projects,” reported “Inside Higher Ed”.
The student who signed the email was not Black, according to a George Will column. The student said accommodations were needed because “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,” according to a “Daily Wire” report. “We believe that remaining neutral in times of injustice brings power to the oppressor and therefore staying silent is not an option.”
The email said students, “ask that you exercise compassion and leniency with black students in our major.” The student email reportedly insisted the request was not part of a joint effort to cancel final exams. It is unclear what grade the student who wrote the email had in Klein’s class before he sent it.
Klein’s answer was not the one his students expected.
“Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota,” Klein reportedly responded.
“Do you know the names of the classmates that are black?” he asked. “How can I identify them, since we’ve been having online classes only?”
The professor questioned their view about how he should address mixed-race students with only one Black parent.
“What do you suggest I do with respect to them?” asked Klein, “a full concession, or just half?”
He noted his Teaching Assistant was a White student from Minneapolis and explained she may be equally devastated by Floyd’s death. Klein questioned if White Minneapolis students might not become labeled racists, even if they are not.
The accounting professor reportedly then reminded them of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of a nation where people are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Klein was later suspended and denounced by his university. UCLA later reinstated him but that was like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
Saying he was punished for treating students equally, as required by California law, Klein sued UCLA. He further alleged UCLA’s Anderson School of Management disregarded a university directive not to punish him over student complaints. The professor claims the incident caused him to lose clients where he was paid to be an expert witness.
After UCLA moved to dismiss his legal action, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge H. Jay Ford III ruled Klein provided sufficient evidence to “support judgment in his favor” for several of his claims. The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in April 2023.
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