pageok
pageok
pageok
Harassment By "Reading ... Book Related to a Historically and Racially Abhorrent Subject":

The Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis letter David mentioned can't, I think, be captured well in a paraphrase. Here's the full text, sent to Keith Sampson (a janitor):

The Affirmative Action Office has completed its investigation of Ms. Nakea Vincent's allegation that you racially harassed her by repeatedly reading the book, Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan by Todd Tucker in the presence of Black employees. In conducting this investigation, we interviewed you, Nakea Vincent, and other employees with information relevant to the mailer.

Upon review of this matter, we conclude that your conduct constitutes racial harassment in that you demonstrated disdain and insensitivity to your co-workers who repeatedly requested that you refrain from reading the book which has such an inflammatory and offensive topic in their presence. You contend that you weren't aware of the offensive nature of the topic and were reading the book about the KKK to better understand discrimination. However you used extremely poor judgment by insisting on openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your Black co-workers. Furthermore, employing the legal "reasonable person standard," a majority of adults are aware of and understand how repugnant the KKK is to African Americans, their reactions to the Klan, and the reasonableness of the request that you not read the book in their presence.

During your meeting with Marguerite Watkins, Assistant Affirmative Action Officer you were instructed to stop reading the book in the immediate presence of your coworkers and when reading the book to sit apart from the immediate proximity of these co-workers. Please be advised, any future substantiated conduct of a similar nature could result in serious disciplinary action.

Racial harassment is very serious and can result in serious consequences for all involved. Please be advised that racial harassment and retaliation against any individual for having participated in the investigation of a complaint of this nature is a violation of University policy and will not be tolerated.

This concludes this matter with the Affirmative Action Office. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

If this were a parody, people would have faulted it for being so excessive as to be unbelievable — but it appears to be quite real.

Fortunately, the University seems to have changed its tune in a later letter:

This letter will replace my prior letter to you dated November 25, 2007.

I wish to clarify that my prior letter was not meant to imply that it is impermissible for you or to limit your ability to read scholarly books or other such literature during break limes. There is no University policy that prohibits reading such materials on break time. As was previously stated, you are permitted to read such materials during appropriate times.

I also wish to clarify that my prior letter to you was meant only to address conduct on your part that raised concern on the part of your co-workers. It was the perception of your co-workers that you were engaging in conduct for the purpose of creating a hostile atmosphere of antagonism. Your perception was that you were reading a scholarly work during break time, and should be permitted to do so whether or not the subject matter is of concern to your coworkers.

I am unable to draw any final conclusion concerning what was intended by the conduct. Of course, if the conduct was intended to cause disruption to the work environment, such behavior would be subject to action by the University. However, because I cannot draw any final conclusion in this instance, no such adverse disciplinary action has been or will be taken in connection with the circumstances at hand.

Hard for me to see this as a "clarification"; it's a retreat, and an eminently justifiable one (though I wish it were even more complete and clear). In any case, though, the University deserves to be strongly faulted for its original position.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Reading Book About KKK as Racial Harassment?
  2. Harassment By "Reading ... Book Related to a Historically and Racially Abhorrent Subject":
  3. You Can't Read That!:
DangerMouse:
Sue the university, fire the Affirmative action officer, abolish the Affirmative Action office, fire the people making the complaint, and have them pay this man so much money that it embarasses Scrooge McDuck.

Liberals are modern day book burners.
3.6.2008 2:13pm
rbj:
I never knew that defeating the Klu Klux Klan was "an inflammatory and offensive topic" to Blacks.

ISTM someone was looking to be offended.
3.6.2008 2:21pm
Sean M:
Just judging by the book title and its Amazon.com description, the book is about how Notre Dame /beat/ the Klan. In other words, how the Klan was bad and was defeated via some plucky students.

Isn't that what the Affirmative Action Office would /want/ university employees to learn about?
3.6.2008 2:21pm
Jagermeister:
This is what happens when the ignorant and stupid are given positions of authority. This episode reminds me of the Washington D.C. guy who was forced to resign for using the word "niggardly" in a budget discussion. When I went to look it up, I found out that such ignorance is so commonplace as to have an entry on Wikipedia: Controversies about the word "niggardly"
3.6.2008 2:33pm
Hoya:
Okay, that this second letter was called a 'clarification' is hilarious.

(Letter 1) p

(Letter 2) We wish to clarify that by 'p', we did not mean 'p', but rather 'not-p.'


Thanks for my laugh for the day.
3.6.2008 2:34pm
JBL:
"This letter will replace my prior letter..."

Oh, if only it were that easy...
3.6.2008 2:35pm
AnneS:
It's nice to know that it's not just in my places of employment that at least half of all workplace controversies are properly resolved by telling the complainers to grow up.
3.6.2008 2:38pm
darelf:
I thought at first that the complaint was that it was being read aloud. I had to read it twice to understand that someone quietly reading a book is being considered offensive. It's so unbelievable...
3.6.2008 2:38pm
Terrivus:
Something else that should be underscored: based on news reports, Sampson is a 50-something janitor who is working towards his degree at the university (and is about 10 credits shy). In his spare time, when he is not on the clock, he likes to read.

I just can't believe what the university that he (a) cleans up after, and (b) is trying to get his degree from (as a 50-something), did to him. Shameful.
3.6.2008 2:43pm
Kai (mail):
I am trying to make sense of the two letters. The first says: "...you were instructed to stop reading the book in the immediate presence of your coworkers and when reading the book to sit apart from the immediate proximity of these co-workers," while the second says that "As was previously stated, you are permitted to read such materials during appropriate times" (emph. added).

