Put Down the Book and Step Away From Your Co-Workers

At Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis (IUPUI), the image to the right is considered Not Safe for Work. Can you guess why? Hint: It's not because the statue of the Virgin Mary atop Notre Dame University's dome is considered risqué. It's because—well, I'll let IUPUI Affirmative Action Officer Lillian Charleston explain (italics added):

The Affirmative Action Office has completed its investigation of [redacted]'s allegation that you racially harassed her by repeatedly reading the book, Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan by Todd Tucker in the presence of Black employees...

We conclude that your conduct constitutes racial harassment in that you demonstrated disdain and insensitivity to your co-workers who repeatedly requested that you refrain from reading the book which has such an inflammatory and offensive topic in their presence. You contend that you weren't aware of the offensive nature of the topic and were reading the book about the KKK to better understand discrimination. However you used extremely poor judgment by insisting on openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your Black co-workers. Furthermore, employing the legal "reasonable person standard," a majority of adults are aware of and understand how repugnant the KKK is to African Americans, their reactions to the Klan, and the reasonableness of the request that you not read the book in their presence.

During your meeting with Marguerite Watkins, Assistant Affirmative Action Officer, you were instructed to stop reading the book in the immediate presence of your co-workers and when reading the book to sit apart from the immediate proximity of these co-workers. Please be advised, any future substantiated conduct of a similar nature could result in serious disciplinary action.

Racial harassment is very serious and can result in serious consequences for all involved. Please be advised that racial harassment and retaliation against any individual for having participated in the investigation of a complaint of this nature is a violation of University policy and will not be tolerated.

That's from a letter (PDF) that Charleston sent on November 25 to Keith Sampson, a middle-aged member of IUPUI's janitorial staff who is working toward a communications degree and likes to read scholarly books like Tucker's (about a 1924 brawl between Notre Dame students and Klansmen) on his breaks. He didn't realize that sort of provocative behavior could "result in serious disciplinary action."

After thinking about it for a couple of months, Charleston evidently decided her threat was unwarranted. In a February 7 letter (PDF) to Sampson, she said she wanted to "clarify that my prior letter was not meant to imply that it is impermissible for you or to limit your ability to read scholarly books or other such literature during break times." Charleston, of course, never implied that; she stated it explicitly. But now she wanted Sampson to know it was never the book that was the problem; "it was the perception of your co-workers that you were engaging in conduct [i.e., reading the book] for the purpose of creating a hostile environment of antagonism." She contrasted that perception with "your perception," which was that "you were reading a scholarly work during break time, and you should be permitted to do so whether or not the subject matter is of concern to your coworkers." Faced with the clash between these two equally reasonable perceptions, Charleston threw up her hands, saying, "I am unable to draw any final conclusion concerning what was intended by the conduct."

To clarify, then, Sampson was not in trouble because of the book he chose to read. He was in trouble because of what he might have been thinking while reading the book.

Still confused? You can reach Lillian Charleston at lcharles@iupui.edu or 317-274-2306 and ask for further clarification. If you have any suggestions for books that Sampson should add to his reading list, please offer them in the comments.

David Hoppe covered Sampson's run-in with IUPUI's thought police in Nuvo, a local alternative weekly.

Addendum: I've fixed the email address and Amazon link.

[Thanks to Nicolas Martin for the tip.]

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  • ||

    I ... it's just ... wow.
    Fucking wow.
    Unbelievable.
    Wow.

  • ||

    That's as crazy as an armed nut-form.

  • ||

    As abhorrent as Charleston's political correctness is, I find the victim-mentality of the black co-workers to be a shade more disgusting and offensive.

  • ||

    Then again, I'm an Irish cracker who might be genetically and racially predisposed to defending a book about how Notre Dame beat down the KKK.
    As long as we're all about race here. Just sayin'.

  • ||

    email link is wrong : lcharles@iuoui.edu should be lcharles@iupui.edu. That "o" key is just oh-so-close to the "p".

