The dean of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management has placed one of its professors, Gordon Klein, on leave from campus after finding his behavior “troubling” and reporting it to the university for investigation.
His suspension will last three weeks and begin on June 25. Both Klein and the university have declined comment on the situation.
THREATS MADE AGAINST PROFESSOR
Last week, Poets&Quants had reported that Gordon Klein, an accounting professor who had been with the school since 1981, had stoked student resentment over an email response to a student. In the initial email, the unnamed student had inquired about final exams, asking Klein to “give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota.”
In response, Klein posed several questions that came across as insensitive, such as whether the same accommodations should be given to students “that may be of mixed parentage, such as half black-half Asian?”
Klein’s response, which was posted on Reddit and other social media channels, quickly drew student ire. A Change.org petition calling for Professor Klein’s firing has generated over 20,000 signatures. On top of that, Klein’s neighborhood is receiving increased police presence after he received multiple threats according to a spokesperson from the Malibu Police Department that was reported by the Washington Free Beacon.
STUDENTS GIVEN EXTRA TIME TO COMPLETE EXAMS
At Anderson, the school is operating in damage control mode. “We understand what an incredibly stressful time this is for students who must take finals in the midst of both COVID-19 and civil uprisings over racial injustice,” according to a statement from Anderson Dean Antonio Bernardo to students. “We apologize for any added stress that this substitution of instructors might cause…Our mission, always, is to provide a safe, respectful and equitable environment in which all students can effectively learn,” “Unfortunately, we have been alerted to behavior by your original professor that we find troubling. Our concerns have now been shared with all appropriate UCLA investigative offices.”
Dean Bernardo further adds that Klein’s courses have been reassigned to Professor Judson Caskey and Professor Brett Trueman, whose responsibilities will include grading final examinations. To accommodate students, the school increased the time to complete the exam from three hours to five. In addition rather than holding Klein’s students to a set time to complete the exam, they can start start the exam any time between 9 a.m. on June 8 and 12 p.m. on June 12 PST.
Not surprisingly, the response to Professor Klein’s comments are decidedly mixed. Some consider it political correctness run amok. Others view it as tacitly racist. On one Reddit thread, one reader alluded to cancel culture, calling the students’ reaction an “example of mass hysteria”
DOESN’T MEET SCHOOL STANDARDS
“Anyone who criticizes the popular movement is immediately attacked. This is evident by how the petition is not for him to apologize or change his course structure, but for him to get fired. You can find the email that Klein wrote to his students. His tone is condescending, but he is correct. He is saying that black students should get no preferential treatment. Even if this is inconsiderate in these circumstances, it is true in principle. No one should get preferential treatment. Afterwards, again in a condescending tone, he talks about the logistical difficulty of identifying students who would need special treatment.”
However, another reader notes that Klein’s response was needlessly provocative and fell short of what should be expected from UCLA faculty.
“The condescending tone itself, which you identify, is the problem. He comes across as completely dismissive and disrespectful of his black students, which is antithetical to UCLA’s values. I understand that it would be difficult to be lenient in a course where the entire grade is based on the final, and I respect his right not to modify the final. But, in light of the stress many of his students are going through, some tactfulness and empathy is required as a professional. There are certain expectations for professors who attach their names to UCLA, and I feel that his tone in his email failed to meet them.”
NOT KLEIN’S ONLY ISSUE
Klein’s tone and arguments were particularly damaging in light of recent events involving police misconduct according to the petition seeking his ouster.
“Given his background in ethics and liability, one would expect Professor Klein to hold himself to a higher social standard, especially given his position as a steward within higher education,” the petition notes. “However, his response to students was inappropriate, tone-deaf, and highly insensitive. The killing of George Floyd displayed a brutality that was so casual and so cruel, it reflected an utter dehumanization of Black life. It is understandable, then, that students nationwide – especially Black students – are struggling to focus on their educations when there is massive sociopolitical unrest that concerns both them and the future of their plight in this country.”
Klein’s response also comes on the heels of another eyebrow-raising email that he sent to a female student in March. Here, he told the student that he would love to sometime “hang out” with her and her friends, adding “Even though secretly, you know that I think you are my favorite. ”
Here is the email response on exams that landed Klein in hot water:
“Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota,” wrote Klein. “Do you know the names of the classmates that are black? How can I identify them since we’ve been having online classes only? 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. My TA is from Minneapolis, so if you don’t know, I can probably ask her. Can you guide me on how you think I should achieve a “no-harm” outcome since our sole course grade is from a final exam only? One last thing strikes me: 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? Thanks, G. Klein”