UCLA lecturer on leave after complaints of 'woefully racist response' to request to postpone exam

"Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment," an email attributed to lecturer Gordon Klein said.
Image: UCLA
Students sit on the lawn near Royce Hall at UCLA on April 25, 2019.Jae C. Hong / AP file

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By Dennis Romero

A UCLA lecturer was placed on leave after students criticized his response to a request to postpone a final exam because of protests over the death of George Floyd, the university said Tuesday.

The UCLA Anderson School of Management said in a statement that accounting lecturer Gordon Klein's "classes have been reassigned to other faculty" as reports about his alleged conduct are being reviewed.

Klein said he was following the orders of his direct supervisor when he denied the request, saying he has in the past extended or even eliminated final exams under extraordinary circumstances, including when students had to be out of the country.

Students have posted criticism on Twitter and elsewhere about the way Klein rejected the student's request. On Change.org, more than 20,000 endorsements have been gathered in an effort to get him fired.

The Change.org petition page includes what is said to be the email that Klein sent as a response to the postponement request. He did not challenge its veracity.

"Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota," the posted email says.

"Remember that MLK famously said that people should not be evaluated based on the 'color of their skin,'" the email reads. "Do you think that your request would run afoul of MLK's admonition?"

Full coverage of George Floyd's death and protests around the country

The petition calls it an "extremely insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist response to his students' request for empathy and compassion during a time of civil unrest."

Klein said he has "always provided compassionate treatment for students who face unique stresses and situations during final exams."

Klein, who said he also teaches a course in law and public policy, said, "I sympathize with anyone who at any time feels anguish or pain."

Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, called the email "offensive" and said, "It's important as educators we consider the whole student."

Klein said the student who requested the postponement is not black.

"In 39 years of teaching, there are hundreds of students who can attest that I have given them compassion, encouragement and support," he said.