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UCLA professor on leave after refusing to cancel final exam following George Floyd's death

UCLA students launched a campaign to have a professor fired after they were upset with his email saying final exams would not be canceled

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A professor at the University of California Los Angeles is on leave after UCLA students launched a campaign to have him fired because he refused to cancel a final exam following George Floyd's death. Thousands signed a petition to have the UCLA professor fired because students didn't like the tone of his email announcing that the final exam would be administered in light of the nationwide protests.

Gordon Klein, a professor of accounting at the Anderson School of Management, was asked by a student if black students would be given special accommodations because of George Floyd's death and the subsequent protests. The student requested a "no-harm and shortened final exam, and extended deadlines for final assignments and projects in consideration of black students' well-being in light of nationwide protests against police brutality," according to the Daily Bruin.

Professor Klein allegedly responded with an email that did not sit well with the students.

"Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota," Klein reportedly said in an email. "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?"

Klein asked the student if "a white student" from Minneapolis "might be possibly even more devastated" by the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Klein then quoted Martin Luther King Jr., and asked, "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?"

A student took a screenshot of the email conversation and it circulated online.


Preet Bains, a UCLA senior, started a Change.org petition demanding the university fire Klein for his email.

"We ask for your support in having Professor Klein's professorship terminated for his extremely insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist response to his students' request for empathy and compassion during a time of civil unrest," the email reads. "His response to students was inappropriate, tone-deaf, and highly insensitive."

"The killing of George Floyd displayed a brutality that was so casual and so cruel, it reflected an utter dehumanization of Black life," the petition stated. "It is understandable, then, that students nationwide — especially Black students — are struggling to focus on their educations when there is massive sociopolitical unrest that concerns both them and the future of their plight in this country."

"He mocks the student for asking that he 'give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota,'" the petition reads.

"We, the students, refuse to support Gordon Klein any further and demand to see his employment terminated as soon as possible," the petition concludes.

As of Sunday afternoon, the petition has nearly 20,000 signatures.

According to an alleged letter from Antonio Bernardo, the dean of the Anderson School of Management, Klein is now on leave for the remainder of the quarter. The email states that associate professor Judson Caskey and professor Brett Trueman will take over Klein's courses.

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