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UCLA students demand professor who won’t cancel final exams over Floyd death to be fired

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Students at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) are calling on administrators to dismiss a professor who refused to cancel final exams for minorities in a sort of honorarium for George Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died at the hands of police earlier this month.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, Gordon Klein, a professor with the Anderson School of Management, was doxxed by students after he declined to let minority students out of taking final exams.

One student in Klein’s Management 127 course who requested anonymity over fears of reprisals sought special favors for minorities during “these trying times.” But Klein, in an exchange with the student, addressed whether it was really appropriate to use race as a determining factor in how students ought to be treated.

“Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota,” Klein wrote in his response email. “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?”

Klein concluded his response with a quote from civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. in which he said people should not be judged by their skin color.

“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,” Klein continued.

“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?” 

The response led Preet Bains, a senior at UCLA, to launch an online petition drive requesting that university administrators fire Klein over his refusal to accommodate the request. As of Thursday, more than 19,800 people had signed the petition.

University student Emilia Martinez, who shared the response on Twitter, said an “Afrolatinx” friend sent the email but wanted to remain anonymous. She told the Free Beacon that she made the email public to hold Klein “accountable.”

“I believed this information was important to bring to light because as a non-black poc, I believe it is my duty to amplify my black peer’s voices,” she said in an email. “I felt this was a very unreasonable response to a very valid request and decided that the Professor should be held properly accountable.”

Klein sent a separate email to the entire class explaining that outside events, including personal issues and hardships, don’t necessarily relieve students of their academic requirements and responsibilities.

He used his daughter as an example, whom he said went through severe illness and lost close friends who committed suicide while attending UCLA. Those hardships did not, however, preclude her from completing her coursework, Klein — who did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment — explained.

“Some students have asked that the final exam be delayed or changed or waived altogether. Life deals all of us challenges and I have no doubt that many of you are facing some now. In a perfectly fair world, I would be able to take these individual factors into account and perhaps modify the terms in our course syllabus, but my understanding of university rules is that, with rare exceptions, I should not,” he said in his email to students.

UCLA administrators sent a message to faculty members on March 16 asking them to provide for alternative forms of taking final assessments due to the coronavirus pandemic. But, the school did not require professors to cancel final exams or exempt minority students from completing all required coursework.

Meanwhile, UCLA education professor Tyrone Howard was widely praised last week after he canceled a final paper and instead asked students to submit a one-page single- or double-spaced response to two questions.

“In lieu of your final paper, I would like everyone to submit a 1 page reflection (double or single spaced). I just want you to respond to these two simple questions: ‘What do I make about what is going on in the nation right now?’ and ‘How am I doing right now?'” he wrote in an email to his Education 130 class.

He then took to social media to encourage all other UCLA faculty members to do the same.

“I would implore all of my UCLA faculty colleagues to strongly consider canceling or significantly altering final exams. Many students are struggling now, they need our support, and many are not in the best emotional space to focus on academics. Be compassionate & understanding,” he tweeted.

Jon Dougherty

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