  • Episiarch||

    you were instructed to stop reading the book in the immediate presence of your co-workers and when reading the book to sit apart from the immediate proximity of these co-workers

    I do what I want, when I want, and how I want! And no mummy Assistant Affirmative Action Officer - you hear me, Band-Aid - no mummy Assistant Affirmative Action Officer is gonna tell me what to do!

  • ||

    The NUVO article says that there's a third letter. I hope they follow-up on it.

    KU KLUX KLAN

    Gee...I hope I didn't offend anyone there.

  • ||

    The people who complained thought the book was about the KKK and possibly could have portrayed it in a favorable light. The complained, the Administration took action. The Administration realized what the book was, took back its threats while saving face.

    That's my BS theory anyway.

  • ||

    The amazon link is also incorrect, fwiw.

    And I think I'm going to pick this book up now that it's been pointed out. Looks interesting. I'll just have to make sure not to read it in anyone else's presence.

  • Jennifer||

    If you have any suggestions for books that Sampson should add to his reading list, please offer them in the comments.

    As a Sensitive Female, I say nobody should be allowed to read any books talking about how women historically have been oppressed by men. Learning that I wouldn't have been allowed to vote in the past damages my self-esteem, and I worry that a man reading such a book might secretly be thinking "Yeah, bitch, getcher ass back in the kitchen."

    As a Sensitive Person of Eastern European Plus A Dash Of Irish descent, nobody should be allowed to read books talking about how my ancestors had a hard time when they first came to America. Admit it: you bastards would just love to see a return of the days of "No Irish Need Apply," wouldn't you? Fucking bigots.

  • ||

    I'm offended by the capitalization of the word "black". It demonstrates disdain and insensitivity toward those in other racial and ethnic minority groups by implying superiority.

  • highnumber||

    Jamie Kelly's first comment is just about word for word what I was going to add.

  • ||

    Also, fuck those papists.

  • ||

    On a side note, I continue to be amazed by the Klan's deep roots in northern Indiana. I wasn't aware of their epic battle against Notre Dame, but I do know that they tried to buy my alma mater, Valparaiso University, around the same time.

  • ||

    What about a book on hot, red-headed shorties?

  • Abdul||

    Ahh, drunken angry Irishmen. . .is there any problem they can't solve?

  • Jennifer||

    I continue to be amazed by the Klan's deep roots in northern Indiana.

    My grandparents were from Indiana. Your implication that I am a racist offends me.

  • don\'t go posting emails||

    I recently read on Reason Magazine's blog that you have been involved in censuring and threatening with serious consequences a janitor who was merely attempting to read a scholarly book. Look around. Do you know what country you're in, and what century? You're in America, in the 21st century. You're not a USSR commisar. You're not a member of the Gestapo, or the Stasi. You're just some university hack, a panjandrum. You probably like to think that you've done some misty service to your community by abridging a student and employee's rights. You have not. You have merely demonstrated that you don't belong here. Not in this country, not in this century. Not in the land of the free: you belong in the land of the jack-booted thugs, who cackle at abridging the liberties of others, and lay prone while the heel of tyranny presses down upon any honest throat.

    Take a good look in the mirror. You're the problem with America. Maybe you should do everyone a favor and just leave. Based on your actions, there's no place for you here.


    Sincerely,
    a student

  • Fluffy||

    I have any number of problems with the application of the "reasonable man" standard to the concept of what is offensive, since it seems clear to me that the First Amendment means that the state may not define any speech of any kind to be offensive.

    But even if I accepted it, how on Earth can anyone say with a straight face that a reasonable man standard was applied?

    If you see a book about people fighting the Klan, and you don't perceive that immediately obvious and transparent fact from the cover, you are not a reasonable man - you are a fucking retard. A "fucking retard" standard was applied here.

    You may as well rule that it's offensive to read a book called "Lincoln Freed The Slaves" because it mentions slavery, or "Martin Luther King Fought Jim Crow" because it mentions Jim Crow.

  • ||

    good thing charlie Weis wasn't coaching back then

  • ||

    Wouldn't MLK Jr. day and black history month fall into the same category of offensiveness?


