A University of California at Los Angeles professor is suing a business school dean and others at the UCLA Anderson School of Management after he was disciplined for allegedly making ''racially insensitive'' comments in an email exchange with a student who asked for grading and final exam concessions for African American students in the wake of the George Floyd murder and similar injustices.
According to the lawsuit, filed Sept. 27 in California Superior Court, professor Gordon Klein received an email from a ''non-Black'' student requesting favorable treatment in grading ''Black'' students at the end of the June 2020 semester due to the ''mental and physical health'' effects the murder of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and similar cases were having on those students.
''As Non-Black students, we are writing to express our tremendous concern about the impact that this final exam and project will have on the mental and physical health of our Black classmates,'' the student's email said.
''The unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, the life-threatening actions of Amy Cooper, and the violent conduct of the UCPD in our own neighborhood have led to fear and anxiety which is further compounded by the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on the Black community,'' it continued.
Klein responded to the email, which was from a student with whom he had a cordial relationship in the past, by asking rhetorical questions to have the student think through the practicality of his argument.
''I thought 'this is wasting my time, I have to educate this guy,''' Klein said in a telephone interview Wednesday. ''He was trying to say that the Black students were less academically capable, and less capable emotionally (to handle the final exam). That offended the heck out of me.''
Klein said the student clearly had an ulterior motive for the email and was looking to somehow use Floyd's death to benefit all the students with an easier exam.
The student then responded to Klein, thanking him for considering the proposal and saying he was just trying to ''raise awareness'' of the issue.
That's where Klein thought the matter ended.
Instead, Klein's response turned up on social media, igniting a firestorm of racist allegations against the professor for being ''woefully racist'' in his response to the student, and a number of complaints to the school administration.
The next thing Klein knew, the school's dean, Antonio Bernardo, a colleague Klein has known for 20 years, called to inform him that he was being investigated by the school's Discrimination Prevention Office, and then he sent an email to the school's email list, blasting Klein.
''Thank you for reaching out. This professor's email is outrageous and simply inexcusable. We are investigating the situation and plan to address it,'' Bernardo's email said. ''On behalf of Anderson, please accept my apology for the very hurtful sentiments expressed in this message. Please know that respect and equality for all are core principles at Anderson [School of Management].''
Even though the student told the school's investigators that Klein's questions were not offensive and that he had signed up for more of the professor's classes, Klein was removed from teaching and placed on leave, and others were hired to take his place.
In addition, Klein was getting death threats once the story went public.
''I don't believe a class of people should be judged on the basis of skin color,'' Klein said. ''All should be treated equally.''
He said he is not pursuing the lawsuit to make money, and that he is financially ''comfortable'' from his time in the business world, but rather for academic freedom from the ''woke'' mob, which he believes is taking over higher education.
Klein sees troubling trends in academia where students are now seeking spaces on campus for their own races or ethnic groups, taking the struggle for equal civil rights back into the segregated past.
''We are going back to separate but equal that we had with the Plessy vs. Ferguson [U.S. Supreme Court] case,'' he said. ''We are not supposed be separatist or practice favoritism.''
"Due to confidentiality and privacy laws and concerns, we are unable to comment on this matter at this time,'' said Patricia Godefroy, associate dean of the Anderson School of Management, in response to an inquiry and statement request by Newsmax on Wednesday.
''However, we can share that the university has general procedures and principles that uphold freedom of expression and freedom of intellectual inquiry while also facilitating a learning, working, and living environment that is free from discrimination, harassment or retaliation.
"To this end, all reports of alleged misconduct are carefully and impartially reviewed by the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion's Civil Rights Office. This office takes every report seriously while ensuring that no case is prejudged.
''To promote transparency, the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion publishes annual public with aggregated data on complaints, investigations, and findings," the statement concluded.
''It's a sad state of affairs,'' Klein said. ''[The business school] used to concentrate on teaching stock equity; now it's moved to racial equity.''
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