There is a tragically moving scene at the end of the fabulous epic film Spartacus, where we see that the Romans have crucified thousands of gladiators along the main road of Appian Way, for as long as the eye can see. That scene came to mind when I heard news that UCLA’s Anderson School of Management has suspended Professor Gordon Klein for three months. This outrage hit home for me a bit sharper than do most other daily outrages, as we watch our Constitutional rights and freedoms come under ever-increasing attack and threat. It is a very slow incursion into our lives, baby step by baby step, but — alongside our ever-waning Second Amendment rights — we literally are losing our First Amendment rights to speak, publish, and write legitimate thoughts without peril.
I attended and earned my juris doctor degree at UCLA Law School nearly 30 years ago. Those years were an academic joy for me, even though the UCLA Law faculty was, and still is, more than 90 percent leftist. We all knew who the two or three political conservatives on the faculty were because they were such a minority that you easily could remember their few names. Only one was overtly conservative: Wesley Liebler, professor of Mergers and Acquisitions. Gawd, was he ever politically incorrect! He was so openly unabashed that even the conservatives among us winced and blushed. But the other faculty conservatives knew better, and they understood that the way at UCLA Law School for a faculty member to signal deeply held conservative views was simply to say that he or she does not discuss politics in our class. That was the dead giveaway. If he or she were to the left, why not indoctrinate? So our Crim Law professor constantly preached against the death penalty. Our Con Law professor propagandized endlessly for the ACLU. Our Torts Law professor wore red shirts, advocated Marxist principles, and taught so little about actual torts law that we all had to spend another $50-$100 at the law school bookstore to buy third-party study guides and course guides to teach ourselves the law for the final exam. It was nonstop leftist propaganda, mixed in with some really decent assigned case law readings that allowed independent thinkers among us to draw our own conclusions and to argue them out in class. Only the conservatives on the faculty kept their views quiet, personal, and to themselves. And they got tucked away into niches of business law like “Real Estate Transactions,” “Mergers & Acquisitions,” and “Accounting and the Law.”
I loved law school so much, politics aside. I was now back in graduate school after having served as a congregational Orthodox rabbi for a decade and having lived two years in Israeli-liberated Samaria, in the northern region of what Israel’s enemies call the “West Bank,” where I co-founded a new “Jewish settlement” in 1985 that today is a city that numbers so many thousands of Jewish residents that it will remain part of Israel forever. So now I was back in grad school, with rabbinic ordination and a graduate degree in American history tucked under each arm, learning all kinds of new stuff, and I loved it. I read assigned cases — I devoured them — and loved attending classes where professors and students analyzed the facts, the law, the application, distinguishing why one case came out one way and another came out another, all with an eye to plying the trade some day in the real world.
I think I took more classes than did anyone else in the history of the law school — indeed, of any law school. That is, even though we all had to take a certain number of courses, I signed up each term for an extra two courses because I just wanted to learn everything they had to teach. If Jeopardy! were created exclusively for law students, I would have emerged as the biggest winner ever because I learned everything. One of my favorite courses — and they almost all were my favorites, even the ones taught by leftists — was “Accounting and the Law” taught by Professor Gordon Klein, on loan to the UCLA law school from their business school. Prof. Klein understood that we were law students, not M.B.A. candidates, so he presented much of the material in a more digestible form. There never was any politics in his class. Not an ounce. Like, how political can it get when analyzing a balance sheet, fixed assets, calculating present and future values, or reviewing GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles)? Prof. Klein did not indoctrinate nor even discuss politics in his class. We were dealing with numbers. Does the number “7” lean to the right? Does “4” lean to the left? Is “9” actually a “6” before or after a gender change? Is an “8” really a “0” that now realizes it is bisexual? Like, who even would think about numbers that way?
It was such a wonderful class that I remained in touch with Prof. Klein, as I did with many of my law professors, for a number of years after graduating. Approximately five years after I finished at UCLA, and after my year of clerking for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, I found myself handling the litigation matter that would emerge as my “career case” — the “piece-of-[junk]” case that had absolutely no chance in the world but that turned out so successfully that I became a legend in certain litigation circles. It was, of all things, a massive litigation that had to do with 22 million pounds of frozen broccoli in Guatemala, allegations of breached contracts, defamation, business fraud, many other legal issues, even a wild sex scandal that involved one of my Guatemalan plaintiff clients’ former partners and the Monica-Lewinsky-lookalike married wife of someone on the defendants’ side — and long hours of litigating over and analyzing ugly worms called “aphids” and “thrips” that, with the FDA’s blessings, crawl up and down the broccoli you ingest. Enough said. A key piece of that litigation war plan entailed my turning for counsel to my former “Law and Accounting” professor and asking Prof. Klein to help me figure out what the case was worth in its totality. By the time he was done with his calculations and analyses, we found ourselves suing for many millions more than we realized we had been harmed. He was great, super.
So I was deeply dismayed when I read and heard this past week that UCLA just suspended their wonderful Professor Gordon Klein for three months because he responded without sufficient sensitivity to business school students asking him to change his final exam rubric from the standard approach to a “No Harm” rubric by which only good grades would count to raise a student’s GPA but not bad grades (or something like that) — and, by the way, would he also extend all deadlines and make the test easier? Prof. Klein responded as follows, in pertinent 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? Also do you have any idea if any students are from Minneapolis? I assume that they probably are 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 they’re racist even if they are not. My TA [Teacher’s Aide] is from Minneapolis, so if you don’t know, I can probably ask her. Can you guide me on how you think I should achieve a “no-harm” outcome since our sole course grade is from a final exam only? One last thing strikes me: 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?
