Behold the ne plus ultra of campus tolerance, in which the act of reading scholarly material now constitutes an actionable offense. Our culprit? A student-janitor named Keith Sampson. His weapon? “Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan.” The charge? Racial harassment, for thoughtlessly brandishing this anti-Klan book with an image of Klansmen on the cover where others might see it. The AP story describes what happens next, but to get the full Orwellian flavor you need to read Dorothy Rabinowitz’s op-ed. Quote:
Mr. Sampson stood accused of “openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your Black co-workers.” The statement, signed by chief affirmative action officer Lillian Charleston, asserted that her office had completed its investigation of the charges brought by Ms. Nakea William, his co-worker – that Mr. Sampson had continued, despite complaints, to read a book on this “inflammatory topic.”…
Ludicrous harassment cases are not rare at our institutions of higher learning. But there was undeniably something special – something pure, and glorious – in the clarity of this picture. A university had brought a case against a student on grounds of a book he had been reading.
The charge of, ahem, “openly reading” was dropped after FIRE made a stink — but the accusation of “conduct” amounting to racial harassment wasn’t. What was that conduct? Back to Rabinowitz:
What that conduct was, the affirmative action officer did not reveal – but she had delivered the message rewriting the history of the case. Absolutely and for certain there had been no problem about any book he had been reading…
This means, I asked one [school official], that Mr. Sampson could have been reading about the adventures of Jack and Jill and he still would have been charged? Yes. What, then, was the offense? “Harassing behavior.” While reading the book? The question led to careful explanations hopeless in tone – for good reason – and well removed from all semblance of reason. What the behavior was, one learned, could never be revealed.
There was, of course, no other offensive behavior; had there been any it would surely have appeared in the first letter’s gusher of accusation. Like those prosecutors who invent new charges when the first ones fail in court, the administrators threw in the mysterious harassment count.
They were embarrassed at being exposed by FIRE (and the ACLU, believe it or not) so they evidently decided to save face by smearing Sampson with a whispering campaign about other, unspecified instances of “harassment” he’s supposedly guilty of — and as an Orwellian flourish, according to this FIRE post, they won’t even tell Sampson himself what the charges are. I’m honestly speechless, if not surprised. Do note the parallel, though, with the uproar over the New Yorker cover. In both cases, despite the authors’ good faith being clear to all but the most abject imbecile, the “progressive” instinct is to protect the imbecile and punish the author by suppressing his work. It’s a more benign (but not much more) version of the Mohammed cartoon fiasco, except instead of terrorists exercising the heckler’s veto, this time it’s idiots. Exit quotation: “Take that, you broad-minded and humorous rabble!”