    But I suppose if we have no history to learn from, then we can't possibly repeat it.

  • Nephilium||

    Let's see... some other books for him to read, and possibly offend people:

    The Screwtape Letters - The word screw has other connotations, and may make people believe you are reading inappropriate pornography.
    Job: A Comedy of Justice - May offend right thinking Christians by making light of the plight of Job.
    The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish - May offend those that came from a broken family, or those who only have two female parental units.

    At least, these are the ones I can come up with off the top of my head. Not counting the obvious ones like Liberal Fascism...

    Nephilium

  • ||

    A "fucking retard" standard was applied here.

    Hear, hear, fluffy.

    The application of a fucking retard standard requires said retards as both complainants and adjudicators.

  • ||

    "... requested that you refrain from reading the book which has such an inflammatory and offensive topic in their presence."

    So... the affirmative action office is saying that fighting the Klan offends "Blacks"?

    (also try capitalizing "Whites" in official correspondence and see how far that gets you.)

  • BC||

    Some other books to add to the 'untouchable' list:

    BALLS!, by John E. Barrett
    Hold On To Your NUTs, by Wayne M. Levine
    Big Spankable Asses, by Angie Daniels

    just scratching the surface.

  • ||

    As a Sensitive Person of Eastern European Plus A Dash Of Irish descent

    You might want to avert your eyes. I have a book about the dumb polack stereotype.

  • ||

    Waitaminnit... This guy gets in trouble for reading about about defeating the KKK?

    No wonder the uni EEOC played Blame the Victim when I (the only woman in my then-workplace) complained about my co-workers' phallic banana jokes and notes about "touch this and you'll catch gonorrhea" and "Keith's Pussy-Lickin' Farm" and the multiple stories about weekend escapades at the strip club.

    Yep. It all makes sense now.

    Fighting the Klan: Bad
    Pussy jokes in staff meetings: Suck it up, bitch.

    Got it.

  • ||

    about a book about

    oops

  • Episiarch||

    Bronwyn, what do you say to a woman with two black eyes?

    Nothing. You already told her twice.

    (rimshot)

  • ||

    So if his coworkers had been Jewish, would he have been in trouble for reading books on WWII?

  • ||

    A friggin' mazing!

    Furthermore, employing the legal "reasonable person standard," a majority of adults are aware of and understand how repugnant the KKK is to African Americans, their reactions to the Klan, and the reasonableness of the request that you not read the book in their presence.

    What a condescending attitude towards black citizens. Oooh, their sensitive widdle feewings might get bwuised.

  • MJ||

    Charleston's letter is so logically flawed because the actual problem is not one she can admit. That it is not whether Sampson intended any offense or that what he was doing was actually offensive, but that the person that made the complaint was offended in ignorance of what the book was actually about and was merely judging it on the basis of what's on the cover and a word in the title.

  • Rhywun||

    I think the capitalization was a holdover from when "Black" replaced "Negro". The capital letter disappeared in the 70's but has made a comeback in some contexts, such as hyper-sensitive Affirmative Action bureaucrat-ese.

  • x,y||

    The people who complained thought the book was about the KKK and possibly could have portrayed it in a favorable light. The complained, the Administration took action. The Administration realized what the book was, took back its threats while saving face.

    That's my BS theory anyway.



    Sounds possible to me. And if this was the case, why would the administration take action in the first place without any due diligence?

  • ||

    Epi - that's an oldie but a good 'un :)

    Bitch! Bring me my beer! And where's my chicken pot pie?

  • Episiarch||

    It's a classic.

    I would never let a woman kick my ass. If she tried something, I'd be like: "HEY! You get your bitch ass back in the kitchen and make me some pie!"

  • ||

    You know what the biggest problem battered women have?


    (smacking fist in hand) They just don't FUCKING LISTEN.

  • ||

    Whenever I read one of my books on skepticism or atheism during my breaks at work, I put the book into a nondescript book cover to hide the title and author's name so as not to rise the ire of my fundamentalist co-workers. The last thing I need is to be fired because a Bible-beater felt "offended" by my reading a Richard Dawkin's book in plan view.