Is this a retreat? Or are they reiterating the implication that "appropriate times" = when you are in "immediate proximity" of the co-workers?
3.6.2008 2:44pm
George Lyon (mail):
You just cannot make stuff like this up.
3.6.2008 2:45pm
Terrivus:
Here's a link that seems to be the primary local source (and possible original source) of news coverage:

http://www.nuvo.net/articles/21st_century_catch22

The great irony: this is Indianapolis's "alternative" newspaper, which ordinarily has never seen a politically correct stance it didn't support, and whose support of such policies leads to situations like this one.
3.6.2008 2:45pm
Kai (mail):
(Make that when you are *not* in "immediate proximity" of the co-workers.)
3.6.2008 2:45pm
Bill N:
Unfortunately, I don't think that the "clarification" is much better, or even much of a retreat. The idea that some bureaucratic hack sits in judgement of whether or not "reading scholarly books or other such literature during break [t]ime" could possibly constitute "conduct for the purpose of creating a hostile atmosphere of antagonism," on a university campus, no less, is bizarre. Presumably, from the very wording of the letter, if the official had determined complainant's "perception" to have merit, he would not have the right to read the book.

BTW: I had a professor in college whose father battled the Klan at Notre Dame in '24. It is a chilling story, and I'd like to read the book.
3.6.2008 2:45pm
M. Prins (mail):
I don't know if anyone has pointed this out yet, but there's places on the IUPUI Affirmative Action Office's own website that, ahem, can't be read during lunch. Go to their website at:

http://www.iupui.edu/~aao/

Click on "Miscellaneous Information," and one of the three options is "Special Report on the KKK," a report prepared by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the history of the Klu Klux Klan. And not only is it linked from the IUPUI AAO page, it's *hosted* by IUPUI AAO.
3.6.2008 2:46pm
taney71:
I love the university's bio on the person who wrote the letter (Lillian Charleston). She is a "nationally recognized" expert on Affirmative Action. Never heard of her and I try to read up on what these loons are peddling.

Lillian Charleston is nationally recognized for her expertise and knowledge of Affirmative Action and related issues. In addition to serving as the Affirmative Action Officer for IUPUI for the past 16 years, she previously worked as a desegregation specialist for the Indianapolis Public Schools. She has been an officer and board member of the American Association for Affirmative Action and the Indiana Industry Liaison Group. She also supports her community through active board service with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission, the Indianapolis Urban League, the Indianapolis Chapter of Big Sisters, and the Association for Loan Free Education. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana University in Urban Studies, Counseling and College Student Personnel.
3.6.2008 2:47pm
TomB (mail):
So is Mr. Sampson black (er, excuse me, Black)? Does the color of the reader change the impact of the book being read?
3.6.2008 2:52pm
DiverDan (mail):
Oh, if only IUPUI were as zealous about preventing harassment by the incredibly stupid! But that might mean expelling the complainant (which would hurt its affirmative action statistics, I'm sure) and firing the entire AA Office.
3.6.2008 2:54pm
Temp Guest (mail):
taney17: In Massachusetts we'd translate the passage as "she's a political hack who, if she were not able to get an annoying and useless position like the one she currently holds, would be working behind the counter of a local hamburger franchise, dealing drugs, or on welfare." (And to those who read prejudice of any sort into my comment, "honi soit qui mal ypense".)
3.6.2008 2:55pm
PLR:
So is Mr. Sampson black (er, excuse me, Black)? Does the color of the reader change the impact of the book being read?

He was probably wearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt.
3.6.2008 2:56pm
Virginian:
Employing the legal "reasonable person standard," a majority of adults are aware of and understand how repugnant Marguerite Watkins, Assistant Affirmative Action Officer, is to Americans, their reactions to PC BS, and the reasonableness of the request that she remove her head from her ass.
3.6.2008 2:58pm
taney71:
I would guess if he was black that the Affirmative Action office would "re-educate" him.
3.6.2008 2:59pm
That whole private school thing:
While I can see that the letter seems to be on the topic of a discriminatory workplace, and tangentially implies the issue of federal non-discrimination law, what's to stop a private, non-state university from sending this kind of letter? (Common sense aside) How is this legally different than Bob Jones University sanctioning an employee for reading a guide on inter-racial dating in the presence of co-workers?
3.6.2008 2:59pm
DiverDan (mail):
Just hit me; if the very subject of the Klu Klux Klan is so repugnant to some students that it is offensive to even be seen reading a book about it, then the subject of slavery must be even more offensive. Does the History Department at IUPUI not teach any American History classes that cover the period prior to the Emancipation Proclamation or the 13th Amendment? Or perhaps those classes are taught in a secret, segregated hall, so as not to "harass" any black students?
3.6.2008 2:59pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
The Affirmative Action Office has completed its investigation of Ms. Nakea Vincent's allegation that you racially harassed her by repeatedly reading the book, Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan by Todd Tucker in the presence of Black employees.


I think I can see why this woman was offended -- she's a Michigan fan.
3.6.2008 3:00pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Thorley,
That explains it. I think they have on-line classes in feigned offense for fun and profit.
3.6.2008 3:04pm
M.E.Butler (mail):
I always wondered just what the hell IUPUI stood for. I still don't know, but I suspect the first two words are

Imbeciles United
3.6.2008 3:07pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
What's annoying is that even in the second letter the petty bureaucrat is buying into the complainers' notion that the reader was meaning to send them a message by reading.

People who themselves don't like reading -- and they are of both genders, all races, and all education levels -- often project their dislike and assume that if you are reading, you must be reading in order to send a message or achieve some outward-directed goal. You couldn't possibly just be reading for the joy of reading, or because the subject is interesting. Those people are assholes, and the notion that a bureaucracy should coddle their insecure moronism is repugnant.
3.6.2008 3:12pm
dd:
I wonder, is she correct even in the second letter that the important question is whether Sampson intended to disrupt the workplace? Does the issue turn on his subjective intent?
3.6.2008 3:16pm
rarango (mail):
What a bunch of f**king idiots! The second letter is actually worse than the first. I doubt if they every considered the appropriate response was "I appologize."
3.6.2008 3:17pm
aces:

I always wondered just what the hell IUPUI stood for. I still don't know, but I suspect the first two words are

Imbeciles United

in Pursuing Unbridled Idiocy?
3.6.2008 3:23pm
Wes:
So this school believes that the best solution to dealing with sensitive issues is to forbid them completely? People offended by the Klan think the best solution is to suppress any education on the issue? I will never cease to be amazed at how low the lowest common denominator gets.
3.6.2008 3:24pm
anym_avey (mail):
"This letter will replace my prior letter..." Oh, if only it were that easy...

