UCLA Prof. Gordon Klein Sues After Suspension and Smears For Refusing Preferential Exam Treatment For Black Students
“This dispute originated in June 2020 when a non-black student asked Plaintiff to grade his “Black classmates” differently than other students. Plaintiff rejected this request….
In the weeks and months after the death of George Floyd a vicious and malicious cancel culture purge swept academia, with professors who expressed views not in complete sync with radical campus opinion being subjected to firings and attempted firings, harassment and intimidation, and defamation.
Some of the cases we covered in that time period included St. Joseph’s Math Professor Gregory Manco, Harvard Law Professor Adrian Vermeule, Cornell Chemistry Prof. David Collum, UCF Psychology Prof. Charles Negy, U. Chicago Geophysicist Prof. Dorian Abbot, McGill Univ. Anthropology Emeritus Prof. Philip Carl Salzman, U. Miami Law Prof. Dan Ravicher, USC Business Prof. Greg Patton, Princeton Classics Prof. Joshua Katz, several Skidmore College professors, University of North Texas Music Theory Prof. Timothy Jackson, Michigan State Physics Prof. Stephen Hsu, and of course, me. Since then, the list has expanded.
In many if not most of the cases, Presidents, Deans, and other administrators were aiders and abetters.
But of all the cases, the attack on Prof. Gordon Klein at UCLA’s Anderson Business School was perhaps the most insane – truly other-worldly.
Prof. Klein’s alleged offense was that he insisted on treating black students equally. He refused a request by a white student to allow black students preferential treatment on final exams. Because such a racial preference would violate UCLA’s anti-discrimination policies (and maybe even the law), Klein refused. Students then launched a defamatory campaign against Prof. Klein, and the cowards who run UCLA’s Anderson School capitulated, denouncing and suspending Klein. He eventually was reinstated — because he did absolutely nothing wrong — but not before his reputation and career were severely damaged.
We covered Prof. Klein’s situation initially in these posts:
- UCLA Prof Living Under Police Protection for Refusing to Exempt Black Students From Exams
- UCLA Reinstates Prof Suspended for Refusing to Change Exam or Grades for Black Students
Prof. Klein has just filed a lawsuit in California state court, and among the things he wants, is for UCLA administrators to be held personally liable.
In the Complaint, Prof. Klein alleges, among other things:
1. Plaintiff Gordon Klein (“Plaintiff”), a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (“UCLA” or “University”), was severely punished by UCLA after he refused to implement a different grading policy solely for black students.
2. This dispute originated in June 2020 when a non-black student asked Plaintiff to grade his “Black classmates” differently than other students. Plaintiff rejected this request, knowing that his employment contract – and California law – required him to apply the same grading standards and requirements to all students. He also refused because his faculty supervisor recently had encouraged instructors to reject requests for special exam accommodations.
3. After Plaintiff’s email reply to the student was posted on social media, some furious individuals called Plaintiff “woefully racist” and organized an online campaign to attack Plaintiff and the UCLA Anderson School of Management (“Anderson School”), where Plaintiff teaches. The Anderson School hastily buckled under this pressure and sought permission from the University to impose disciplinary sanctions on Plaintiff, including terminating his employment.1 But, as noted below, the University rebuffed the Anderson School, warning that “the School may not take any action . . . at this time” against Plaintiff.
4. Despite this firm directive, the Anderson School administration abruptly suspended Plaintiff from his teaching duties, banned him from its campus, and hired others to replace him in future scheduled courses. Moreover, the Dean of the Anderson School, Defendant Antonio Bernardo (“Bernardo”), disparaged Plaintiff to alumni and the general public based on the private communications between Plaintiff and the student who had requested preferential race-based grading policies (“Student”). Dean Bernardo even went so far as to publicly disclose the adverse personnel action the School had improperly imposed on Plaintiff.
5. After examining the facts, the University eventually closed its investigation and reinstated Plaintiff.2 Later, the UCLA Senate Committee on Academic Freedom criticized the Anderson School administration, noting that it had violated Plaintiff’s rights and, more broadly, that such conduct “chills” instructors from expressing views that differ from prevailing campus orthodoxy.
6. Plaintiff brings this action not only to redress the wrongful conduct he has endured but also to protect academic freedom.
The Complaint provides details on the nature of preferential treatment demanded and the shameful capitulation at the Anderson School:
19. After the homicide of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, a group of students and others initiated a coordinated email campaign for the claimed purpose of encouraging UCLA instructors to grant final exam accommodations for their “Black classmates.”
20. These students circulated online a document entitled “Letter Writing for Finals Accommodations for Black Students.” This template asked professors to adopt grading policies that “exercise compassion and leniency with Black students.” In particular, according to the Student, an objective of this template was to encourage professors to give only black students optional, “no-harm” final exams. A “no-harm” exam is a test whose score is counted as part of a student’s course grade only if it raises the student’s overall blended course average, but not if it diminishes it.6 Students who take an exam on a “no-harm” basis thus tend to receive higher course grades than those who do not….