    Of coruse, I *could* complain that their open reading of study Bibles and plastering their cubicle walls with religious quotation creates a "hostile work environment" for atheists like me, but won't. I won't for two very good reasons.

    1) I'm not petty enough to deny free speech to anyone, not even my philosophical opponents.

    2) Even if I did complain, chances are I'd probably loose given the pro-religious bent of American society.

  • ||

    Amen to all that, Akira. I do tire of the proselytizing, though. I can handle having to wait outside your cubicle while you share a Prayer Minute with someone on the phone, but stop telling me how my annoyance with my husband is because the Devil is trying to get in my head.

    *eye roll*

  • ||

    Edit"

    "...but I won't."

    "...probably lose..."

  • Rimfax||

    Ahh, drunken angry Irishmen. . .is there any problem they can't solve?

    One, Canada.

  • Episiarch||

    Jamie, excellent. I did not know that one.

  • Episiarch||

    Do you people actually work with people like that? Are you fucking serious? Where do you work, Jesus City?

  • Rimfax||

    He clearly was being niggardly with his sensitivity towards his coworkers.

  • ||

    I do tire of the proselytizing, though.

    Ugh! Tell me about it! I sit right behind one who is constantly going on about his faith and how Jesus "saved him," about how Creationism is true and the Rapture is coming any day now, about the "evils" of abortion and homosexuality (apparently he doesn't know about the couple of openly gay staff members, or doesn't care), how a Huckabee administration will bring America "back to God," and how it's his "mission" to "save" each and every one of his co-workers--including me (he doesn't know about my atheism, but he does know that I'm a gamer).

    I don't dare go to my supervisor because he's a hard-core Christian Republican too (I see them often trade religous books and bible-study CDs) and I don't think he'd be too sympathetic to my case.

  • ||

    Episiarch:

    Well I work at a call center in the Milwaukee suburbs. I admit, it's annoying, but I can handle it. I live with my ultra-Catholic father, so I'm used to hearing BS day-in, day-out.

  • ||

    Jamie, those were good. Lefty and Righty, the Great Communicators :)

    Epi - I (and robc) work in Louisville, KY, home of Six Flags Over Jesus.

  • ||

    Ironically, a custodian who is trying to better himself and become educated and culturally enriched was most likely sold up the river by people who claimed to be more educated and culturally enriched than he.

    While I am on the subject, I also work for a university and have had the unfortunate experience to have had to take harassment training twice (the Affirmative Action office lost my records - sheesh). I also had the good fortune experience to have had to take a part-time job in retail since government schools pay their professional staff so well. But in the retail job, I also was compelled to take harassment training for yet a third time. I was thoroughly dreading it until I actually did take my training.

    The difference in "affirmative action" between the government sector and the private sector is incredible. On the one hand, you have a parasitical, unproductive, dull staff trying desperately to justify their miserable existence; "if you aren't really sure that you have been harassed or not, just let us handle it and we'll get the filthy SOB..." Contrast this with my private company's plea to us employes; "please, we need every employee that walks through those doors to work here, we need every customer that comes here to spend money - if you say or do something that makes someone stop coming here, then we've lost an invaluable resource." *That's* why you don't harass people folks!

    I'd say this brother learned much more about discrimination from reading this book than he had ever imagined that he would.

  • Episiarch||

    Wow. I find it a bit shocking because I have never worked in an environment even close to that. Programming isn't full of Bible humpers, but still your situation seems crazy extreme.

  • robc||

    Bronwyn,

    Hopefully you are posting from home today.

  • thoreau||

    What the hell?

    Normally I get suspicious of these incidents and wonder if there's a backstory, but, seriously? A book about how the Klan got its ass kicked is anti-Klan. Period.

  • Guy Montag||

    Not sure what he should read around those people, but he better stay away from certain titles by Dick Gregory and George Orwell!

  • BakedPenguin||

    So long as we're being er... un-PC today...

    Battered women? I prefer extra crispy!

