Tuesday, March 11, 2008

So now we have to watch what we read too?

The next time some conservative person says to you, "there is no censorship in the United States," do feel free to point them to this article about Keith Sampson, IUPUI worker, who was reprimanded and forbidden from reading a book during his free time. It is clear that censorship, spurred by ignorance, is alive and well. That it happened in Indiana, where I lived prior to moving to Texas only makes me ashamed there are such ignorant people there.

In brief, Mr. Sampson was reading Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan in the employee break room during his break time from his custodial work at IUPUI. This was, again, during his break time. A couple of oversensitive busybodies complained that Mr. Sampson's reading was harassing them. Here are some of the ignorant highlights of the story:

  • "Sampson recalls that his AFSCME shop steward told him that reading a book about the Klan was like bringing pornography to work. The shop steward wasn’t interested in hearing what the book was actually about."
  • "Another time, a coworker who was sitting across the table from Sampson in the break room commented that she found the Klan offensive. Sampson says he tried to tell her about the book, but she wasn’t interested in talking about it."
  • The Affirmative Action Office on campus got involved after "a coworker had filed a racial harassment complaint against him for reading Notre Dame vs. the Klan in the break room. Sampson says he tried to explain to Watkins what the book was about. He says he tried to show her the book, but that Watkins showed no interest in seeing it." Watkins is the AAO Officer.
And you may be wondering what this heinous book is all about. According to the article:

"The book is about how for two days in May 1924, a group of Notre Dame students got into a street fight with members of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was meeting in South Bend for the express purpose of sticking a collective thumb in the eye of the country’s most famous Catholic university. Notre Dame vs. the Klan was a Notre Dame Magazine 'Pick of the Week' and garnered an average customer review of 4.5 stars on Amazon.com. In its review, The Indiana Magazine of History noted that Tucker 'succeeds in placing the event in a broad framework that includes the origins and development of both the Klan and Notre Dame.'”

Indiana has a very notorious history of being a hotbed for the Klan. I lived there long enough to learn that and of the efforts to get rid of the Klan. This book is basically a part of that history. Mr. Sampson, an avid reader, was basically engaging in his desire to educate himself as well as just doing some good reading. The fact that certain people clearly have no clue and refused to even listen highlights the need for books like these.

Then again, those ignorant busybodies should be minding their own business. After all, what the guy is reading on his free time is none of their concern. If Mr. Sampson had actually been reading pornography, which obviously the shop steward can't tell what it is, then this would be a different story. While Mr. Sampson certainly has a right to read his porn, he does not have it at the workplace. Fine, but this book is not pornography. The shop steward is simply a close-minded person who clearly can't tell a history book when he sees one. Maybe he should read one now and then. And may we also suggest the coworker educate himself or herself better as well before flying of the handle and engaging in ignorant self-righteousness?

But since the complaint was made, one would think the AAO would have been able to make a distinction and put a stop to the nonsense. Oh no. Instead, they go along with the aforementioned nonsense and in the process deny Mr. Sampson his due process rights as well. Not that he did anything wrong, but still, not even a chance to explain himself. That is definitely the type of behavior one would expect in an institution of higher learning. Yea, right. That this happened in a university where the free flow of ideas should be the norm is simply shameful.

I know I will be adding the book to my reading list now. Even the book's author has come to Mr. Sampson's defense. And I can only hope the author gets a few more sales out of this, and that maybe IUPUI learns something in the process.

Story found via FIRE's site here.

Update Note (6/4/08): The Heretical Librarian points to reports that the university, under pressure from the ACLU and FIRE, dropped the charges. Not that there should have been charges in the first place. So much for an institution of higher learning. Kind of makes me ashamed I got my LIS at IU (I went to Bloomington, but still, IUPUI is part of the same system).

1 comment:

MPA said...

Having supervised Keith, I am convinced that he did this with the knowledge that he would make trouble. Keith is student, yes but he was working as a janitor before he started taking classes. So the "student" is a misnomer, because he actually an employee.
Regardless, knowing that Keith is a troublemaker and a rabble rouser, I can only guess that he was reading the material, not because he sided with Notre Dame, but because he empathized with the Klan. Keith has tried the "reverse discrimination" thing before and failed. He is surrounded by blacks in his line of work, most are his co-workers and others are his supervisors usually.

This was calculated, but he again failed to get any money, which is his true agenda.