Sunday, July 2, 2017

L'affaire Fink - follow up

The sniff test: Does it pass?
We had earlier posted an item from the Daily Bruin and the LA Daily News about this matter, which has also appeared in a more recent edition.* It has now made its way from conservative blogs into the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Keith Fink, an adjunct who teaches a UCLA course on campus free speech, says even though his students love him, top administrators couldn’t stand the fact that he criticized them in the classroom. His department leaders say he’s not as good a teacher as he thinks he is.

According to communication-studies department leaders at the University of California at Los Angeles, the story of why Keith A. Fink lost his job isn’t an especially interesting one: He was a part-time lecturer, and his teaching wasn’t up to par.

But according to Mr. Fink, the tale is far more troubling. Mr. Fink, a conservative, says he was pushed out in large part because of his political beliefs and because one of the courses he taught — a popular class on campus free speech — dared to criticize UCLA’s own actions...

On Tuesday, June 27, Mr. Fink received a letter from Laura E. Gómez, interim dean of the College Division of Social Sciences, informing him that he would no longer be employed at UCLA once his contract ended, on June 30. "After a thoughtful and comprehensive academic review, it has been determined that your teaching does not meet the standard of excellence," Ms. Gómez wrote. (She did not respond to a request for comment from The Chronicle.)...

Student evaluations of the free-speech course Mr. Fink taught this year — provided by Andrew Litt, a recent UCLA School of Law graduate who served as Mr. Fink’s teaching assistant for two years and worked in his law firm — mostly paint a picture of Mr. Fink as an engaging teacher and his course as stimulating and interesting.

“This class was the best class I have taken at UCLA.” "This class was the best class I have taken at UCLA," one student wrote. "While I did not agree with every views [sic] of Professor Fink, his lectures stimulated and provoked a wide range of thoughts and perspectives that I believe helped me to become a better student and citizen." A handful of comments were negative; one took issue with Mr. Fink’s "arrogance," and another said he "goes off-topic a lot" but added that "this is a very minor issue." 

The department’s final report, provided by Mr. Litt, stated that the review "skewed toward a favorable view of Mr. Fink’s teaching effectiveness," but said faculty members had raised concerns "about the climate fostered within the classroom" and the rigor of his assessments...

Mr. Fink said he may teach at another institution in the future, but in the meantime he is working with the university’s faculty union to file a grievance. He also plans to establish a nonprofit group that will provide free legal services to UCLA students and professors who feel their rights have been violated...

Full article at
* The later Bruin article is at According to the later article:

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 academic standards. The committee that reviewed Fink tied its vote, so [Interim Dean Laura] Gómez made the final decision on his appointment.

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