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George Floyd protests: UCLA lecturer suspended after refusing lenient marking for black students

‘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,’ Gordon Klein wrote

James Crump
Wednesday 10 June 2020 18:06 BST
George Floyd protests: the understated peaceful side of the movement

A lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has been placed on leave, after students criticised his response to a request that asked for him to provide leniency to black students during final exams, amid the George Floyd protests.

Accounting lecturer, Gordon Klein, was put on leave and placed under police protection, after his emails were posted online and subsequently angered students, according to The Daily Mail.

Mr Klein has been suspended for three weeks, and his “classes have been reassigned to other faculty”, according to a statement by the School of Management on Tuesday.

A petition has also been set up, which has so far attracted more than 20,000 signatures, that is calling for Mr Klein to be removed from his job completely.

The incident occurred after a group of students, who described themselves as “non-black allies”, wrote to Mr Klein, and asked him to extend deadlines for projects, and to provide leniency to African American students, during their final exams.

They wrote that because of the trauma black students have faced in the last couple of weeks, “we have been placed in a position where we must choose between actively supporting our black classmates or focusing on finishing up our spring quarter”, according to Inside Higher Education.

“We believe that remaining neutral in times of injustice brings power to the oppressor and therefore staying silent is not an option.”

They added that their request was “not a joint effort to get finals cancelled for non-black students, but rather an ask that you exercise compassion and leniency with black students in our major”.

Their request came amid protests in every state in the US, in opposition to police brutality against African Americans, following the death of George Floyd.

Mr Floyd died after being detained by Derek Chauvin, who at the time was a Minneapolis police officer, but has since been fired and charged with second degree murder and manslaughter.

Mr Klein replied to their letter and said that he did not think their request was fair to all of his students, and quoted civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.

“Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota,” his email read.

“Remember that MLK famously said that people should not be evaluated based on the ‘colour of their skin,’” Mr Klein wrote. “Do you think that your request would run afoul of MLK’s admonition?”

He added that his teaching assistant is from Minneapolis, and suggested that a white student from the city might be badly affected by Mr Floyd’s death.

“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.”

In a separate email, that he sent to his entire class, Mr Klein said that he was unable to complete the request, as it did not fall within university rules.

“Some students have asked that the final exam be delayed or changed or waived altogether,” he wrote. “Life deals all of us challenges and I have no doubt that many of you are facing some now.”

Mr Klein added: “In a perfectly fair world, I would be able to take these individual factors into account and perhaps modify the terms in our course syllabus, but my understanding of university rules is that, with rare exceptions, I should not.”

Emilia Martinez, who was not part of the group who initially wrote to Mr Klein, posted the emails online after she was shown them by a friend.

“I believed this information was important to bring to light because as a non-black POC, I believe it is my duty to amplify my black peers’ voices,” she told the Washington Free Beacon.

“I felt this was a very unreasonable response to a very valid request, and decided that the professor should be held properly accountable.”

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