Tuesday, March 31

Students protest department’s evaluation of lecturer Keith Fink

Laura E. Gómez, interim dean of the UCLA College Division of Social Sciences and professor of law, will make the final decision about Keith Fink's status as a communication studies lecturer. (Miriam Bribiesca/Photo editor)

Students are planning a protest demanding the university retain Keith Fink as a lecturer in the communication studies department.

Keep Fink at UCLA, a group of UCLA students, alumni and activists, organized the protest, because they believe the administration is mistreating Fink’s excellence review. The protest will take place Friday on the lawn adjacent to Murphy Hall.

Fink, who teaches courses on free speech and entertainment law, is currently going through a lecturer evaluation process called an excellence review. The departmental review usually takes place between a lecturer’s 16th and 18th quarter teaching and determines whether or not a lecturer’s contract will be terminated.

Laura E. Gómez, interim dean of the UCLA College Division of Social Sciences and professor of law, will make the final decision.

Fink has publicly said he thinks he is being treated unfairly by the the communication studies department because of his conservative ideology. Fink gave an interview on Fox News earlier this quarter to express his frustration regarding the way his review is being handled. He said he thinks the review committee is biased against him and unqualified to review him.

For example, Fink said he sent the communication studies department a list of faculty who are biased against him, which he is allowed to do as part of the process. However, the department still appointed a faculty member on his list to review one of his classes.

UCLA spokesperson Brian Haas said he thinks the instructor review process is comprehensive and fair.

“(Fink) has been afforded the full due process considerations mandated by the collective bargaining agreement and that every lecturer undergoing this review receives,” he said.

As part of the excellence review, a committee of nine tenured faculty members in the communication studies department voted on whether or not Fink met the criteria. Three people voted in favor, three voted against and three abstained in their decision.

Fink said he thinks the administration twists and makes up rules.

“The actual governing document called (Memorandum of Understanding) for Unit 18 does not have a part of the process where it goes to Dean Gómez,” he said.

However, Greg Bryant, vice chair of the communication studies department, said Gómez will have to make the final decision on Fink’s employment as it is part of the university policy.

“The department is not making up any rules,” he said. “Decisions on continuing lecturers are made by the dean.”

Several students in Fink’s class said they think Fink is being treated unfairly because he criticizes the administration. For instance, Fink has questioned Title IX officials’ qualifications and criticized the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Tara Murphy, a spokesperson for Keep Fink at UCLA and a second-year political science and sociology student, said she thinks the administration’s actions against Fink infringe on his First Amendment rights.

Protesters will deliver a list of demands to Gómez on Friday, according to a Keep Fink at UCLA press release. Murphy said the group’s priorities are making sure Fink’s job remains secure and that he does not experience negative consequences for exercising his First Amendment rights.

Fink said he thinks the committee found he was excellent based on their criteria, but they are still trying to find reasons to fire him.

“Not only am I excellent but I am the most excellent teacher in the department,” Fink said.

[Related: Communication studies lecturer claims restrictions on class enrollment]

Several students said they think Fink is an excellent professor who is well-liked by his students.

“Fink is a wonderful teacher and a great person for how much he cares about UCLA and his students,” Murphy said.

Mick Mathis, a fourth-year philosophy student, said he thinks Fink is a fantastic professor because he lectures students in addition to working as a lawyer.

“It is pretty disgusting that the university would treat him this way,” he said. “The university does not care about the students pushing for him.”

Fink said he has asked for an extension in order to submit an optional response letter to Gómez and added Gómez should receive the letter by Friday.

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  • Kenneth

    “A fourth-year philosophy student, said he thinks Fink is a fantastic professor because he lectures students in addition to working as a lawyer.”. The Daily Bruin cannot write. This is the most useless paraphrasing imaginable! ” is a good professor because he lectures”. That’s deplorable sentence work. Circular reasoning.

  • Eric Matthews

    Professor Fink is one of the best Professors I’ve ever had. Thousands of students love him. The University’s actions are disgraceful.

  • http://paulboylan.wordpress.com Paul Nicholas Boylan

    A competent and skilled lecturer should be permitted to remain regardless of his or her political views. That seems basic to our democracy. We are watching these events very closely.

  • CB Fouroeight

    As a long-time progressive leftist, who in 1971 attended a free speech teach-in on the campus of UCLA, i am appalled at the creeping orthodoxy of the new left there, where faith is now demanded before knowledge is given. That is the antithesis of the mission at UCLA. Knowledge comes before faith and understanding, without that, there is no true empathy or tolerance. Let the man teach!

  • 2014 Bruin

    Very strange that UCLA will do anything to keep Professor Piterbreg on campus. He’s a faculty member whose conduct (sexually harassing graduate students) was objectively disgraceful to the university. UCLA even requires him to teach undergraduate courses that the vast majority of student don’t want to take simply because they’re taught by Piterberg the Predator.

    By contrast, UCLA will do anything they can do keep Professor Fink off campus. He’s a faculty member who’s never been embroiled in a disgraceful scandal, but isn’t afraid to walk on egg shells or teach in a manner inconsistent with the school’s progressive ideology. The school (primarily his department chair Kerri Johnson, who seemingly has the backing of everyone above her) first limited his class size to reduce student exposure to him, and now is trying to prevent him from continuing to teach. Professor Fink is extremely popular and student demand for his classes far exceeds capacity; students want to take these classes simply because they’re taught by Fantastic Fink.

    The only plausible explanation for this hypocrisy is that Professor Piterberg conforms to the administration’s ideological values, while Professor Fink is not afraid to espouse competing viewpoints. The school wants to clean house of faculty they dislike, which weakens the intellectual diversity on this campus. Disgraceful.

    • Exit Pursued By A Bear

      Sorry 2014 Bruin, but actually the difference in treatment has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with extreme levels of protection for tenured faculty and nearly non-existent protection for adjunct non-tenure track lecturers. You can make an argument that within the realm of lecturer decisions Fink may be treated unfairly, but tenure track vs non-tenure track is really an apples to oranges comparison. Why it is so different for tenured faculty vs lecturers is another area of serious debate, but not one which falls neatly into a left-right divide.

      • http://www.bytemining.com Ryan Rosario (DataJunkie)

        Bingo. If he had tenure, this wouldn’t be an issue. Well, for more than one reason. If his teaching is as good as students say it is, then based on the faculty vote (3 say he meets standards, 3 don’t, and 3 abstain), it sounds like there was a lot of drama in the Department regarding him, for whatever reason.

  • Michael McMahon

    Professor Fink is the best. Kerri Johnson must be fired for her mistreatment of Professor Fink.

  • Jason

    Prof Fink is such a fantastic lecturer. His teaching approach doesn’t conform to the usual “cram for an exam and get a grade” routine. His classes exemplify education in its purest form – ideas examined simply for the sake of their merits. Best class I’ve taken during my time at UCLA.

    Assuming what he alleged of the comm dept to be true, it’s disturbing to see a phenomenal professor fired because of his political leanings. And honestly, he isn’t even all that right-leaning – I pegged him as a libertarian with a lower-case “l”. I’m pretty far left on the political spectrum and I find him fair and open-minded.