by Dena Leichnitz and Richard Cameron
While UCLA is known for being one of the best universities in the country, it is also known for being one of the most liberal as well. However, that is not to say there are no conservative students or professors on campus. You just don’t hear from them as often.
That is, until now.
Recently a communications professor. Keith Fink, came under attack, not for anything he had specifically done. It was because he was conservative. Or so a portion of the student body thinks.
“This is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, and it’s not a marketplace of ideas if they’re trying to get rid of somebody with a contradictory viewpoint.”
So true to the UCLA spirit, the students took out in protest and submitted a petition to Laura Gómez, the interim dean of UCLA Division of Social Sciences. They want Professor Fink to stay. The administration has other ideas. They want him gone mostly because of an interview he gave on Fox News alleging that the university is preventing students from taking his course.
The administration doesn’t like what I have to say,” Fink said by phone Friday. “I also support students’ basic rights to due process and the school doesn’t like that. … I show the students how their rights are violated. … I don’t believe in trigger warnings. I don’t walk on eggshells. I don’t believe in safe spaces. I run against that current.”
However, it is not the entire administration either. In fact, the reason Laura Gomez is in charge of making the final decision is because the committee that normally reviews such matters is in a tie – so now it is up to to Ms. Gomez to decide the fate of Professor Fink.
Keith Fink, a lawyer, has taught classes on free speech, contemporary issues, entertainment law and other subjects at UCLA for 10 years. Professor Fink’s ratings from his students, as shown in this screen capture from the website “Rate My Professors”, give him 4.6 out of 5. Of his teaching ability, comments from students include:
“He is strong on the constitution and encourages an open mind. Welcomes diverse opinions and ideas. We need more professors like him.”
“Keith Fink is one of the best Professors I’ve ever had at UCLA. It is troubling to me that at this time Fink is being forced out of UCLA. I don’t like what I’m hearing or reading on the subject and this prevalent fabrication of evidence. He has a mastery of the material, makes lectures interesting and interactive & makes himself readily available.”
“This Professor cares about all of his students. Takes time to answers your questions. Excellent class discussions.”
“Best class I have had. Professor extremely dymamic and smart and teaches in a unique pure Socratic style. Professor Fink went to UCLA and clearly loves the school and teaching. Very interesting material covered and I came away with a great understanding of the First Amendment.”
Fink is now coming up for review and it is looks like as an adjunct professor, he might not be asked back. Students plan to stop that if they can though, since they see it as an attack on free speech. About 25 students and supporters, carrying signs saying “Free speech is under attack” and “Keep your agenda out of our classroom,” gathered Friday on campus.
In the 60s, students fought to make their liberal ideals known, today others fight to make their conservative ideals known. In either case, the most important thing is that fight for ideals and ideas rages on in American universities. Academic freedom and an open marketplace of ideas. After all, isn’t that what higher learning is all about?