Tuesday, December 10

Submission: Students must speak up in defense of professor Keith Fink


This post was updated June 10 at 12:43 p.m. 

The first time I saw a spot finally open up on the Communication Studies M172: “Free Speech in Workplace” waitlist was on April 1. Realizing my computer screen was not playing an April Fools’ Day prank, I put myself on the waitlist.

After reading a Daily Bruin article regarding enrollment problems in the winter quarter, I knew the odds would be stacked against any student looking for a permission-to-enroll number. Thankfully, I got off the waitlist and after nine weeks with professor Keith Fink, it was clear that the risk was definitely worth it.

Fink has inspired me to care about my legal rights and helped me learn from my peers. His Socratic teaching style fosters a classroom environment where all viewpoints are welcome and all students have a voice. There is no doubt in my mind that Fink is an excellent professor.

However, the communication studies department thinks otherwise and is trying to get rid of him. Since Fink is up for “excellence review” this academic year, the department has an opportunity to get rid of him if he is judged to be “not excellent.”

After Kerri Johnson became the department chair this year, Fink began to experience problems with teaching evaluations and class enrollment for the first time. Fink believes the unfair treatment is due to his conservative beliefs. Through their failure to be impartial, Johnson and department Vice Chair Greg Bryant have displayed a lack of academic integrity.

For example, Fink pointed out that the department has a responsibility to avoid having a “biased” faculty member evaluate him since their bias against him would affect their ability to produce an objective evaluation. But rather than choosing an unbiased faculty member, Johnson chose Bryant, whom Fink named “biased” at the start of the review process.

Likewise, Bryant’s review conducted winter quarter was deceptive and misleading. In two instances, he claimed that Fink calling on his students and noting their affiliation with specific campus organizations created a “hostile and unwelcoming learning environment.”

However, both students involved refuted Bryant’s mischaracterization and believe Fink meant no harm. Fink noted that Bryant never asked the students if they found the interaction to be hostile or unwelcome, and highlighted the fact both of these students even signed up for his current class.

Fink also discovered that Johnson lied about last year’s class size being 200 students. Johnson told Campus Reform that “Mr. Fink’s class has not been reduced in size this quarter, and has remained stable at 200 for several years.”

However, according to an email exchange between Fink and the previous department chair Tim Groeling, Johnson’s statements are false. In the exchange, Fink requested that the capacity of the class be increased to 250. Groeling agreed, on the condition that Fink’s teaching assistant could do the work “without adversely affecting his own academic progress.”

On May 17, Fink found out the results of a panel that held a vote on whether or not he met UCLA’s excellence standards. The vote was three each for “excellent” and “not excellent,” while three abstained.

Fink contends the faculty whom he named as “biased” did not recuse themselves from voting. Fink’s fate now lies solely in the hands of Laura Gómez, interim dean of social sciences, whom he also named “biased” at the outset of the review process.

UCLA getting rid of Fink would be a huge mistake, but students doing nothing about it would be an even bigger mistake. Fink goes out of his way to help and positively influence his students. He empowers his students to exercise their legal rights and to stand up for themselves and others.

Students should stand with Fink and urge UCLA to keep him in order to defend academic freedom and give future students the opportunity to learn from a prominent lawyer, legal scholar and inspirational speaker. With their biased and incomprehensible approach evaluating his performance, the department is misrepresenting Fink, his students and his classroom.

I transferred to UCLA in hopes of becoming a more open-minded and versatile person for a future career in law. After my first week with Fink, I immediately knew he would help me do just that. Fink genuinely cares about helping his students both inside and outside the classroom.

 

Students should support and express their solidarity for Fink by signing an online petition at keepfink.com and respectfully voicing their support for Fink to Gómez. If anyone in the communication studies department is “excellent,” it’s Professor Fink.

Tran is a third-year communication studies student.

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  • Eric Matthews

    Professor Fink was by far the most influential professor I’ve had at UCLA. I’m abhorred to see that one of our school’s best professors is being treated so poorly. UCLA must keep him.

    • 2014 Bruin

      Likewise…

  • Christian Seymore

    Professor Fink’s expertise in business and law is extremely motivational. The Socratic method of lecturing is used to challenge students and encourage voicing and scrutinizing of ideas.

  • Amanda Monroe

    Professor Fink is among the most articulate instructors i’ve had in my four years at UCLA. Sad to see him treated so poorly. I hope Dean Gomez comes to her senses, realizes the gravity of the situation, and elects to keep Professor Fink on campus. He is the best.

    • 2014 Bruin

      Agree COMPLETELY!

    • Michelle Calin

      I hope so too.

  • Michael McMahon

    Daniel Tran… Thank you for having the courage to speak out in favor of Professor Fink. You are a hero in my eyes. Keith is singularly the best professor I’ve had on campus and am glad students are speaking out in support of him.

