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The Ferguson Law Exam Question That Ended Up Being So Controversial the Prof. Apologized for It

“I clearly underestimated and misjudged the impact of this question on you."

UCLA Law Professor Robert Goldstein ignited controversy by placing a Ferguson-centered question on a law exam. (Image source: University of Calif.)

A University of California Los Angeles law professor apologized to his students this week after a Ferguson-centered question on an exam ignited controversy.

Professor Robert Goldstein asked students to consider the "burn this bi**h down" remarks made by Michael Brown's step dad after the announcement of the controversial grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, Fox News reported.

After learning of the Ferguson grand jury decision, Michael Brown's stepfather yells, "Burn this bi**h down." (Image source: Screen grab) After learning of the Ferguson grand jury decision, Michael Brown's stepfather yells, "Burn this bi**h down." (Image source: Screen grab)

The question on the exam then asked the students to imagine themselves advising the prosecutor on "whether to seek an indictment against" him for inciting violence.

“[As] a recent hire in the office, you are asked to write a memo discussing the relevant First Amendment issues in such a prosecution. Write the memo," the question read, according to Fox News.

That question resulted in student complaints and online scrutiny. A writer at a popular legal blog wrote that it was "racially insensitive and divisive."

UCLA Law Professor Robert Goldstein ignited controversy by placing a Ferguson-centered question on a law exam. (Image source: University of Calif.) UCLA Law Professor Robert Goldstein ignited controversy by placing a Ferguson-centered question on a law exam. (Image source: University of Calif.)

In an email, Goldstein ultimately apologized to his students.

“I clearly underestimated and misjudged the impact of this question on you. I realize now that it was so fraught as to have made this an unnecessarily difficult question to respond to at this time. I am sorry for this,” he wrote, according to Fox News.

[sharequote align="center"]“I clearly underestimated and misjudged the impact of this question on you."[/sharequote]

“As with many of my exams in this upper-level elective class, questions may be drawn from current legal issues in the news or from recent court reports. This helps make the exam educational and relevant,” he continued.

“I recognize, though, that the recent disturbing events and subsequent decisions in Ferguson and New York make this subject too raw to make it a useful opportunity,” Goldstein added.

Correction: This story has been amended to reflect that Michael Brown's step-dad made the controversial "burn this bi**h down" remarks and not Michael Brown Sr.

Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

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