News and Commentary

UCLA Is Preventing Students From Taking This Conservative Professor’s Free Speech Class

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is preventing students from enrolling in a conservative professor’s class on free speech.

Keith Fink, a UCLA alumnus who has taught at the school for 10 years, teaches a class called “Communication Studies 167: Sex, Politics, and Race: Free Speech on Campus.” He is an incredibly popular professor, getting rave reviews from students on, so naturally students are aiming to get into his class.

But 41 students this year have been prevented from enrolling because the Communications Department has suddenly decided to downsize Fink’s class. The professor has regularly taught classes of well over 200 students, but the department took steps this year to try to shrink the cap number, moving the class to a smaller room and then trying to slash the cap to 150 students.

When Fink balked, the department moved the cap back up to 170, and eventually up to 200, as a result of media pressure from Finks’ appearance on Fox News.

When the Communications Department was asked in an email about Fink’s Fox News appearance, they gave the following response from an “executive speechwriter” in an email that was forwarded to The Daily Wire:

Mr. Fink’s class was not limited in size because of his political viewpoints. As a lecturer at UCLA for nearly 10 years, Mr. Fink continues to enjoy the academic freedoms that UCLA cherishes and defends. The content of his courses has never been curtailed, and as a lecturer, Mr. Fink is protected by a collective bargaining agreement between UCLA and the union to which he belongs. This agreement outlines the university’s responsibility to provide a fair workload for all of our instructors.

In addition to UCLA’s responsibility to our instructors, we are equally committed to ensuring a high quality of education to our students. Departments must maintain a proper and manageable balance between the number of students enrolled in a course and the teaching staff that serve that student body. The Department of Communication Studies was using standard guidelines that require a certain number of teaching assistants for students. That ratio had already been exceeded substantially, and with only one teaching assistant in a class of 200 students, expanding class size was not possible.

Freedom to express one’s beliefs has defined our campus for nearly 100 years, and we will continue to provide a forum for open discussion.

However, Fink told Campus Reform that he was never asked if he had an issue with class sizes, so how would the department know there were issues with the teacher-to-student ratio?

Fink is also up for an excellence review, where departments evaluate professors and decide if they stay or leave; normally professors easily pass. However, Fink was told by the department that he was not allowed to solicit student reviews for his excellence review. Fink fired back by pointing out that the rules state he could; the department backed off and tried to spin it by stating that students the department reaches out to are given more credence to the review process. Fink gave them ten students to reach out to; the department didn’t contact any of them.

The only explanation of the department’s illogical behavior that makes sense to Fink is that the administration has an axe to grind against him because he doesn’t “bow to the Holy Grail of” leftist concepts like safe spaces and trigger warnings in his class and that he informs students about their campus rights.

“I empower students with knowledge,” Fink told The Daily Wire. “Not only that their rights have been violated, but how to stand up for yourself and against the administration, whether it’s the administration, sometimes it’s against law enforcement – we went over excessive force in this class – I tell them how to fight.”

Until this year, Fink always had a department chair that would protect him from administrators, but that does not seem to be the case with the new chair, Kerri Johnson.

Ultimately, it is the students who have been harmed by the department’s actions. Most of the 41 students had to find classes elsewhere. One student, Nicole Arasteh, however, has attended every class and kept up with the coursework. Even though the total number of students for the course would still be under 200 with her included, the department has denied her enrollment.

“I am being denied based on a citing of a new rule that apparently gives discretion to the department chair to make the decision of class sizes based on fairness to the TA,” Arasteh told Campus Reform. “If that’s the case, I want to understand and see the written and established rule.”

The fact that Arasteh has been blocked from enrolling is infuriating to Fink since she dropped a class with the hopes of being able to join Fink’s class. The department, he said, is “not being equitable” to her.

“Other than [the department] being vindictive, why isn’t she being enrolled?” Fink said.

Follow Aaron Bandler on Twitter.