Gordon Klein, an accounting professor at the Anderson School of Management, was placed on mandatory leave this summer after an email was shared on social media, in which he rejected a student’s request of special accommodations for black peers, in light of the protests over the death of George Floyd in custody of Minnesota police.
“Do you know the names of the classmates that are black? How can I identify them since we’ve been having online classes only?” Klein wrote in the email, according to an online petition calling for his dismissal. Over 21,000 supporters over the past three months signed the petition, which deemed Klein’s behavior “insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist.”
“Are there any students that may be of mixed parentage, such as half black-half Asian?” Klein continued. “What do you suggest I do with respect to them? A full concession or just half?”
Asking if any students in the class were from Minneapolis, Klein said he assumed that “they probably are especially devastated as well,” especially if they’re white, because “some might think that they’re racist even if they are not.”
“One last thing strikes me: Remember that MLK famously said that people should not be evaluated based on the ‘color of their skin,'” he continued, citing the monumental “I Have a Dream” speech. “Do you think that your request would run afoul of MLK’s admonition?”
According to Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-profit advocacy group for freedom of speech on college campuses, Klein has returned to work as the UCLA closed an investigation against him in late July. It is not immediately clear why the university had not announced Klein’s exoneration at that time.
A spokesperson for School of Management confirmed that Klein now “continues with his regular duties,” adding that the university has “general procedures and principles that uphold freedom of expression and freedom of intellectual inquiry,” and is willing to create a “learning, working, and living environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.”
“We’re happy to confirm that Gordon Klein is teaching once again, and hope that in the future UCLA will consider its constitutional obligations before throwing educators out of the classroom,” said FIRE’s Katlyn Patton, who penned a letter to UCLA in June in defense of Klein. “UCLA investigated his ‘tone’ in an attempt to quell public backlash. But regardless of how many people demand his firing, UCLA cannot justify using that anger to erode Gordon’s rights.”