Friday, May 02, 2008

They Keep Makin' It and We Keep Buyin' It

FIRE scores another hit on academic censorship - this one close to home. IUPUI has cleared a student employee of all racial harassement charges. His "crime?" Reading a book.

No kidding. The "culprit" was 50-year-old Keith Sampson, a janitor for IUPUI who has been studying for a communication's degree there. He reads books on his break, one of which happened to be Notre Dame vs. The Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. And of course this is meant to be racial harassment. Sampson, who was briefly confronted over the book by the coworker who filed the complaint but never given a chance to explain to her what it was actually about, received a complaint from the Affirmative Action office that he had been "racially harassing" black co-workers. Just by reading a book about the Klan. Never mind that the book chronicles and celebrates a street fight between Catholics (whom the Klan includes alongside blacks on its list of undesireables) and the Klan, just reading any ol goram book about the Klan at work is meant to be "racial harassment." Of which he was summarily found guilty without ever being given the opportunity to face his accusers, a citation included on his record.

So the good news is that this incident has finally been resolved. Under pressure from the ACLU and FIRE, IUPUI reversed the decision, cleared Sampson's record, and issued an apology. Good.

The bad news is that the root causes of the incident haven't been, and won't be addressed. These are: ridiculous Affirmative Action policies that encourage minorities to behave like spoiled children. Honestly, if I were an employer and this kind of incident came up, it would be the black employee who filed the complaint that ended up with a citation on her record. She is, after all, the one who made an inicdent out of nothing, abusing workplace policies put in place to deal with serious issues in the process. I think it is reasonable to expect adults to behave like adults. If someone is reading something that offends you, and you make that clear to the person, and they try to present their side of the story back to you, then the adult thing to do is at least listen. And if the explanation is that the book in question isn't pro-Klan at all but quite anti-Klan, then the adult thing to do is apologize and get over it. This works one of two ways. Either this woman really was offended by this in the way that she says (unlikely), and in which case is an emotional child who obviously has issues dealing with people and the real world and therefore isn't someone I want on my staff, or she's just causing trouble to cause trouble, and isn't someone I want on my staff. What there isn't is a charitable way of looking at someone who files complaints against her coworkers for reading completely inoffensive books on their breaks.

Affirmative action and programs like it do real damage to our culture. Stop to marvel at the irony. It is forbidden to read even politically correct books at a university - a UNIVERSITY! - because the culture no longer expects adults to behave responsibly. That, folks, is not a trivial issue.


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