Look, let’s call it fair and square: I would not have handled it the way Prof. Klein did. Maybe because I also am a rabbi, I try to manifest a certain sensitivity for students in certain situations that perhaps other professors understandably do not. I also want my every student to feel safe and open in my class to learn all that I can teach. So, if I had gotten such a request, I would have urged and even encouraged the student to bring the request to the appropriate dean, whether dean of students or of academic affairs or whatever, and I thereupon would have agreed to follow whatever guidance the dean would offer. Yes, I may have my own personal thoughts on how exams should be treated during times of external chaos, but I am not running the school, just doing my very human best to add to the school’s and my students’ success. So I would have deferred to the deans and followed their guidance.
Prof. Klein, on the other hand, handled it his way, with a bit less aplomb. But, for goodness sakes, he did not deserve to be suspended! His response was well within the realm of an acceptable response. A touch of snark? OK, yeah. So what? These are graduate students in a business management school. Wait till they get their M.B.A.s and work in the real world. When I practiced law at Jones Day’s Los Angeles office, there were at least two partners who were vicious. One played a role in driving a litigation associate to suicide. I was there; I know. So they held a 30-minute memorial to her, counseled the partner, and he remained in the same role, ever abusive as always. When I was at the Los Angeles office of Akin Gump, one litigation partner was deeply abusive and another was an outright anti-Semite. What was I going to do — ask for special sensitivity? No. I sucked it up. I avoided the abusive one like the plague he was — social distancing, I kept two floors away from him — and the Jew-hater tended to avoid including me on his litigation teams, and I thanked G-d for the blessed insult. That is how life works in the real world when they pay real money for real productivity and do not have trigger warnings and safe spaces, with cocoa and Play-Doh, to cope with microaggressions. And, by the way, in the real world the aggressions are not always micro.
Gordon Klein is a great professor, a caring professor, never brings politics into his class (and you now know what that means). He teaches accounting and has been doing it successfully for nearly 40 years. The guy wanted to give his students grades that reflect their full term output, and the nature of the grading system in most graduate courses is that the term grade comes down to the final exam. There are no points for “plays well with others.” In a world of fairness, if a professor decides to hand out a boatload of nice grades only, he or she actually is rewarding a student who may have been absent all term and never studied at all. It is a dilemma. I would have endeavored to avoid that muddle by letting the dean seat the guidance; Prof. Klein jumped in.
Throughout America, the Romans of the Academia Cancel Culture now have erected crucifixes all along academia’s Appian Way, as far as the eye can see. They are crucifying conservative professors one by one. When Prof. Klein was suspended at UCLA, one student (not his student) tweeted, “Another one bites the dust.” I wonder whether she can interpret a balance sheet or knows the difference between GAAP and The Gap. Her day will come when she gets her B.A. — or, more deservedly, her B.S. — from UCLA and thereupon has to compete in the job market. The temporarily suspended Gordon Klein gets a reprieve in three months; others do not. Here is a blog post by Prof. William Jacobson of Cornell Law School, where an effort is afoot to get him fired. Also at Cornell, the Cancel Culture is aiming to crucify Prof. David Collum, a distinguished professor of chemistry. Adjunct Prof. Susan Crockford was denied academic reappointment at the University of Victoria, where she has taught for 15 years, when she published her scientific finding that polar bears are thriving despite climate change. That is one way to settle the science.
This is what Stalin did, what Hitler did, what Mao did. At some point in a fascist, communist, Nazi, or other totalitarian repressive society, in order to institutionalize a nationwide mindset built around a set of defining principles from which no deviation is permitted, the authorities start canceling and removing those in academia and among the intelligentsia who do not follow in lockstep goose step. One by one, they take them out. Despite leftist protestations about “academic freedom,” they actually remove thinkers who do not perfectly align to the narrative. It is terrible. Nazi Germany had no use for science professors who refused to teach and profess that racial science is true, that Jews and Blacks are born genetically as subhumans. Even though Hitler was a short, brown-haired, brown-eyed Austrian, he professed he was an Aryan, and what professor who wanted to keep his job or head disagreed? In the Soviet Union, they canceled out Prof. Vitali Rubin, a world famous Sinologist, expert on Chinese literature and culture, when he declared a desire to move to Israel. In China, they force-marched professors to their deaths as part of the great Cultural Revolution.
It starts in academia, as the totalitarians literally clear out all dissenting thinkers and thoughts, crafting a monolithic mindset. Until now, their main tactic has been to deny tenure in the first place to conservatives. Accordingly, many conservatives hide their views for seven to 10 years until they get tenure. Now comes the next step: to cancel out those who somehow got through. As an American citizen I ask myself, “How is it that this burgeoning dictatorship has such power even though the entire dictatorship depends completely on government funding?” We the taxpayers, we the people, pay the tens of billions that empower this anti-American system. We not only supported it under Democrats. But it has been funded and enabled equally during the Republican presidencies of Reagan (1980 and 1984), First Bush (1988), Second Bush (2000 and 2004), and yes even under Trump–De Vos — six of the last 10 cycles — and still the universities, for 40 years, have crafted a leftist totalitarian regime, now manifested in two generations of their graduates, with federal funding right under the noses of the president of the United States and the secretaries of education.
The crucifixion of decent scholars in academia has got to stop — or the tens of billions flowing in the pipeline to support it has got to stop.