  • Jason Arbitage

    Professor Fink is a one of a kind professor. He was very happy to help students outside of class, and was truly one of the few professors who cared more about his students than his job.

    • Kenneth

      Amen to that!

  • 2014 Bruin

    Professor Fink is the best. It’s disturbing to see the school try to kick him off campus. He was one of the best (if not THE best) professor I had during my time at UCLA. He needs to stay on campus…

  • Kyle Draper

    It really bums me out how Professor Fink is being treated. UCLA is better than this…

    I graduated in ’11, and in all my years of education, Fink’s classes were by far the most influential. It’s worth noting by the way, that I lean left politically.

    Professor Fink engaged students unlike any other professor and really taught students how to form their own opinions. His classes were exciting and engaging–students left his classes armed with real world skills and knowledge.

    -Kyle Draper ’11

  • Michelle Calin

    I am (was?) proud to consider UCLA to be my alma mater. My personal growth at the school is due in large part to the diversity of opinions I was exposed to in the late 80s and early 90s.

    If UCLA is heading in a direction where diversity of opinions are unwelcome, it’ll fail to reign as a top-tier school for much longer. Diversity of opinions is exactly what made is so great in the first place.

    • 3-4-2-1

      Unfortunately, because ALL (or most) colleges are leaning more and more left (and more “intolerant” – in a very strict sense), the ranking of UCLA won’t change that much. It might dip, but it will still be considered as a top school.

  • Darius Walker

    As a professor, Professor Fink provided a an extremely welcoming environment which encouraged students from all backgrounds and beliefs to voice their opinions, whether they were contradictory to the normal liberal narrative espoused inmost classes.

  • Kenneth

    Angela Davis once said, “Education should not mold the mind according to a prefabricated architectural plan. It should rather liberate the mind.”

    Professor Fink does EXACTLY that. UCLA should bend over backwards to keep him on campus — he is an influential professor who doesn’t teach students what to think, but rather HOW to think.

  • Adam Ghotra

    Professor Fink was one of the most inspiring professors I have ever had at the University. I truly feel sympathy for those who may not get the opportunity to be filled with wisdom.

  • Haniel Li

    Dr. Fink inspired me to want to pursue the law. He is willing to take his own personal time out of his valuable work day in order to help students with any problems they might have. I do not know of any other professors willing to help their students outside of the realm of academia. What a fantastic human being.

  • Colt Gordon

    Fink has more courage than any professor I have met. A true academic in an educational atmosphere that demands intellectual homogeneity. University should value diversity, and diversity in thought as well. Getting rid of Fink would point to UCLA’s lack of values in diversity, as well as their intolerance for free speech. Keep Fink.

  • Abigail Franklin

    Attending his lectures and really listening to what he has to say helped me a lot. His teachings are really practical and really helps you understand your rights and what to do in difficult situations.

  • Frank Murphy

    It is pretty disappointing that the head of the department chair, through her own bias toward the professor, is trying to give him the boot. Why does she not listen to the thousands of students that want him to stay as well as the thousands of students whose lives have been positively affected. It is almost as if she does not care about the students at all.

  • Check this out

    Professor Fink exemplifies what it means to be a UCLA student/alumni/bruin. We need him on campus!!

  • Molly Wang

    Professor Fink is such a passionate teacher and mentor. His class is beyond educational and empowering. All students should consider taking it. He respects all cultures and truly cares for his students. Most importantly, he is undoubtedly qualified and excellent in his job, and he deserves a fair treatment from the school.

  • Marissa Lara

    Glad that someone is publicizing the unfair treatment of Fink! Great article, great lecturer :)

  • Lauren Korbatov

    I graduated from UCLA School of Law in 2015 and am frankly disgusted with what UCLA has been doing during this past year to one of its most popular professors, Keith Fink.

    UCLA is not the bastion of academic excellence that it was in the past. Administrator-bureaucrats like Kerri Johnson and Jerry Kang are crushing free speech on campus and trying to root out a out a faculty member who they dislikes on ideological grounds. This is unacceptable. These actions stifle the very purpose of a university: to educate and expose students to the free flow of ideas.

    My family and I will withhold all future donations to UCLA until this matter is correctly resolved and the University ceases singling out conservative faculty on the basis of their viewpoint. I will implore my friends and colleagues to do the same.

  • Cynthia T.

    If I had a child at UCLA, was an alum such as myself, a donor or a potential donor I would be watching this situation very closely. UCLA is a public university which widely markets itself with its “Diversity” angle–yet it is now attempting to silence “Intellectual Diversity” by moving towards firing one of its few conservative, highly respected professors Keith Fink. Think twice UCLA before you lose lots of discerning students and donor support.