  • In the year 2000...||

    Business Administration classes will be replaced with somebody that whips repeatedly and says, "Don't get sued!"

  • Rhywun||

    Wow. I find it a bit shocking because I have never worked in an environment even close to that.

    Ditto. Then again, I've worked all my life in either NYC or the upstate NY cities; people around here keep their politics and religion to themselves for the most part. Also, I have never had a job where the "sensitivity" training consisted of anything more than a short paragraph in the company handbook--amen!

  • robc||

    Epi - I (and robc) work in Louisville, KY, home of Six Flags Over Jesus.

    Remember kids, we are parked in the Zecharia lot.

    I shouldnt make fun, my church isnt much smaller.

  • ||

    1) I'm not petty enough to deny free speech to anyone, not even my philosophical opponents.

    2) Even if I did complain, chances are I'd probably loose given the pro-religious bent of American society.


    How about this:

    3) I think people should be free to read what they want regardless of its religious content or criticism of.

    Nah I would not expect that to come from you.

  • robc||

    Zechariah

    Ugh, joke isnt funny without the h on the end.

  • ||

    My head just exploded trying to wrap around the galactic-sized stupidity, ignorance and just plain ol' illogic needed to create this event.

    Will someone please hand me the glue?

  • thoreau||

    Actually, there probably is a back story here, and if I had to guess I'd guess that the back story is that his co-workers are pissed at him for some reason, and this was a convenient way to go after him. So the lesson (if my guess is correct) is about the abuse of rules.

    But that's just a hunch.

  • Guy Montag||

    Sensitivity Training: That class where they try to tell you that you can't call broads chicks.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Just sent the following email, which, I'm certain will be bounced or directed to the spam tank.

    I just now read a copy of your letter to Mr Sampson regarding his choice in reading materials, ie, the Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan by Todd Tucker.

    I have concluded from that letter that if you worked for me instead of a public, taxed supported institution, that you would be fired immediately. Your judgment is obviously cloudy and you apparently missed that undergrad class in logic. Reading the entire letter gives rise to the suspicion that you may well be insane. Perhaps a different kind of institution would be more appropriate for you. Maybe one with orderlies wearing white coats.

  • ktc2||

    . . . so reading about a defeat for the KKK is racially insensitive to black people . . . ?

    WTF?!

  • ||

    When I think Notre Dame, I think football. So the title of the book just produces some weird mental images for me. Anyone else?

  • curious||

    Does anyone know what is the race of the janitor and university gestapo officer involved?

  • ||

    Pain,

    No peripheral vision in those hoods; no wonder Notre Dame easily defeated them.

  • PC||

    It would have been funny if a fellow minority coworker filed a complaint against the person who filed the original complaint because they were offended, being that the original complaint insinuates that minorities are not bright enough to make the distinction or create the impression that they don't read scholarly works. Then you would have to file a complaint against the Affirmative Action department for making a similar argument.

  • ||

    The average person in this country cannot read and entire sentence and come to their own conclusion of what it means. They have been MK-Ultraed into having a list of words and symbols implanted in their brain...if they see those words their reasoning function COMPLETELY shuts off. It is also know as a jedi-mind trick....

    A partial list of the words(and phrases) that cause half of our population to completely shut down brain functioning:

    KKK
    "your just throwing away your vote"
    noose
    war on terror
    conspiracy
    Sadam Hussein
    racist
    Radical extremist
    Islamic jihad
    nazi
    9/11
    gateway drug
    isolationist
    holocaust denier
    anti-semite
    nigger

    the people who are succesfully implanted with this list of non-words, have usually never heard of George Orwell or Murray Rothbard so you will have no problems reading their books anywhere you go...they will just think you are a wierd nerd.

  • Fluffy||

    I think people should be free to read what they want regardless of its religious content or criticism of.

    It didn't look to me like that poster was disputing that. Rather, he seemed to be questioning whether filing complaints against majority-supported viewpoints was an effective way to protest the existence of such policies or not.

    I tend to think that it can be. If an obscure or unpopular viewpoint is targeted, perhaps the same tools should be employed to brutalize a majority or establishment viewpoint, by way of an object lesson. It's an interesting ethical question.

