An advocacy group for free speech on campus is calling for UCLA to reinstate a longtime professor who was suspended after refusing to alter his final exam schedule or grading policies for black students during the protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd.
Gordon Klein has been teaching at UCLA's Anderson School of Management since 1981. He received an email from a student on June 2, requesting that he adjust his final exam requirements for black students due to the ongoing protests.
Klein wrote back and explained his reasons for rejecting the requests, including the difficulty in identifying who would receive the benefits of such a change, and the conflicts with UCLA's faculty code of conduct, which prohibits the failure to hold exams as scheduled, evaluation of students based on criteria other than their performance in the course, and discrimination based on race.
But many students objected to the tone of his email, and a petition calling for him to be fired was quickly started on change.org.
"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,'' the professor's response concluded, according to the petition.
Klein was placed on leave the following day, effective until June 24, while school officials decide what to do next.
"As a public institution, UCLA is bound by both the First Amendment and the laudable promises of academic freedom it makes to its faculty members," Katlyn Patton of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote in a letter to UCLA officials Wednesday. "Those obligations and promises are of even more importance during a crisis. Given that Klein followed institutional policy when he refused to alter his final exam procedures, this investigation is almost certainly based on the tone or viewpoint of his email, which was -- however brusque -- protected expression on a matter of profound public interest. Klein must be immediately reinstated, and UCLA's leaders must make clear that their commitment to academic freedom is stronger than an online mob.''
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UCLA officials did not immediately reply to a request for comment.