Weekly Media Round-up: Student Press Continues to Pressure IUPUI, and Harvey Silverglate on the Death of Parody on Campus

By on August 1, 2008

In what is already establishing itself as a regular feature of our Weekly Media Round-ups, I must begin by throwing out another hat tip to Chuck Norton at the IUSB Vision Weblog. This week Chuck has given a nod to Luke’s post on the lawsuit filed against Wayne State University by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of Students for Life, a pro-life student organization denied funding by the university. Norton also plugged Kelly’s post from yesterday in which she analyzed the potential effects of the Canadian Federation of Students’ motion to deny funding and resources to all pro-life groups. Thanks to Chuck for helping to continue the dialogue on these important issues.

Thanks also to the Indiana Daily Student, the daily student newspaper of Indiana UniversityBloomington. This week the Student published a staff editorial charging that a mere apology from Charles Bantz, Chancellor of Indiana UniversityPurdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), is not enough to repair the damage done to student-employee Keith John Sampson by the leveling of racial harassment charges against him. Sampson, Torch readers will remember, was found guilty of racial harassment solely for reading the book Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan.

Aside from noting the ease with which a quick Google search will always be able to link Sampson with the disgraceful charges IUPUI laid against him, the editorial rightly takes IUPUI to task for the mockery their prosecution has made of the very real and complex issues of race and affirmative action on our college campuses. Says the editorial:

An incident such as this one makes a mockery of the real issues concerning race and affirmative action by regarding the presence of an anti-Klan book on a university campus as deserving of reprimand. Accusing Sampson of “racial harassment” for reading a scholarly work only serves to dilute the meaning of what real racial harassment is. In any event, frivolous legal action regarding racial issues only serve to deaden the public’s perception of racial harassment as a serious issue.

They couldn’t be more right, and it will take a lot more than a letter of apology to undo what IUPUI’s actions have done. We hope that the staff of the Student will continue to aid FIRE in applying pressure to Bantz and the IUPUI administration in the hope that real, positive change can come from this sad tale.

Finally, after FIRE sent a second letter to Colorado College President Richard Celeste this week, it seems worth noting a feature in this week’s edition of The Boston Phoenix, in which FIRE Co-founder and Board Chairman Harvey Silverglate laments the downfall of parody and satire on today’s politically charged campus. Among the cases from the past twenty years dissected in the piece, Silverglate mentions FIRE’s work defending the publishers of the conservative Tufts University newspaper The Primary Source after the publication of a satirical Christmas carol resulted in a harassment investigation by the university.

Given the popularity of the satirical newspaper The Onion and television hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert with the college crowd, Silverglate notes the paradox of the present day situation, observing that “the political arts of parody and satire are, ironically, experiencing a renaissance among the young. But these parodies should come with a warning label to students: don’t try this on campus.”

Given the stubbornness and doublespeak that has characterized Celeste’s handling of the “Monthly Bag” controversy, which has landed Colorado College on FIRE’s Red Alert List, Silverglate’s words ring sadly true.

Schools: Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis