In June 2020, Gordon Klein, a longtime accounting lecturer at UCLA, made the news after a student emailed him asking him to grade black students more leniently in the wake of the “unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.”
Klein’s response was blunt. It stated in part:
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?
He went on:
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?
Thanks, G. Klein
Klein’s response enraged students. They organized a petition to remove him that quickly gained nearly 20,000 signatures, resulting in the professor being placed on leave and banned from campus. But the story got national attention, and a counter-petition signed by more than 76,000 people demanded his reinstatement. In less than three weeks, Klein was allowed to return to the classroom.
Yet his encounters with what UCLA calls Equity, Diversity and Inclusionwere far from over.