  • ||

    robc - No, I'm at work, but the coworker in question has her cube in the farm downstairs, two floors away from the rest of us.

  • ||

    And but also too, she's working from home today :)

  • alan||

    As an American of Latin decent, never, NEVER ask me to button my shirt up all the way, you insensitive jackasses from
    Human Resources.

  • ed||

    He was in trouble because of what he might have been thinking while reading the book.

    The same criteria apply to "hate" crimes. It's not enough that you just murdered someone. Being a bigot at the same time makes it far worse in the twisted world of hate-crime warriors.

  • Episiarch||

    It's an interesting ethical question.

    You double-cross once - where's it all end?

  • ||

    Thoreau,

    I think that you are right ... there is a back story. I think that it has something to do with the fact that the offended co-workers asked the guy to not read the book in front of them. They didn't say that he couldn't read the book, just not in their presence (like most other commenters here, I don't know why they would be offended, but they, apparently, were). The guy obviously continued to read the book in front of the people, the people got pissed, the junta was called in. Story old as time.

  • ||

    Jeez, Akira. Just spotted your comments... I'll consider myself lucky that our Jesus Cheerleader works on another floor! I'd go nuts if I had that babble in my ear all day long O_o

  • Other Matt||

    That's as crazy as an armed nut-form.

    joe-? Typing one handed again? You've got to have a serious heat rash with all the racism stuff of late, might want to change hands. Honestly, as your biggest fan, I would have thought you'd be charging off to apply for a job there, or at least institute the same standard of self flagillation in regards to not "offending" anyone on your home turf.

    Normally I get suspicious of these incidents and wonder if there's a backstory, but, seriously? A book about how the Klan got its ass kicked is anti-Klan. Period

    What's sad, Thoreau, is that people have made such an industry of screaming racism at every turn (piss off, joe) that attorneys now get sue happy. The mere fact that the cover of the book has a picture of a Klan cross burning is enough for the Sharpton/joe crowd to go run screaming "racism!!!" and break out attorneys. The game is to sue, and get what you can, and pat yourself on the back for standing up for the little people while you fuck life up for the rest of the world.

    Logically, this then causes the HR department to way overreact, just because someone, probably not someone offended but someone scared of not toeing the line to the extreme, mentions that they saw a guy with a book with a Klan cross burning on it.

    The problem is that it detracts from the real work of eliminating racism. Instead, it ends up with situations like this, where people are so overly concerned about it they do stupid things. Even the backing off was only half hearted, as some asshole someplace would try to say by backing off they're commending racist views so they really can't admit they were completely heads up the ass in the original. Really, can you blame them?

  • ||

    joshua corning said:

    Nah I would not expect that to come from you.

    This thread wasn't complete until it offended at least one reader. Great job, Akira!

  • ||

    Herein lies on of the pitfalls of regulation.

    IUPUI Affirmative Action Officer Lillian Charleston is likely a thoroughly well meaning official who has to serve all the people in her institution.

    When someone comes to her with a complaint she can hardly dismiss them by saying, "you were offended by a book about defeating the Klan? How fucking stupid are you?"

    Finding a balance that calms the complainant but does not pose a burden on the object of the complaint is a tricky business. Ms Charleston does not seem to have done an awfully good job of it but i do think that's what she might have been trying.

    Of course, some of us think there are people who need to be asked, "How fucking stupid are you?" now and then. But that's another matter. And don't expect your average bureacrat to be the ine doing it.

  • robc||

    When someone comes to her with a complaint she can hardly dismiss them by saying, "you were offended by a book about defeating the Klan? How fucking stupid are you?"

    Really? Why not? Maybe this is why I could never be hired as a Affirmative Action Officer, but that probably would have been the exact thing out of my mouth.

    If I ever hire one, this will be an interview question. If they dont answer something like that (although maybe more polite) they cant be hired.

  • ||

    What if I'm offended by a bunch whiny mouth-breathers who shouldn't have any right to dictate what anyone reads in their presence? Oh, right. As a nation, we've become exactly that.