Oh, I think "This Pink Slip will replace your prior job" would be pretty easy. Unlikely to happen, but definitely easy.

She'd probably then sue the university on the grounds that references to "pink slips" constitute sexual harrassment.
3.6.2008 3:27pm
ramster (mail):
It's pretty obvious that this all started with the guy's co-workers being morons. They saw KKK in the book's title and immediately took offense. Their state of offended-ness prevented them from hearing the guy's explanation of what was going on. Then they complained to the affirmative action office. The AAO appears unprepared for the scenario where people take offense because they are stupid. They may even realize that the co-workers are idiots but they are nonetheless required to act (after all, offense was taken). Hilarity ensues.
3.6.2008 3:31pm
David Schwartz (mail):
I agree that the second letter is even worse than the first. The first letter could have resulted from simple idiocy or failure to appreciate the fact that fundamental rights are involved. The second letter completely validates the stupidity that lead to the first letter and does so knowingly.

Where is the apology for failing to hear him out? Where is the apology for the failure of the "investigation" to actually investigate anything?
3.6.2008 3:36pm
That whole private school thing:
@ 2:59 That whole private school thing:

Nevermind.
Apparently both Purdue and Indiana University, the "partners" in IUPUI, are both state entities.
3.6.2008 3:38pm
Brett Bellmore:
The university deserves to be strongly for it's current position. Only an utter imbicile would be unable to draw a conclusion concerning the conduct in question.

The former position merited everyone signing off on it being beaten to death with rubber chickens.
3.6.2008 3:40pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
"Special Report on the KKK," a report prepared by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the history of the Klu Klux Klan. And not only is it linked from the IUPUI AAO page, it's *hosted* by IUPUI AAO.

Sampson should get himself a laptop and read that webpage during break. Let Vincent call up the AA office demanding they punish Sampson for reading it. Then reveal that it was their own website.

The AAO appears unprepared for the scenario where people take offense because they are stupid.

Possibly they are unprepared.
Possibly it is already unnofficial policy to always side with the offended even when they are in the wrong.
Possibly it is already unnofficial policy to always side with the minority group member even when they are in the wrong.
3.6.2008 3:41pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
OK folks help me here - you have complainers who do not like the guy reading this book in front of them. Is it possible that the complainers have a point? I think so - depending on the context.

I can walk into a room reading a book entitled "How I killed Whitey!" or maybe a white guy can walk into a room and be reading Randall Kennedy's "Nigger" and people ignore it.

But, what I or that white guy could be doing could be pure passive aggression to make those around us uncomfortable.

The reading of the book with the title can have at least two meanings as conduct.

I am amazed at how people do not go past the first level of the title to the second level of why that book at that time in that place.

I remember a President of Morgan Guaranty once saying in a meeting "Here I Is" like a southern mammy. It was a joke supposedly and many laughed but it also, in a bank that was not known for having lots of diversity at the time, was also a form of passive aggression.

It is the conduct, the power of the person, the history of the people in that setting (the law of the shop in the words of labor law) and things like that that may make this more plausible than at first blush.

Seems like after the first letter, people sat down and the complainer's position was not seen as being sufficiently credible so that no disciplinary action happened. I would imagine that getting it wrong the first time happens all the time.

Reminds me of the discussion a few months ago about the judge up for confirmation from Mississippi and his reaction to a case of employment discrimination that was viewed very differently between the majority and the dissent.

Best,
Ben
3.6.2008 3:46pm
Archon (mail):
...what's to stop a private, non-state university from sending this kind of letter? (Common sense aside) How is this legally different than Bob Jones University sanctioning an employee for reading a guide on inter-racial dating in the presence of co-workers?

A private employer, in general, would have a lot more wiggle room in this kind of situation. My guess is that the employer could most likely enforce similar restrictions while the employee was on the clock, but probably not while they were off the clock.

This depends largely on a jurisdiction's employment laws and state constitutional freedom of speech jurisprudence. Some jurisdictions have constitutional, statutory, or common law authority that limits an employer's ability to restrict activities, to a limited extent, at work, and to a greater extent, outside of work. Of course, employment arrangements like collective bargaining contracts, individual employment contracts, and a jurisdiction's at-will employment laws further complicate any inquiry like this.
3.6.2008 3:50pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Anyone who finds this story unbelievable must have been either born yesterday, or in hibernation for the last 20 years.

If anything Nakea Vincent is the one guilty of racial harassment. If someone complains about an anti-Klan book (obvious from the title), then I must assume that person likely supports the Klan.
3.6.2008 3:52pm
Bill N:
IUPUI= Idiotic University Pursuing Unconstitutional Infringements
3.6.2008 3:52pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
I recognize this is a bit off the beaten track but let me tell you a Cyprus story to illustrate my point above. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 between the Turkish area and the rest of Cyprus. There is a line through the capital - the green line.

In 2000 when I was coming back from the beach to the capital as was my wont I tried to engage with the driver about local Cypriot history.

I asked him what he thought about the Turkish occupation of the north of the island. I then found out that the gentleman had lost everything in that invasion and that the pain of all this was way too much for him. He stopped the car on the side of the road and called his son to come and pick us up and drive us the rest of the way to our hotel. The father sat in the back with my family resting as I had clearly upset him immensely with my comment.

Now, imagine I was reading a book like "Turkey in Cyprus is a bad thing" but I did it while wearing a hat with a Turkish flag on it. Those actions might be seen as passive aggressive by someone like this taxi driver and make him extremely upset. I can profess my innocence and I maybe innocent, but I also may not be. That is the difficulty in these settings. It seems the AA officer first got it wrong and corrected it. Maybe they should have been better on the first step. But, I do not dismiss people's pain in response to the acts of other people as quickly. Not with our shared history.

