Harassment — by reading a book

by Walter Olson on January 11, 2009

Readers may recall the remarkable case last year in which student employee Keith John Sampson was hauled up on university disciplinary charges at IUPUI (Indiana University) for supposed racial harassment because a co-worker had observed him reading a book about the historical struggle against the Klan. A successful campaign ensued (led by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) to get the discipline reversed and an apology issued. Now filmmaker Andrew Marcus has produced a short documentary about the incident, viewable at FIRE’s site.

{ 3 comments }

1 Todd Rogers 01.12.09 at 3:12 pm

Small technical note: IUPUI includes both Indiana and Purdue…loyalties run deep and many a Boiler would have you hung for such an omission. Sadly, this guy’s story has not made local news much at all.

2 ras 01.12.09 at 3:56 pm

The problem with the defense of Mr. Sampson – and this includes Marcus’s short film – is that it emphasizes that this was a “good” book that he was reading.

True, but the implication in that approach is that a “bad” book could then be justifiably banned, and the slippery slope starts anew. Huck Finn, anyone? Das Kapital? Mein Kampf? The Bible? The Koran? The Satanic Verses?

You get the idea. Opposition to the harassment of Mr. Sampson should be on principle, not specifics.

3 Todd Rogers 01.12.09 at 4:59 pm

I agree with ras. Though in order for something to reach a boiling point, the subject matter must have an ingredient which rouses emotions, such as something dealing with race. If it were something such as “Crochet and the battle to preserve it” it would probably not really piss anyone off, especially if the cover had a nice quilt on it. Thus, it should be fought on principle. But the content has a way of stirring up the debate. After all, no one ever objects to a demonstration by the AICPA (accountants), but when the Klan comes to town, you can bet it makes headlines and all kinds of emotions, counter-demonstrations, etc..ensue.

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