May 9, 2008 -- IN November, I was found guilty of "racial harassment" for reading a public-li brary book on a university campus.
The book was Todd Tucker's "Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan I was reading it on break from my campus job as a janitor. The same book is in the university library.
Tucker recounts events of 1924, when the loathsome Klan was a dominant force in Indiana - until it went to South Bend to taunt the Irish Catholic students at the University of Notre Dame.
When the KKK tried to rally, the students confronted them. They stole Klan robes and destroyed their crosses, driving the KKK out of town in a downpour.
I read the historic encounter and imagined myself with these brave Irish Catholics, as they street-fought the Klan. (I'm part-Irish, and was raised Catholic.)
But that didn't stop the Affirmative Action Office of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis from branding me as a detestable Klansman.
They didn't want to hear the truth. The office ruled that my "repeatedly reading the book . . . constitutes racial harassment in that you demonstrated disdain and insensitivity to your co-workers."
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
Shame on the affirmative-
After months of stonewalling, the university withdrew the charge, thanks to pressure from the press, the American Civil Liberties Union and a group called the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE.
Let me be clear:
I don't view this episode as a black-against-
Martin Luther King Jr. wanted a world where people "will not be judged
by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." The
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.
If they can stop me from reading one book, then they can stop any American from reading any book.
Keith John Sampson is a communication-studies senior and janitor at Indiana Uni- versity/Purdue University-Indianap