Best,
Ben
3.6.2008 3:54pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"But, what I or that white guy could be doing could be pure passive aggression to make those around us uncomfortable."

Good question. I guess those around us can grow up. If they don't want to, then they can be uncomfortable. So what?
3.6.2008 3:55pm
dcuser (mail):
I think it's not an accident that the second letter (but not the first) was cc'd to the university's lawyer...
3.6.2008 3:55pm
Virginian:

IUPUI= Idiotic University Pursuing Unconstitutional Infringements


DING DING DING...we have a winner!
3.6.2008 3:59pm
OK lawyer (mail):
uh, they have an Affirmative Action Office? maybe I am just naive and/or ignorant, but shouldn't that tell you that the offended person police will be in full effect?
3.6.2008 4:01pm
GMS:
At least he wasn't reading a book about the Civil War. I mean, the KKK is abhorrent and all, but those Confederate guys actually owned slaves. I mean, the mere sight of someone reading Bruce Catton is enough to make me faint. And don't even get me started about Shelby Foote ...
3.6.2008 4:04pm
kwo (mail):
Why did the AAO handle this complaint? Traditionally speaking, isn't affirmative action a recruiting/retention function? I see the racial connection, but not the discipline aspect. I can't imagine the school sends sexual harassment complaints to the AAO, do they?
3.6.2008 4:09pm
Hoosier:
1) GO IRISH! BEEEEAT Klansmen! (If you're a Domer, you'll be able to hit the cadences.)

2) Oo-ee-poo-ee, as IUPUI is pronounced in this state, is starting to look more "poo-ee" than anything else.

3) I wonder if IUPUI staff are supposed to refrain from reading about D-Day when around Jewish staff. Minorities sure do get offended when their persecutors get a whoopin', yeah-howdy!
3.6.2008 4:16pm
RBG (mail):

I do not dismiss people's pain in response to the acts of other people as quickly. Not with our shared history.


But, Ben, the question is not whether you dismiss the pain of others or embrace it. The question is whether the force of law - or the administrative apparatus of a state-run institution - should be employed to ensure that you embrace it. Can't you see anything vaguely authoritarian in asserting that it should?
3.6.2008 4:18pm
Wallace:
This case brings up a lot of questions.

If the title of the book was so offensive, did the reprimand letter have to reproduce it in full? What if a Black employee saw Keith Sampson reading his reprimand letter? Would he get another reprimand?
3.6.2008 4:18pm
Houston Lawyer:
Does this woman moonlight for the Aberta Civil Rights Commission?

Everyone with the title that includes either the words affirmative action or diversity should be fired immediately. These people are leeches and deserve no sympathy.
3.6.2008 4:18pm
Rick Shmatz (mail):
After reading the myths/facts page, neither letter is surprising in its stupidity:

http://www.iupui.edu/~aao/myths.html
3.6.2008 4:21pm
Hoosier:
Ben--He was reading a book. The book was about one group of Klan victims (Catholics) driving the Klan out of town in the state that is most associated with their 1920s incarnation. Again, this is something that people from another group of Klan victims (blacks) might view as a Good Thing.

Was he reading this book in order to offend them?

Prove it.

Then I'll take another look. The administration in Indy beat a longer retreat than the Ten Thousand. I don't think that *they* think that accusation holds up.
3.6.2008 4:26pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
At least he wasn't reading a book about the Civil War. I mean, the KKK is abhorrent and all, but those Confederate guys actually owned slaves. I mean, the mere sight of someone reading Bruce Catton is enough to make me faint. And don't even get me started about Shelby Foote ...


Or imagine if he was caught reading this.
3.6.2008 4:29pm
MXE (mail):
Maybe if they fired everyone in the affirmative action office, they could go get real jobs and contribute something to the world. What a bunch of parasites.
3.6.2008 4:34pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Ben:

But, I do not dismiss people's pain in response to the acts of other people as quickly.

There exist people who are extraordinarily sensitive. It could be something physical like an allergic reaction, or an emotional sensitivity to some subject. While we might feel sorry for them, we can't bend over backwards to accommodate them. We don't ban peanuts because some people are allergic to them. We don't ban books that discuss the holocaust because some survivors can bear any mention of the subject. Your taxi driver needs to either isolate himself or get over his past problems.
3.6.2008 4:37pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):

Anyone who finds this story unbelievable must have been either born yesterday, or in hibernation for the last 20 years.


Hey, as an established visitor and occasional commenter here, I take offense! I completely believe that the people involved are stupider than the letters and reporting make them out to be.
3.6.2008 4:40pm
MXE (mail):
After reading the myths/facts page, neither letter is surprising in its stupidity:

http://www.iupui.edu/~aao/myths.html


Wow, really nice page there. Love how they repeated a bunch of the questions at the bottom. Nice editing.

From that page: Though affirmative action is believed to have harmed white men, this contradicts the reality that white men hold structural power in society today.

It is logically impossible -- contradictory -- for people who hold structural power in society to be harmed. More stellar reasoning here. Man, somebody ate too many lead paint chips as a child.
3.6.2008 4:41pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
OK folks help me here - you have complainers who do not like the guy reading this book in front of them. Is it possible that the complainers have a point?


I get what you're saying but the only way I could see them having a point is if there was something beyond just reading a book to substantiate the complaint such as some sort of verbal harassment or racially derogatory language perpetrated by the employee. Since Eugene posted both letters in full and the letters say that the Affirmative Action Office had an "investigation," if there was something other than his just reading the book in the break room, presumably they would have included it in one or both letters to justify their position. The fact that they didn't IMO is a pretty clear indication that this was all they could come up with and it doesn't seem justifiable at all.

That being said, if we didn't have both letters available in their entirety and had to rely only on a news account, I would tend to agree with you. There are certainly plenty of cases where conservatives and libertarians have rallied around a "victim" of "political correctness" in an academic setting only to learn that the "victim" did something more than was originally reported. The absence of anything other than this fellow reading a book -- not even a mention of an unkind word from his lips -- in the AAO's office suggests strongly that this isn't one of those cases.
3.6.2008 4:51pm
sjalterego (mail):
A. Zarkov, unfortunately, we do ban peanuts b/c some people are allergic to them.

