Two University of California-Los Angeles professors are under fire because they did their jobs, which upset some students.
Gordon Klein, an accounting professor, received an email from a group of students requesting the professor allow for a “‘no-harm’ final exam that could only benefit students’ grades, and for shortened exams and extended deadlines for final assignments and projects,” Inside Higher Ed reported. The students requested all of these accommodations due to recent “traumas, 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.”
“We believe that remaining neutral in times of injustice brings power to the oppressor and therefore staying silent is not an option,” the students added.
The students insisted they did not make the request as “a joint effort to get finals canceled for non-black students,” but rather to “ask that you exercise compassion and leniency with black students in our major.”
The students were using the May 25 police-involved death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd and the resulting riots across the country to get leniency in class. Professor Klein did not accept their arguments and responded in an email that has since gotten him in hot water with angry students.
“Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota,” Klein wrote back to the students.
“Do you know the names of the classmates that are black?” he asked them. “How can I identify them since we’ve been having online classes only?”
Klein went on to ask about students who “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?” he asked.
Klein also suggested “a white student from [Minneapolis] 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.”
Klein ended his email with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. about not evaluating people based on the color of their skin.
Klein also sent a second email to all students saying he understood that some students may have experienced hardship from “the coronavirus health issue of a loved one to emotional stress of recent social tragedies.”
He shared the story of his own daughter who struggled at UCLA, but suggested students be more like his daughter and persevere.
Another UCLA professor, political science lecturer W. Ajax Peris, is receiving calls for his resignation because he read aloud MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which included the n-word. As The Federalist reported, students “hearing a white lecturer read the n-word from a letter written by a jailed civil rights leader and watching lynching imagery made them feel so ‘uncomfortable,’ they asked Peris to stop.” He apologized for causing “discomfort,” but continued teaching. UCLA’s Political Science Department condemned Peris for failing to “meet the students’ needs” and referred him for a discrimination investigation.
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