The Associated Press Covers IUPUI Debacle

By July 15, 2008

Hot on the heels of last week’s Wall Street Journal opinion piece, the Associated Press has become the latest major media outlet to cover the travails of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis student-employee Keith John Sampson, found guilty of racial harassment for reading a book during his breaks from work.

In an article published by the wire service late yesterday evening, AP reporter Deanna Martin documents the basic facts of Sampson’s ordeal, with particular attention to the recent apology Sampson received from Chancellor Charles Bantz. The article also identifies the work of FIRE to secure a favorable outcome for Sampson. Martin writes:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that has fought for student rights around the country, said the second letter [to Sampson from IUPUI affirmative action officer Lillian Charleston] wasn’t good enough.

“By first finding Sampson guilty of racial harassment simply for reading a book in the break room, then refusing to admit the gross impropriety of such a finding, IUPUI makes a mockery of its legal and moral obligations as a public institution of higher learning,” wrote Adam Kissel, director of the group’s Individual Rights Defense Program.

IUPUI responded with an April letter to FIRE and the ACLU, in which Chancellor Bantz said that he regretted what had happened and that the letters written to Sampson were not in his personnel file.

But Bantz didn’t apologize to Sampson until last week, after a column in The Wall Street Journal sparked renewed criticism.

Interestingly, the AP’s coverage features new comments from IUPUI spokesman Rich Schneider:

Bantz also wrote to the others involved in the incident, including the co-worker who filed the complaint, said IUPUI spokesman Rich Schneider.

“The sentiment the chancellor was expressing in all of the letters was that this whole matter could have and should have been handled differently,” he said.

No word from Schneider, apparently, on whether he will continue to publicly smear Sampson by insinuating that unidentified other conduct, rather than the simple act of reading a book, prompted the school’s actions. As Azhar explained on The Torch yesterday, Schneider has in recent weeks publicly hinted that Sampson had been investigated for other conductall the while refusing to provide any details whatsoever about these alleged transgressions to Sampson, FIRE, or journalists. If Schneider’s unsubstantiated rumor-mongering sounds suspiciously like a desperate attempt to avoid public condemnation of IUPUI’s actions, that’s because it is. There’s a reason that The Wall Street Journal‘s Dorothy Rabinowitz was stonewalled by the school when attempting to find out more about these vague allegations; after all, it’s awfully hard to provide more details about events that didn’t occur.

But hopefully, Sampson’s troubles are finally near an end. Now that his boss’s long overdue apology to Sampson has been so widely documentedthe AP article has been picked up by the respective websites of CBS News, The New York Times, and The Chicago Tribune, for examplewe at FIRE hope Schneider gets the message, too, and stops smearing Sampson. At this point, letting Sampson get his degree in peace is the least IUPUI can do.

Schools: Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis Cases: Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis: Student Employee Found Guilty of ‘Racial Harassment’ for Reading a Book