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Jacques: Here come the thought police

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Accounting professor Gordon Klein is at risk of losing his job. 

The University of California, Los Angeles teaching veteran and Detroit native informed a student via email that he wouldn’t alter his final exam schedule or grading policies for black students in light of the protests following George Floyd’s death.

Klein's response was in line with the university’s faculty policies. But that didn’t stop the backlash. 

The professor, who has taught at UCLA for nearly 40 years and hasn’t received a prior complaint for discrimination, is now on mandatory leave after a university dean labeled his response as an “abuse of power” and criticized Klein’s tone. 

Hundreds of people begin their march along 9 Mile Road  in Ferndale on Saturday, June 6, 2020.

A Change.org petition is also circulating, demanding UCLA fire Klein and has attracted more than 20,000 signatures. 

Klein is a victim of the political correctness mob, which is growing more powerful by the day. 

And if you value the free expression and debate of ideas, you should be concerned. 

While this kind of intolerance and over-sensitivity on college campuses has become an alarming trend in recent years — with implications to free speech and basic constitutional rights — it’s spilled into workplaces. 

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It’s having real consequences, as professionals who offend the woke see their jobs vanish. They are toppling as fast as historic statues.

Last weekend, two prominent newspaper editors got ousted, largely by their own disgruntled coworkers. New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet and Philadelphia Inquirer executive editor Stan Wischnowski are now out of two of the most high-profile print media jobs in the country. Bennet erred in running an op-ed by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who wrote in defense of sending troops to cities combating violent protests. Given Cotton's political standing, it’s hardly a fringe opinion, even though it may be despised by the social justice warriors in the newsroom.

FILE - This June 22, 2019 file photo shows the exterior of the New York Times building in New York.

Bennet ostensibly resigned over a “breakdown” in editing, according to the Times’ publisher.

Wischnowski, who’d been at his paper for two decades, stepped down over a headline that offended many on staff. 

Tom Jones, a senior media writer at Poynter, says it’s important to consider whether these banishments happened because of faulty journalism (improper editing or fact checking) or because of the messages themselves. If it’s the latter, “obviously, that’s an issue we should all be concerned about it,” Jones says.

Greg Lukianoff, co-author of “Coddling of the American Mind,” predicted the dangers of protecting college students from ideas that made them uncomfortable. He’s also the president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which promotes civil liberties on college campuses, and is defending Klein, the California professor. 

“Coddling” first ran as a 2015 cover story in The Atlantic, while Bennet served as that publication’s editor, and was turned into a book in 2018.  

“It was obvious to us this would be bleeding into the off-campus environment,” Lukianoff says. 

The strict conformity of these cultural purifiers, he argues, has led to deepened polarization and tribalism, which is making a tense political moment even more volatile. 

“It makes the bubble of the echo chamber ever thicker,” Lukianoff says. 

If we are no longer a country of individuals who can freely debate ideas — even uncomfortable and unpopular ones — who are we?


Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques