UCLA basketball coach John Wooden won ten NCAA championships in 12 years, including seven in a row. Those days are long gone but UCLA is now a leader in hostility to conservatives and free speech. Consider UCLA’s campaign against professor Keith Fink, an academic John Wooden who as a UCLA student won three consecutive National Collegiate Debate championships.
Fink went on to complete law school then in 2008 returned to teach in the UCLA communications department. In that role he proved popular with students, particularly on the subject of free speech. On the other hand, his dedication to the First Amendment disturbed politically correct campus bosses, who restricted access to his classes.
Professor Fink handed out dozens of permission-to-enroll numbers but as Evolet Chiu wrote in the Daily Bruin, the PTE numbers were not honored for Fink’s Communication Studies 167: “Sex, Politics and Race: Free Speech on Campus.” Kerri Johnson, the new chair of the communication studies department, also restricted Fink’s class size for Communication Studies M172: Free Speech in the Workplace.
Jewish students Negeen Arasteh and Shahab Naimi sought out Fink’s classes because he is “one of the best teachers at UCLA,” according to Naimi, a pre-med student. Both took Fink’s popular “Sex, Politics and Race: Free Speech on Campus,” but new department chair Kerri Johnson denied them credit for the course.
Department bosses rigged Fink’s classroom evaluation with false statements and phony letters accusing him of being a racist and sexist, one from a student who did not even know the professor. As for official support, Fink told Frontpage, “Not a single administrator has reached out to me to discuss my issues either regarding the rigged and biased review conducted of me or the trampling of the rights of my students.” Their support remained strong.
Keep Fink at UCLA, a group of UCLA students and alumni, claimed the administration targeted Fink because of his conservative ideology. In late May, as the Daily Bruin reported, the group held a campus demonstration holding posters reading “Good grief keep Keith” and “Free speech is under attack,” as they chanted “Rethink, keep Fink.”
Student Jennifer Gittess said Fink’s classes were the best she had ever taken at UCLA, and that
“Everybody deserves the right to free speech, even professors.” Alumna Kiran Gill said Fink was an amazing professor loved by his students and that “It is really wrong what UCLA is doing.”
Fink had listed Johnson and professor Greg Bryant as biased against him but the pair refused to recuse themselves from his review. The faculty committee deadlocked 3-3, so the tiebreaker would go to Social Sciences Dean Laura Gomez, co-director of the UCLA’s Critical Race Studies Program. Fink had criticized her for funding biased courses and dared to call unnecessary UCLA’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
On June 29, Gomez terminated Fink on the grounds that his teaching did “not meet the standard of excellence.” The professor’s supporters were not fooled.
“If Fink is not excellent then I don’t know what is,” UCLA alumnus Yara Hejazi told the Daily Bruin. Like others, Hejazi couldn’t make sense of the termination but it’s a simple matter. Politically correct UCLA cannot abide a conservative champion of free speech.
Students and faculty could also be forgiven for believing that anti-Semitism was part of the mix. On that theme, consider the case of Danny Siegel, once president of UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association Council.
In May someone posted a photo of Siegel, in suit and tie, flashing a gang sign. Siegel told the Daily Bruin “the photo was taken more than a year ago and was obviously selectively leaked right now to have some sort of effect or create a conversation.” Despite an apology, Siegel became a target for abuse, accompanied by demands that he resign.
“When a white person throws up the gang sign, they’re basically making a mockery of the oppression that African Americans in hyper-segregated neighborhoods face,” African American studies student Robert Gardner told the Daily Bruin. “A lot of black Bruins are extremely upset at this appropriation of our culture … that’s derived out of anti-black racism.”
Gardner was also quoted in a tweet from Ropan Bharanidaran that “when a Black person, my cousin, puts up a gang sign, they’re six feet under.” For Kosi Ogbuli of the Afrikan Student Union, the sign is “not something that should be mocked or even thought about by somebody that is a student leader.”
Student Joe Jacobson commented that Siegel has a “history silencing women of color to cover up misogyny and prejudice.” And so on. UCLA administrators did not step up to defend Siegel’s right to free speech, and nobody attempted to conduct a rational debate.
As it happened, Siegel’s Bruins United failed to win a plurality of the 14 student council seats. That was the “effect” of the leaked photo.
Robert Gardner, who accused Siegel of racism, urged the new student council to declare UCLA a sanctuary campus for those who feel vulnerable under the Trump administration, including Muslims and those in the country illegally.
As Keith Fink supporter Kiran Gill said, “It is really wrong what UCLA is doing.”
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