  • Leo Yang

    I’ve never met Professor Fink but he seems like a chill dude

  • Ryan_DavidsonUCLA

    It’s unbelievable UCLA has made such a big deal about this issue. It is obvious that all students who take his class enjoy it and learn from him, that Professor Fink himself enjoys teaching and also that he would like to continue teaching at UCLA. If there were any significant issues, which I am sure there are not as I was a student in both his classes, then the administration could simply bring those to light and discuss solutions. It is obvious that is not the case when looking at all the evidence. As someone who is graduating this year, this issue will be very decisive for me in determining the true colors of UCLA administrators.

  • Sam Sahagian

    The unprofessional and biased manner with which the Communication Studies department has dealt with Professor Fink is a shame. Professor Fink is one of the best professors I have had the pleasure of learning from at this school. Not only is he a great lecturer but he genuinely cares about his students as well. Although unorthodox, his teaching methods lend themselves to greater student participation. And his energizing personality matched with the Socratic dialogue that he fosters inside the classroom help to resonate concepts within students more so than traditional styles.

    This past quarter I waited two weeks on a wait list with no guarantee of being enrolled in the class (mostly because the department refused to give out PTEs and moved Fink’s class to a smaller room) and risked not being enrolled in a third class at all. At least 40 others did the same. For the first three weeks of class students sat on the auditorium stairs hoping for a chance to get into the class. Eventually, I made it off the waitlist, but others were less fortunate. If the sheer number of students who praise Professor Fink and continually try to take his classes does not speak to his teaching ability, then I do not know what does.

    Fink has been dealt a completely unfair hand. As is evidenced in the documents attached in the article, he has been faced with unrelenting biases against him from the Communication Studies Department at every turn. And it is clear that his political ideologies are playing a huge role in his excellence review. It is appalling and quite frankly ironic to think that our great university, which is supposed to be the marketplace for the free flow of ideas, is turning against its own values and working to oust the only teacher willing to stand up for those same values.

  • Alan Mendoza

    we shouldn’t be trying to get rid of a professor for his beliefs. colleges like ucla are meant to foster free speech and multiple points of views. i don’t agree with his views but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be able to teach, especially since it seems like he’s a good professor.

  • Jason

    Prof. Fink’s class is by far the best I’ve taken at UCLA. I can’t name a single prof. who cares more about students and would go very far out of his way to help them. As a liberal myself, I’ve always found Fink to be fair regardless of his political ideology. He teaches students how to approach controversial issues instead of what to think. The comm dept witch hunt – if true – is disgusting.

    As someone who got his degree but has been disillusioned by college education in general, Fink’s class is the only one which I found of value at UCLA. It truly adhered to the notion of learning for the sake of knowledge pursuit. This comes in stark contrast with the other classes which are all about churning out class materials in papers and exams.

  • Zarouhi Papazyan

    No professor or teacher I’ve had throughout my 15 years of schooling can compare to Professor Fink. He truly cares about the success of all of his students and is willing to go above and beyond to help them in their personal and professional development. Despite being a successful lawyer with a heavy workload, he sacrifices his time and welcomes his students to his office where he shows them what it’s like to work in the legal arena. His students, including myself, have gone onto top law schools due to his advice and guidance. Keith Fink is a gift to UCLA and its students. It’s a shame that the administration (that publicly prides itself for promoting diversity) is treating him poorly due to his views. I speak confidently on behalf of thousands of Professor Fink’s students. He has encouraged and motivated me throughout the years and I owe my success to his effective teaching and mentorship.

  • Zarouhi Papazyan

    No professor or teacher I’ve had throughout my 15 years of schooling can compare to Professor Fink. He truly cares about the success of all of his students and is willing to go above and beyond to help them in their personal and professional development. Despite being a successful lawyer with a heavy workload, he sacrifices his time and welcomes his students to his office where he shows them what it’s like to work in the legal arena. His students, including myself, have gone onto top law schools due to his advice and guidance. Keith Fink is a gift to UCLA and its students. It’s a shame that the administration (that publicly prides itself for promoting diversity) is treating him poorly due to his views. I speak confidently on behalf of thousands of Professor Fink’s students. He has encouraged and motivated me throughout the years and I owe my success to his effective teaching and mentorship.

  • Tiffany Kwok

    Professor Fink’s classes have enriched my understanding of current events, and given me the skills to critically analyse controversial issues from a legal perspective. Additionally, he is always happy to meet outside of class and has been a great professional mentor to me, as well as many other students. Professor Fink is truly one of the best professors at UCLA.

  • 3-4-2-1

    Unless the person who fired him is incredibly stupid, I believe there is something “behind the scenes” involved with personal or office politics (not left vs right, but manipulation, etc) that is in play here. There’s no way (as much as I want to believe it) that this is solely a situation of political differences (although it might have played a big role).