This is the state of American academia today: Gordon Klein has taught courses in business law, tax law, and financial analysis at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management for no fewer than forty years. He is a respected academic who has been on CNBC and quoted in the Wall Street Journal for his economic expertise. But now, after being suspended, he has filed suit in California Superior Court against the university regents over his suspension. Klein has a good case: He was suspended from teaching at UCLA for the crime of refusing to discriminate and treat his black students differently from how he treated others.
“I was suspended from my job,” Klein explained, “for refusing to treat my black students as lesser than their non-black peers.” His ordeal began on June 2, 2020, when “a non-black student in my class on tax principles and law emailed me to ask that I grade his black classmates with greater ‘leniency’ than others in the class.”
In a sane society, a “non-black student” who demanded that black students be graded with greater “leniency” than others would be castigated as a racist. But in the Left’s funhouse mirror ethics, war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, and treating students differently based on race is racial justice.
The student wrote to Klein: “We are writing to express our tremendous concern about the impact that this final exam and project will have on the mental and physical health of our Black classmates.” Klein believes that the student was using an online racial justice form letter: “There was no project in this class, and it was unclear to me who the ‘we’ in this case was. I suspected the student simply used a form letter he found online and neglected to change the subject.”
The letter went on to claim that black students were too traumatized by racism to do well on the final exam: “The unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the life-threatening actions of Amy Cooper and the violent conduct of the [University of California Police Department] have led to fear and anxiety which is further compounded by the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on the Black community. As we approach finals week, we recognize that these conditions place Black students at an unfair academic disadvantage due to traumatic circumstances out of their control.” It concluded: “This is not a joint effort to get finals canceled for non-Black students, but rather an ask that you exercise compassion and leniency with Black students in our major.”
Klein notes that “in a subsequent conversation with a university investigator,” the student who wrote the letter made it clear that he “intended that the requested adjustments apply to Black students and not the class generally.” To strengthen the case, the student invoked the Anderson School of Management’s “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” agenda, which stresses that a “commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion as fundamental to achieving Anderson’s mission.”
Breaking ranks with the vast majority of academics today, Klein dares to note the Orwellian dishonesty of this boilerplate: “academia has so corrupted these words that they are now hollowed out corpses devoid of their original meaning. Today, ‘diversity’ means ideological homogeneity. And ‘inclusion’ means the exclusion of some from a taxpayer-supported university to favor others deemed more deserving of an educational springboard to prosperity.”
In line with this wrongthink, Klein responded to the student’s email with withering sarcasm: “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? Also, do you have any idea if any students are from Minneapolis? I assume that they are probably especially devastated as well. I am thinking that a white student from there might possibly be even more devastated by this, especially because some might think that they’re racist even if they are not.” To make matters even worse, Klein then added Martin Luther King’s words about people being judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.
“By that evening,” Klein notes, “students were calling for my job. Soon after, they circulated a petition demanding I be fired; within a day or two, nearly 20,000 had signed — without knowing anything about me or taking into account, as far as I could tell, the implications of non-color-blind grading. I was attacked for being a white man and ‘woefully racist.’ On June 5, three days after I was first emailed, I was suspended amid a growing online campaign directed at me.”
Then came the death threats. One email Klein received read: “You are a typical bigoted, prejudiced and racist dirty, filthy, crooked, arrogant Jew kike mother f**ker! Too bad Hitler and the Nazis are not around to give you a much needed Zyklon B shower.”
In response, Anderson’s Dean Antonio Bernardo not only suspended Klein, but actually banned him from going on campus. Anderson School tweeted: “Respect and equality for all are core principles at UCLA Anderson. It is deeply disturbing to learn of this email, which we are investigating. We apologize to the students who received it and to all those who have been as upset and offended by it as we are ourselves.”
Ultimately the school retreated from this absurdity and reinstated Klein. Nonetheless, the brouhaha has led him to lose several consulting jobs with firms afraid of being associated with a “racist.” This has been a serious blow for Klein; he explained that losing these jobs “cost me the lion’s share of my annual income.”
Klein noted the larger implications of his case: “This is not just about principle. It’s also about the United States’ ability to compete. Anderson, like elite business schools across the country, is supposed to be training the next generation of innovators. The people who will muster the imagination and fortitude to create life-changing technologies and lead groundbreaking multinationals. If we don’t maintain our standards — if we’re not allowed to push all of our students to do their very best — we will be disarming unilaterally. I refuse to do that, and I’m convinced, this recent episode notwithstanding, that most of my students and colleagues feel the same way.”
Maybe they do. But they’ve been cowed into silence. Those who are determined to ensure that America cannot and will not be able to compete are in charge nearly everywhere. His ordeal at UCLA illustrates how insane American academia has become. But the insane are deeply entrenched, have huge financial endowments, and have the culture on their side. This problem won’t be solved anytime soon.