In an insightful column in the New York Post (hat tip: Instapundit), Keith John Sampson describes his experience at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in his own words. Sampson discusses the shock he felt at being found guilty of racial harassment for the mere act of reading a book in the break room at his workplace:
A friend reacted to the finding with, “That’s impossible!” He’s right. You can’t commit racial harassment by reading an anti-Klan history.
For months, I felt isolated and dejected. Yet I knew that most of the faculty, staff and students at Indiana University were good people. The campus is a growing, thriving part of Indy, where people of all colors and religions come to study.
But the $106,000-a-year affirmative-action officer who declared me guilty of “racial harassment” never spoke to me or examined the book. My own union – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – sent an obtuse shop steward to stifle my freedom to read. He told me, “You could be fired,” that reading the book was “like bringing pornography to work.”
It truly is a shame that the people Sampson refers to hold the amount of authority and influence that they do on a university campus (not to mention that generous salary!). As Sampson writes:
Abolitionist Charles Sumner said, “Prejudice is the child of ignorance. It is sure to prevail where people do not know each other.” The people at the Affirmative Action Office were so myopically intent on finding a Klansman, they failed to see a natural ally standing before them.
The unchecked power of such campus bureaucrats needs to be restrained. And if a union like AFSCME won’t protect its workers’ constitutional rights, it should go out of business.
Thankfully, there have been some positive developments, as IUPUI Chancellor Charles R. Bantz has pledged that the school “will be reexamining the campuswide affirmative action processes and procedures relating to internal complaints.” Hopefully, this will prevent the occurrence of a similar episode in the future. While this of course does not erase the harm done to Sampson, my hope is that one embarrassing situation is enough for IUPUI to have learned its lesson.