Although I agree that the IUPUI response was both idiotic and wrong, I think that under Title VII as it has been interpreted (at the extremes) the janitor's reading of such a book could have placed him in jeapordy. See some of the cases Prof. Volokh (Eugene) has assembled and discusses here: www.law.ucla.edu/volokh/harass/defn.htm.

Sadly, some of the cases find various persons/institutions in violation of anti-discrimination law for actions that are not far removed from what is alleged to have occured here.
3.6.2008 5:04pm
just me:
To "That whole private school thing" :

I don't think IU-PU is a private school -- both IU and PU are state schools, and this seems to be a joint venture of both of them.

Or did you mean to ask how it would be different if this happened at a private school?
3.6.2008 5:05pm
Mikeyes (mail):
I suspect that the AA officer went through a little "corrective action" herself from a supervisor who has a better understanding of the history of the Klan in Indiana than she does. The letter appears to be from someone with a bruised ego who, if the facts we have are complete, did not do her job very well.

Apparently there was no investigation into the incident other than an interview and I doubt that the contents book was ever looked at in spite of the obvious title. There did not appear to be any negotiation nor did the janitorial staff supervisors try to deal with the situation by getting the parties together to tell them to work it out, etc. I wonder how many university policies and procedures were ignored in this little drama. This is the kind of thing that unions live for. I suspect that being PC had very little to do with what happened and that incompetence was the primary driving force for her actions.

Jobs such as hers are very politically sensitive within the organization and I would not be surprised if this was part of a pattern of ignorance and power on the part of Lillian Charleston. She may have done other things similar to this incident but did not reach a critical point in which the university became liable under their own rules. I bet her supervisor took special glee in reading the riot act.
3.6.2008 5:05pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
Now, imagine I was reading a book like "Turkey in Cyprus is a bad thing" but I did it while wearing a hat with a Turkish flag on it.

Putting on a hat with a Turkish flag is a voluntary act, and easily undone, which makes it kinda different for being white.

I'd hope the legal definition of a "reasonable person" specifically excludes those so traumatized by historical events that they cannot bear to even have them mentioned in their vicinity.

If Vincent had some halfway plasuible sob-story about some personal or family event that caused her to be unable to tolerate any mention of the fact that the KKK ever existed, even in the context of getting their asses kicked, I Sampson may have put away his book. Same if she had said the cover art was disturbing and putting her off her lunch. But that's pretty different from taking it as a given that holding a book about the KKK getting their asses kicked is ipso facto offensive to blacks.

Could it be significant that the book was about the KKK getting their asses kicked by Irish kids rather than blacks? Maybe this is being driven by ethnic embarrassment on the part of Vincent and the AAO staff, that their ancestors never fought back that effectively, and they are therefore feeling the presence of this book as an implicit rebuke and lashing out in reaction.
3.6.2008 5:08pm
JBL:
Wait - isn't it a characteristic of antidiscrimination law that the intent of the offender is irrelevant?
3.6.2008 5:20pm
Displaced Midwesterner (mail):
I probably have a lot more sympathy for affirmative action (when done properly) than a lot of people here, but I still found this statement from http://www.iupui.edu/~aao/myths.html to pretty amazing:

Racism is power plus discrimination.

Those without power cannot be racist? Pretty amazing. I have to admit I always just assumed that racism was any sort of irrational behavior or opinion based on the idea that some race was inferior to another. Glad I am no longer in thrall to this myth.
3.6.2008 5:21pm
elscorcho (mail):
I think its funny that the motives of the complaintants are not questioned. The target is a person on the cleaning staff that is almost done with his degree and probably a little more intellectual than his conterparts. Who's to say that they really aren't just jealous that he won't be blue coller much longer. A possible scenario:

They find a possible complaint against him and his high-falutin' ways. So they complain to him and don't listen to his explanation. They aren't interested in fixing the situation, they just want to exert the amount of authority over him that their skin color and sensitivity give them over him. Then they push it up to the higher authority to force him to do something against his will.

Its a pissing contest.
3.6.2008 5:22pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
BTW for those unfamiliar, here's the cover of the book in question.
3.6.2008 5:31pm
Random Domer:
Ben,

Your hypo illustrates the depths of "up is down, and down is up" kind of reasoning leftists must resort to defend their ideology. Maybe you'd have a point if the poor janitor were reading the book while wearing a Confederate Flag hat, but he wasn't. Your whole illustration is thus a red herring.

If you want a real comparison, suppose you walked in reading a book about how plucky Greek resistance fighters held off a Turkish onslaught back in one of the (many) conflicts on the island. Then your Greek guide files a complaint against in court—the kind of thing that, like a charge of racism, will end your career. Then, and only then, will you have a good analogy.
3.6.2008 5:36pm
Smokey:
Boy, it's a good thing those folks never read Huckleberry Finn.

Oops. Did I just say 'boy'?

My bad.
3.6.2008 5:36pm
Suzy (mail):
One side benefit of this story: I had no idea that Notre Dame students fought successfully against the Klan, and now I learned something interesting.

As I struggle to understand any basis for the complaint, the closest I can come pertains to the request that he not read in the "immediate proximity" of his coworkers. What does this mean? I suppose if he were coming over and sitting down right next to people, opening the book before their faces to reveal images he had been told were distressing, or reading certain passages aloud, I could understand the impression that he was doing it less to engage in quiet academic pursuit than to intentionally disturb his coworkers. This seems like a stretch, but would that be enough to justify a complaint, hypothetically?

Compare it to the giant anti-abortion posters for a moment: if my co-worker keeps sitting down immediately next to me and opening a pamphlet with such images right under my nose, even after I've asked her to stop and stay away, would I be justified in complaining? I don't understand why an affirmative action office is the appropriate place to complain, though. If someone is behaving unprofessionally, the "identity politics" of the people involved shouldn't mattter.
3.6.2008 5:39pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I vote with Kai and many others who see the second letter as not much of a retreat.

