Lillian Charleston, the administrator at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) who conducted the school’s investigation of Keith John Sampson for racial harassment, has decided to retire from her position as Affirmative Action Officer. In the aftermath of IUPUI’s mishandling of the case, Charleston as well as her department, the Affirmative Action Office (AAO), had come under fire from many commentators (indeed, the stream of negative publicity for IUPUI has picked up again more recently). Given the AAO’s blatant and severe disregard for Sampson’s basic constitutional rights, Charleston’s retirement marks a momentous occasion at IUPUI.
This turn of events is also reminiscent of FIRE’s case at Valdosta State University (VSU). Following similarly widespread criticism for his decision to expel student T. Hayden Barnes for peacefully protesting the university’s plans to construct two parking garages on campus, VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari announced that he will be retiring in June 2008, at the end of the 2007–2008 academic year, instead of December 2008, as he had originally planned. As Will Creeley wrote at the time, Zaccari’s decision to retire early did nothing to deflect attention from his contempt for Barnes’s constitutional freedoms and in fact only served to underscore the shamefulness of his behavior. To quote from Will’s post:
After being caught red-handed violating the constitutional rights of VSU student T. Hayden Barnes, it’s no surprise that Zaccari suddenly wants to get away from it all a little earlier than planned. Being publicly exposed for breaking the law on the job will do that to a person.
But early retirement cannot hide Zaccari’s clear legacy of contempt for liberty.
Removing the particulars, those same words could be used to describe the circumstances surrounding Lillian Charleston’s decision to retire, as well as her legacy at IUPUI.