22. On or about June 1, 2020, in apparent response to this concerted email campaign, Plaintiff’s immediate supervisor at the Anderson School, Professor Judson Caskey (“Caskey”), circulated guidance “strongly encouraging” Anderson School instructors “to follow the normal procedures” if “students ask for accommodations such as assignment delays or exam cancellations.” That is, according to the University’s investigation, Caskey “advised faculty not to make exam-related adjustments” or grant “accommodations on the basis of race, protests, or police brutality.”
23. That same day, a faculty colleague informed Plaintiff that, if instructors did not capitulate to these students’ demands, they would be labeled with the hurtful and derogatory term “yt,” or “whitey,” and their supervisors’ contact information would be highlighted in red on a spreadsheet circulated among participants of the online email campaign. The color red signaled to allies that they should email complaints to the non-capitulating professors’ supervisors. In response, to protect individual faculty members from harassment, several UCLA academic departments banded together to issue joint statements of refusal. Notably, the Anderson School did not.
24. Plaintiff’s faculty colleague further told him on that occasion that, rather than resist this pressure campaign, many professors were giving away unearned “A” grades like “free candy at Halloween.” ….
31. Although UCLA has argued that the Student posed “reasonable exam administration inquiries,” in reality, the Student’s request was exceedingly unreasonable and, indeed, unworkable. For instance, offering black students “no-harm” exams effectively would give them the option to not take the final exam in a class where final exam performance was the entire basis for their course grade, leaving an instructor without any data on which to base course grades. Moreover, adoption of the Student’s request would have imposed on Plaintiff the unseemly and cumbersome task of determining which students studying remotely were black….
The Complaint then alleges as series of actions by the administration to publicly shame Klein, including public announcements, official tweets, and disclosure of employment action taken against Prof. Klein:
43. Bernardo knew or should have known that widespread public disclosure of his decision to place Plaintiff on administrative leave and relieve Plaintiff of his teaching duties (the “Confidential Personnel Action”) would have devastating consequences for Plaintiff. Moreover, Bernardo knew or should have known that public disclosure of the Confidential Personnel Action would violate the University’s admonition he had received the previous day that “further inquiry is warranted before action can be taken” against Plaintiff. And Bernardo knew or should have known that public disclosure of the Confidential Personnel Action would violate University rules prohibiting such disclosure.
44. Additionally, the above email created the false impression that Plaintiff was not committed to an equitable learning environment, that Plaintiff had demonstrated a disregard for the “core principle” of equal treatment for all, and that Plaintiff had engaged in an “abuse of power.” None of this was even remotely true….
47. Indeed, the extraordinary nature of the Confidential Personnel Action itself, combined with Bernardo’s accusations about Plaintiff, created the public misperception that Plaintiff’s conduct must have inflicted severe harm on a student and been so egregious that it rose to being an abuse of power untethered from the core principles of the University. Therefore, Defendants’ public disclosure of the Confidential Personnel Action – in and of itself – has resulted in substantial harm to Plaintiff, as herein alleged. Moreover, in our modern world of instantaneous and far-reaching online communication, it was reasonably foreseeable by Defendants that their accusations against Plaintiff and their public disclosure of the Confidential Personnel Action would be widely circulated online, thereby dramatically multiplying Plaintiff’s reputational damage.
Although he eventually was reinstated, Prof. Klein alleges continuing damages:
66. As a proximate result of Defendants’ unlawful conduct herein alleged, Plaintiff began losing clients of the Expert Witness Practice immediately following media reports in June 2020 of these actions and events. Media reports intensified after Defendants publicized the Confidential Personnel Action and undertook public attacks against Plaintiff. For example, on or about June 3, 2020, Plaintiff was interviewed for an expert witness engagement by lawyers from one of the premier law firm clients of the Expert Witness Practice, following which the attorney and client immediately agreed to retain Plaintiff. That day, an intermediary who arranged for the interview emailed Plaintiff stating: “Gordon, good news! [The attorney and client] would like to retain you for the  case.” A few days later, however, after Defendants’ unlawful public disclosure of the Confidential Personnel Action had been widely reported by the media, Plaintiff’s engagement on the case was terminated. Plaintiff has not received any further work from this premier client. In addition, the intermediary with whom Plaintiff had a longstanding business relationship modified its website to eliminate any mention of its association with Plaintiff, and its marketing head has ceased all communications with Plaintiff.
67. Similarly, also on or about June 3, 2020, another longstanding elite law firm client of the Expert Witness Practice suddenly terminated Plaintiff’s existing engagement on a major antitrust case. This client even refused to pay an invoice that Plaintiff previously had transmitted for past services rendered regarding this ongoing case.
68. Simply put, the Expert Witness Practice largely dried up as a proximate result of Defendants’ unlawful conduct herein alleged.
The damage from weaponized students, often aided and abetted by woke faculty and weak administrators, has had a profound chilling effect in academia. People like Prof. Gordon Klein deserve hero status, they stood tall and refused to bend the knee or apologize for insisting on treating all people equally.DONATE
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