The history of the Klan in Indiana is, indeed, interesting. It was not the Fightin' Irish who put it down, even though they helped. What really killed it was when the Grand Dragon bit a debutante to death on a clandestine train trip to Chicago.

Truly true.

Nothing is so strange that it cannot happen in Indiana.
3.6.2008 5:53pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Two quick reactions:

Does the common knowledge that Justice Hugo Black was a Klansman prevent reading his biography on pain of offending the perpetually offended?

And is there a school affirmative action officers attend to learn to write in the particularly officious passive mode which seems to pervade their correspondence?
3.6.2008 5:56pm
Adam J:
Ben, by defending this ludicrious charge you undermine legitimate complaints of discrimination and racism. The administration didn't claim that he was doing any of your possible explanations in its letter, if he was they should certainly have put it into the letter, because the basis the administration claim for harrassment, merely reading a book regarding the KKK, is disgraceful. If you haven't noticed, these acts provide plenty of red meat for partisans who want to claim that this idiocy is somehow the fault of liberals- because we all know liberals are opposed to folks educating themselves about racial discrimination.
3.6.2008 5:59pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
Suzy observed,

One side benefit of this story: I had no idea that Notre Dame students fought successfully against the Klan, and now I learned something interesting.

While we tend to think of the KKK as an anti-Black organization, it has also targeted Jews and Catholics. Back then, Indiana didn't have many Blacks or Jews, but it had a lot of Catholics, and a very active KKK, the local target of which was mostly the Catholic population. In the 1930s, the KKK even considered buying Valparaiso University (then a for-profit privately owned school) so as to have something to rival Notre Dame. That never went anywhere, and eventually the Lutherans got Valpo.
3.6.2008 6:00pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
In the 1930s, the KKK even considered buying Valparaiso University (then a for-profit privately owned school) so as to have something to rival Notre Dame. That never went anywhere, and eventually the Lutherans got Valpo.


Score one for the good guys!
3.6.2008 6:02pm
anym_avey (mail):
I am amazed at how people do not go past the first level of the title to the second level of why that book at that time in that place.

I am amazed that you think that to be relevant. The book is available at Amazon, as somone noted. It is a very innocuous, academic-looking book. There is nothing about the cover art, in either the imagery or structure and prominence of words, that could arguably be designed to shock or provoke. And if this employee is like most people, he reads one book at a time during convenient breakpoints in his day.

The complaint, based on the available evidence, appears to be a garden variety use of harrassment law to engage in fascistic thought policing. Never mind that the book's content was evidently opposite of what the complaintant assumed. It was simply enough to be narcissistically offended.

Maybe they should have been better on the first step. But, I do not dismiss people's pain in response to the acts of other people as quickly. Not with our shared history.

Here we have, in a nutshell, the basis of government-by-feelings: logic and reason, interesting little foundations of western civilization which a university environment is nominally supposed to foster and promote, are set aside in favor of whoever's feelings can be most loudly and authoritatively asserted, and everyone else is expected to nicely fall in line or risk censure with possibility of job loss. Welcome to mob rule with a thin veneer of formal procedure attached.
3.6.2008 6:07pm
wb (mail):
The "offending" employee is quite likely in a job represented by a union. Such employees generally have very limited flexibility in where and when they take their breaks. They certainly do not have the luxury of a private office to retreat to. If so he is represented, it would be interesting to know if his union actually did anything on his behalf such filling a grievance regarding restriction an unreasonable restriction on work rules without prior notice to the collective bargaining unit.
3.6.2008 6:12pm
Mikeyes (mail):
I grew up an Irish Catholic in Tennessee (and my father is a ND graduate) and until the civil rights movement became prominent, Catholics were the primary target of the Klan. We were told to never say we were Catholics to strangers and there were multiple incidents of harrassment of priests and students at Father Ryan High School in Nashville by the Klan. (As an aside, Father Ryan was the only integrated high school in Nashville until the early 60s since its founding in 1932 or so. Every Catholic had to go to Catholic schools and about 10% of Blacks were Catholic.)

The only thing that kept the Klan from being too overt was the fact that Irish Catholics, in spite of being about 3% of the population of Nashville in those days, were politically prominent.

My father used to talk about that ND vs. KKK incident, even though it took place 20 years before he went there, because it was important for us to know that we could fight back against the Klan.
3.6.2008 6:13pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
sjalterego:

"A. Zarkov, unfortunately, we do ban peanuts b/c some people are allergic to them."

I'm aware that in certain special contexts we do ban peanuts, but we have no general ban on them. The taxi drive can't expect everyone who ever gets in his cab to divine his sensitivity and accommodate him by never bringing the subject up.
3.6.2008 6:13pm
wb (mail):
As for Ben's explanation I'd suggest that a vendetta by the Ms. Vincent against Mr. Sampson is just as likely as her complaint being the "moral equivalent" of post-traumatic stress disorder.
3.6.2008 6:19pm
anym_avey (mail):
The history of the Klan in Indiana is, indeed, interesting. It was not the Fightin' Irish who put it down, even though they helped. What really killed it was when the Grand Dragon bit a debutante to death on a clandestine train trip to Chicago.

Ehm...sort of. Consulting this history site reveals that the woman in question was a statehouse secretary whom Stephenson (the Grand Dragon) kidnapped after meeting her at the governor's inaugural ball. The train ride consisted of a prolonged violent rape of the woman, which came to a halt when she attempted to poison herself. She died a month later either from the poison, the severe bite marks, or both.

Link is worksafe everywhere except at IUPUI.
3.6.2008 6:20pm
hattio1:
Harry Eager says;

The history of the Klan in Indiana is, indeed, interesting. It was not the Fightin' Irish who put it down, even though they helped. What really killed it was when the Grand Dragon bit a debutante to death on a clandestine train trip to Chicago.


