FIRE Column on IUPUI Racial Harassment Finding in ‘Indy Star’

By on March 25, 2008

Today’s Indianapolis Star features a column written by FIRE’s Azhar Majeed, a Justice Robert H. Jackson Fellow, on Keith Sampson’s case at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Sampson, a student-employee, was found guilty of racial harassment for reading the book Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. After Sampson’s co-worker filed a complaint with IUPUI’s Affirmative Action Office based on the book’s cover—which showed pictures of burning crosses—the AAO sent Sampson a letter of reprimand informing him that he had been found guilty of racial harassment. The AAO failed to give Sampson any hearing or opportunity to defend himself in the matter.

Although the AAO eventually sent Sampson a second letter recognizing his right to read the book during breaks, it failed to apologize for its actions and simply stated that it was “unable to draw any final conclusion concerning what was intended” by Sampson’s reading the book.

As Azhar writes:

This is an insufficient, hardly corrective response. It does nothing to address the grave wrong perpetrated against Sampson—the harassment finding still stands—and does nothing to prevent such abuses in the future.

IUPUI must immediately expunge the harassment finding from Sampson’s record. Additionally, the university needs to take a close look at the AAO’s policies, procedures and personnel to ensure that something like this never happens again. The Affirmative Action Office must be held accountable for its egregious actions. Significant changes and increased oversight are in order. If not, anyone at IUPUI could be the next Keith Sampson.

FIRE will continue to monitor Sampson’s case. Stay tuned to The Torch for more updates.

Schools: Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis