Judging a Book By Its Cover – Literally

May 5, 2008

Over at The Huffington Post, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has blogged about the conclusion of FIRE’s case at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). In it, Greg recalls how university administrators punished student-employee Keith John Sampson for reading a book called Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan:

But never mind what’s actually inside the bookit’s got a picture of hooded Klansmen burning a cross on the cover! Following this nasty bit of anti-intellectual illogic, Sampson’s workmates promptly freaked out. One coworker told Sampson that reading a book about the Klan was akin to ogling pornography at work.

Sampson was then charged with, and found guilty of, racial harassment. Fortunately, after letters from the ACLU and FIRE, IUPUI removed all records of this finding from his file and Charles Bantz, IUPUI’s Chancellor, stepped up and admitted the school’s mistake. Greg concludes his post:

Unfortunately, that makes Bantz something of a rarity among his fellow college bigwigs. Far too often, administrators dig in their heels when confronted with their abuse of student rights.

For example, take Brandeis University, named a recipient of a 2008 “Muzzle Award” by the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression for finding a professor guilty of “racial harassment” for explaining the pejorative meaning of the term “wetback” in class. Or Colorado College where students have been found guilty of “violence” for publishing a parody of a feminist newsletter. Or how about the fact that most colleges and universities still maintain laughably unconstitutional speech codes?

Read Greg’s entire Huffington Post blog here.

Schools:  Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis

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