I'm kinda assuming you meant beat to death not bit to death. But either way, it sounds like an interesting story (and, frankly, more interesting if more gruesome were she bit to death). Anyway, can you give us a little more?
3.6.2008 6:55pm
emsl (mail):
To Ben and his ilk: There are certain things that must be taken as true in order to protect rights like the right of free speech and religion. First, that motive is irrelevant. I am free to engage in protected speech whether I believe it or not, and whether I am doing so for good reason or malicious reasons. It is inimical to the existence of the right to make it contingent on whether I have a "proper" or "improper" motive. Second, the "feelings" of the recipients -- and in this case whether the co-workers could even be categorized as such -- are not relevant either. It may be possible to ban all books from the workplace; it is simply not appropriate to ban only those books whose content offends someone else.
3.6.2008 7:12pm
Elliot123 (mail):
If people teach their kids to be hyper-senstive, are they choosing to handicap them for life?
3.6.2008 7:56pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
elscorcho wrote:

I think its funny that the motives of the complaintants are not questioned. The target is a person on the cleaning staff that is almost done with his degree and probably a little more intellectual than his conterparts. Who's to say that they really aren't just jealous that he won't be blue coller much longer. A possible scenario:

They find a possible complaint against him and his high-falutin' ways. So they complain to him and don't listen to his explanation. They aren't interested in fixing the situation, they just want to exert the amount of authority over him that their skin color and sensitivity give them over him. Then they push it up to the higher authority to force him to do something against his will.

Its a pissing contest.

I don't know any of the individuals involved, but I would suggest that the situation is far, far worse than that.

You will find that, in certain minority dominated jobs, there are people--and not just a few--who consider the whole department part of a racial spoils system, and that the "white boy" has no business working there at all. There is quite possibly some feeling that--by the very fact of his working there--he has taken a job away from a black person.

If the shop is a union one, and governed by the SEIU, the "oppressor" would get little to no sympathy from from his business agent. I understand that this may sound wildly implausible, but this sort of thing is far more common than you might think. Believe me, the whole thing seems wildly implausable, even when you are in the midst of an environment like that.

Again, just speculation, but one based on experience.
3.6.2008 8:13pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Those originally offended were wielding power.
Ditto up the chain.
There's a certain joy in that, for the mean-spirited.
3.6.2008 8:48pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Bit, not beat.

I've discarded the book and cannot recall its title or author. The version that she was kidnapped was presented in the history I read as a sanitized version put out by her family, who were big local cheeses.

The alternate version is that she was an aging, lonely, homely post-deb out for a fling with a married dragon who was more dragonish than she bargained for. Although, it may also have been that -- elderly Indiana virgin that she was -- she intended to come back from the fling intact, at least physically.

Who knows? It's Indiana, home of the 3.0 pi.

++++

'I grew up an Irish Catholic in Tennessee (and my father is a ND graduate) and until the civil rights movement became prominent, Catholics were the primary target of the Klan'

Spare me. I grew up Italian and French Creole Catholic in
Tennessee, and my Episcopalian grandfather was an intermediary in helping to call off the Klan, to a degree, from the Catholics. But the Klan was first, last and always more about blacks than anybody else. (Granddad broke the Klan in north Georgia by testifying in a case where a sheriff-led mob burned a black man inside his home. He led an interesting life for an insurance agent.)
3.6.2008 11:37pm
Tracy W (mail):
Is it possible that the complainers have a point? I think so - depending on the context.

I can walk into a room reading a book entitled "How I killed Whitey!" or maybe a white guy can walk into a room and be reading Randall Kennedy's "Nigger" and people ignore it.

But, what I or that white guy could be doing could be pure passive aggression to make those around us uncomfortable.


I don't follow you. The book was about how the KKK was defeated. The only people who should be properly offended by such books are members of the KKK. Members of the KKK should be made to feel uncomfortable until they stop being members of the KKK. May I point out that members of the KKK have done far worse things than simply made people feel uncomfortable?

If no one should be made to feel uncomfortable, regardless of how nasty they are, then we need to do a lot more than merely stop a janitor from reading some books. For a start, I presume you advocate turning prisons into luxury resorts - after all if members of the KKK are not to be made uncomfortable surely we wouldn't want *anyone* feeling uncomfortable, even if they were in the habit of assaulting eldery ladies for their pocket money.

Seems like after the first letter, people sat down and the complainer's position was not seen as being sufficiently credible so that no disciplinary action happened. I would imagine that getting it wrong the first time happens all the time.

So if a KKK member had had a credible case that they were made uncomfortable by someone reading a book about how the KKK was defeated, you think some disciplinary action should have happened?

Look, in life people get made to feel uncomfortable all the time. That doesn't necessarily justify any disciplinary action. In the case of the KKK member who is offended by someone reading a book about how the KKK was defeated, I don't think it justifies any disciplinary action. In the case we are discussing here, it doesn't sound like anyone was a member of the KKK, so the simple solution would be for the complainents to get over their feeling that there's something offensive about reading a book about how the KKK is defeated.

It is the conduct, the power of the person, the history of the people in that setting (the law of the shop in the words of labor law) and things like that that may make this more plausible than at first blush.

How does conduct, power of the person, history of the people in that setting and things like that make this case any more plausible? Look, the history of the US includes a series of comic books about Superman defeating the KKK. In the movie "Brother, Where art thou" a group of KKK members lose out badly. I do not recall people being offended by those representations of the KKK having their backsides whipped. Therefore I think it is entirely plausible that given the conduct, power of the person, history of the people in that setting, the janitor had reasons to believe that him reading a book about the KKK being defeated would not lead to offense. This is rather the opposite from apparently what you believe.
3.7.2008 6:11am
Brett Bellmore:
Being hypersensitive is a form of aggression in our society: Because in so many contexts we're prohibited from 'offending' anybody, the act of claiming to be offended becomes a form of attack, often with the force of law behind it. This fellow's co-workers quite probably DID understand the innocuous nature of the book. They just felt like bullying him, and knew how the system enabled them to do it.
3.7.2008 6:20am
Mikeyes (mail):
Harry Eagar sez:

"Spare me. I grew up Italian and French Creole Catholic in
Tennessee, and my Episcopalian grandfather was an intermediary in helping to call off the Klan, to a degree, from the Catholics. But the Klan was first, last and always more about blacks than anybody else. (Granddad broke the Klan in north Georgia by testifying in a case where a sheriff-led mob burned a black man inside his home. He led an interesting life for an insurance agent.)"

