UCLA business professor Gordon Klein was suspended from teaching in 2020 after a woke mob objected to how he testily rebuffed a student’s request to grant leniency to black students because of the killing of George Floyd.
The University of California Los Angeles suspended the accounting professor who mocked a student for demanding that he cancel final exams for black students and afford them other leniency in light of the protests over the killing of George Floyd, the Globe reported.
Now, Klein’s lawsuit against the school and the University of California system is headed to trial. A California judge has rejected UCLA’s attempt to get the case thrown out of court.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge H. Jay Ford III upheld some of Klein’s claims but dismissed others and scheduled a trial date for April 17th of next year.
Ford ruled that Klein had provided sufficient facts that “would support judgment in his favor” on his claims of breach of contract, false light and for “negligent interference with prospective economic advantage” by the UCLA dean who suspended him.
Dismissing other claims against the University of California regents for negligent interference with prospective economic advantage (meaning costing him business opportunities), and illegal retaliation, Ford ruled that Klein had failed to establish a factual basis for these charges. “Plaintiff failed to make a prima facie showing that these allegations would support a judgment in his favor.”
The illegal retaliation allegation concerned Klein’s charge that the school retaliated against him for failing to give leniency to black students, which he contended would have violated California equal protection laws.
But Judge Ford ruled that Klein has failed to provide any hard evidence for this. The judge was probably right. It wasn’t the failure to give leniency that created the ruckus, it was the pungent manner in which Klein expressed his opposition that so enraged people. Basically, he dispensed with the platitudes and euphemisms that concern much discussions about race these days and gave a very searing and level-headed response to a student’s inquiry.
The whole fracas dates to shortly after the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. The following month, a student wrote to Klein asking that special privileges be accorded black students who were supposedly traumatized by the killing. The student asked that black students be given a “no harm” exam, meaning it wouldn’t affect their final grade. So that is like no exam at all. Klein was basically being asked to cancel the exam.
Klein’s response asked the students some obvious and intellectually rigorous and searing questions–exactly the kind of critical inquiry that is the staple of serious academics:
“Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota. 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?
“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,” he inquired.
“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?”
Klein’s testy response led to an online petition on June 2 on Change.org demanding that he be fired for his “extremely insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist response to his students’ request for empathy and compassion during a time of civil unrest.”
The petition got 20,000 signatures and percolated online. Business school dean Antonio Bernardo promptly suspended Klein and reassigned his classes to other professors. In a June 4 email to students and faculty the dean announced the suspension, accusing Klein of an “abuse of power” and “conduct that demonstrates a disregard of our core principles.”
Klein sued UCLA, the dean and the University of California regents on September 27, 2021. His lawsuit cites lost business opportunities because he was depicted by the school as a racist–namely his business as an expert witness dried up–and also libel or “false light” because the dean depicted his suspension as due to violating the UCLA code of conduct. Actually, no such determination had been made. There was no investigation at this point.
In his decision the judge in a legalistic way accused the dean of lying about Klein in his email. “A reasonable fact finder could conclude that the June 4, 2020 email implies a provably false assertion of fact. A reasonable fact finder could determine that the June 4, 2020 email implied that Plaintiff’s placement on administrative leave was disciplinary action for violating the identified ‘core principles’ of UCLA. Implying that Plaintiff’s administrative leave was a form of disciplinary action for his June 2, 2020 exchange or any alleged violation of UCLA’s core principles was false.”
Klein, whose suspension was lifted in September 2020 and has since returned to teaching, did not respond to a request for comment.
Neither did UCLA.
But Glenn Ricketts, spokesman for the National Association of Scholars, which promotes academic freedom, told the California Globe that he doubted the favorable decision for Klein would give pause to woke campus mobs elsewhere. “I can’t see this single case making much of a difference,’ he said via email. “These people are insular, arrogant and wield arbitrary power within their academic fiefdoms.”