Sunday, May 18, 2008

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

I was very tempted to title this blog post ARGGGGG!!! I came across this article, Read a Book, Harass a Co-Worker at IUPUI a few months late, but it is timeless. This kind of nonsense just never ends. The article begins

In a stunning series of events at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Keith Sampson, a university employee and student, has been charged with racial harassment for reading a book during his work breaks.

Sampson is in his early fifties, does janitorial work for the campus facility services at IUPUI, and is ten credits shy of a degree in communication studies. He is also an avid reader who usually brings books with him to work so that he can read in the break room when he is not on the clock. Last year, he began reading a book entitled Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. The book, which has garnered great reviews in such places as The Indiana Magazine of History and Notre Dame Magazine, discusses the events surrounding two days in May 1924, when a group of Notre Dame students got into a street fight in South Bend with members of the Ku Klux Klan. As an historical account of the students' response in the face of anti-Catholic prejudice, the book would seem to be a relevant and worthwhile read, both for residents of the state of Indiana and for anyone interested in this chapter of American history.

A shop steward told him this was like bringing pornography to work and a co-worker told him she was offended. A racial harassment complaint was filed against Sampson. No one had any interest in hearing what the book was really about. He was ordered to not read the book in the presence of his co-workers and to sit apart from them whenever reading it.

Why did I write at the beginning of my post that this nonsense never ends? Because,when I was a high school student, I was reading a book by Somerset Maugham during my lunch break when a teacher came up to me and grabbed it from my hands, scolding me saying "What would your mother say if she caught you reading that book?" I took my book back and, to her shocked face, replied that it was my mother who had suggested I read it. The name of the book? Of Human Bondage. Clearly this teacher had neither read nor heard of this classic book and had based her attempt to censure me solely on her assumptions about the content from the title.

P.S. I did find a follow up article Victory at IUPUI: Student-Employee Found Guilty of Racial Harassment for Reading a Book Now Cleared of All Charges

Administrators at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) have revoked their finding that a student-employee was guilty of racial harassment merely for publicly reading the book Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. Following pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), IUPUI has declared that Keith John Sampson's record is clear and said it will reexamine its affirmative action procedures relating to internal complaints.

and this article by Keith Sampson My ‘racial harassment’ nightmare published in the New York Post earlier this month.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Wow, Monique! Thanks so much for sharing this--it never would have crossed my mind that anyone could possibly be charged for reading personal reading material on breaks. It appears that ignorance is not going anywhere anytime soon. Unfortunately.