Excuse me if I offended you with not being aware of your experience with the Klan. I assume you are not from Nashville. For those non-Tennesseans, like Gaul, TN is divided into three parts. West TN is much more like Mississippi, East TN was very Republican in thoses days, and Middle TN was a mix. Nashville always was more liberal than the rest of Middle TN (Pulaski was where the Klan started) with two historically Black universities and numerous churches and church groups. It was the starting point for many of Black protestors who went to Selma and there was a fairly quiet integration of stores, movies, etc. The first integrated basketball team (Father Ryan) in TN played in the first basketball game between a Black School and a "White team" in the state in Jan of 1965. The Klan in Nashville was a different animal due to strong opposition from many sides, Catholics (which also included both French and Italian Catholics) included. Cross burnings, lynchings, etc. all did occur in TN, but not as much in our area and not while I was growing up there. My experience with the Klan included threats to my father and to our neighbors from what turned out to be a paper tiger. We had FBI agents in our yard for a tense few weeks at one time due to these threats.

The point is not whether the Klan hated one group more than the other, but that it hated all of these groups. Blacks because they were considered inferior and were the symbol of the loss suffered during the Civil War (and a host of other reasons), Catholics because they were not Protestant and they were considered to be beholding to a foreign power (as late as the JFK election there were rumors of Catholics collecting bowling balls to make a rosary for the Statue of Liberty while the Pope flew over on his broomstick to bless it, and then a conglmeration of hate against Arabs, Jews, and other dark people just on general principles.

It is admirable that your grandfather was doing what he did. There were plenty of southerners who should have acted in this way and it is a shame that they did not.
3.7.2008 7:59am
Brian Mac:
"Racism is power plus discrimination.

Those without power cannot be racist? Pretty amazing."


Sadly, that's probably the dominant view in the social sciences nowadays. Sowell argues that the term was redefined when people figured out that blacks too could discriminate on the basis of race, thus conveniently exempting them from the charge.
3.7.2008 8:53am
Hoosier:
anym_avey:Link is worksafe everywhere except at IUPUI.

That's the best laugh I've had all day. Thanks.
3.7.2008 9:06am
Jim Collins (mail):
I'm suprised that no one has asked the $64,000 question. Did he check the book out of the University library? Think of the ramifications if he did.
3.7.2008 10:11am
Fub:
Mikeyes wrote at 3.7.2008 7:59am:
... For those non-Tennesseans, like Gaul, TN is divided into three parts. West TN is much more like Mississippi, East TN was very Republican in thoses days, and Middle TN was a mix. ...
And every available roadside surface in all three parts is emblazoned with three words: See Rock City.
3.7.2008 2:00pm
LHR:
After reading this, I must reluctantly agree with the posts in the previous thread - it *is* irresponsible for EV to link to these clearly satirical sites :-)
3.7.2008 2:27pm
Belvedere jones:

"I'm suprised that no one has asked the $64,000 question. Did he check the book out of the University library? Think of the ramifications if he did."

The NUVO report says simply that he checked it out from "the public library".

As for the klan in Indiana, just look around for D C Stephenson.

IN's klan was the largest in the country. Membership was 1/4 to 1/3 of the state's white male population and, in addition, there were women's and children's auxiliaries. It controlled the state, electing the governor, majorities in both legislative houses, and almost all of the 13 US congressmen.
3.7.2008 5:20pm
FoolsMate:
fyi: this story has got more attention

LINK
3.7.2008 6:39pm
Gary McGath (www):
The "clarification" didn't apologize, nor did it withdraw the threat of sanctions. Mr. Sampson should sue IUPUI and demand that the Affirmative Racism officer be fired.
3.7.2008 7:01pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Any clarification that fails to thoroughly repudiate this comment fails, in my book:
"You used extremely poor judgment by insisting on openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your black co-workers."
3.8.2008 12:31am
George V (mail):
Lillian Charleston
Affirmative Action Officer
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
355 N. Lansing Street, Rm. 127
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202
office:(317) 274-2306
fax:(317) 274-3963
email: lcharles@iupui.edu
website: www.iupui.edu/~aao/
YOU CAND SEND HER YOUR OPINION OUT!
3.8.2008 7:38am
Der Alte:
Why does this story bring the following quote to mind?

"Lawzy, we got to have a doctor. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!"

More seriously, there is almost nothing short of committing multiple homicide that will get Lillian Charleston fired. I'd say the best options for IUPUI would be either (a) get her an assistant with a bit of sense and a triple-digit IQ , or (b) "promote" her to a job where she won't actually be doing anything. Even better for IUPUI would be for somebody else to hire her away, but what sort of an idiot would hire her, after thsi?
3.8.2008 12:26pm
nphs:
"but what sort of an idiot would hire her, after this?"

Duke University (which tried to frame the lacrosse players).
3.9.2008 5:02am
David Smith:
The implicit, yet obvious, message in this decision is that Blacks, as a group, are too stupid to understand the difference between a book stating historical facts about how the KKK was defeated and one which says good things about them. (I shudder to think of what would have happened had the book not been about defeating them, but simply stating the historical facts relating to its rise).

That message is itself the most reprehensible thing about this, and yet, when you think about it, doesn't most affirmative action contain this very central, yet prohibited from being mentioned, essence?
3.9.2008 4:57pm
Kevin Jones (mail) (www):
I note that the story of that Grand Dragon's biting to death of that poor woman is included in the Notre Dame v. the Klan book under discussion.

I have my own family anti-Klan stories. In Denver back in the 1920s they tried to burn a cross on my Irish Catholic great-grandparents' front lawn. Some black people can't believe it when they hear that story.
3.10.2008 3:09pm