    I'm moving to Mars.

  • ||

    robc

    When you have a job where you are required to please everyone, you can hardly go around saying, "How fucking stupid are you?" to people.

    This, after all, is bound to displease a good number of them no matter how much they deserve it.

    The mystery to me is why so many people take on these kinds of jobs.

  • ||

    You contend that you weren't aware of the offensive nature of the topic and were reading the book by Mark Twain about Tom Sawyer to better understand discrimination. However you used extremely poor judgment by insisting on openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject (i.e., Jim) in the presence of your Black co-workers. Furthermore, employing the legal "reasonable person standard," a majority of adults are aware of and understand how repugnant the slave Jim is to African Americans, their reactions to the Klan, and the reasonableness of the request that you not read the book in their presence.

  • robc||

    Isaac,

    I once had an employee call me a "frickin' retard". Despite the look on his face after realizing what he said, I didnt fire him or discipline him. I agreed with him. Employees who prevent me from doing something stupid are valuable employees.

  • ||

    WRT perception, according to my company's sexual harassment training videos (sadly, not instructional how-to videos, but that's a different story), a person's intention matters not a whit when considering a harassment complaint. All that matters is the "victim"'s perception as to whether they feel like they've been harassed.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    The mystery to me is why so many people take on these kinds of jobs.

    Although I agree with you that she was trying to walk a thin line and keep everyone happy, she did actually take the job and still has it. Therefore, while I fully understand her position, I am entirely unsympathetic.

  • alan||

    I love this:

    If you see a book about people fighting the Klan, and you don't perceive that immediately obvious and transparent fact from the cover, you are not a reasonable man - you are a fucking retard. A "fucking retard" standard was applied here.

    I love this -- we should edit all previous case law to replace, 'reasonable man' with 'fucking retard' so the actual intent of the law would be more clear to everyone.

  • ||

    Weren't these other folks supposed to be, y'know, *working* instead of focusing their gaze on the reading materials of the janitorial staff? I think that Indiana taxpayers have a right to know...

  • ||

    robc,

    I had an employee scream "PWNED!" in my face the other day, but then we were playing a video game in the office.

    Be careful in the snowpocalpyse. You guys are getting hit much harder than we are.

  • ||

    SO let me get this straight: a Book about DEFEATING The Klan is supposed to be racially offense to black people?

    So the college affirmative action department SUPPORTS the KKK?

    alrighty then.

  • M||

    Should have read it in a plain brown wrapper of color.

  • zoltan||

    KKK
    "your just throwing away your vote"
    noose
    war on terror
    conspiracy
    Sadam Hussein
    racist
    Radical extremist
    Islamic jihad
    nazi
    9/11
    gateway drug
    isolationist
    holocaust denier
    anti-semite
    nigger


    Ahem, FNORD.

  • LarryA||

    Thoreau:
    Normally I get suspicious of these incidents and wonder if there's a backstory,

    Why do I have this picture? A member of the custodial staff (who else would a janitor take breaks around) looks at Keith and thinks, "Who does he think he is, taking classes and studying. I bet he thinks he's better than I am. I'll fix his wagon."

    I think the capitalization was a holdover from when "Black" replaced "Negro".

    Around here you capitalize "Hispanic" because the root is "Hispania," a proper noun. And if you capitalize Hispanic, you best also capitalize Black.

    Whenever I read one of my books on skepticism or atheism during my breaks at work, I put the book into a nondescript book cover to hide the title and author's name

    My eldest daughter is a reader. During late elementary school she got hooked on romance novels. A parent complained about the lurid covers and wondered how her parents (us) could let her read that trash.

    The teacher asked my daughter if we knew what she was reading. My daughter told her the truth, that we swapped them back and forth. The teacher laid out the alternatives. My daughter could compromise by using a book cover, or deal with the parent raising a fuss. Regardless, the teacher would back my daughter's right to read anything we approved of.

    My daughter played nice, and left the offended parent looking like what she was.

  • ||

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA... HAHAHAHahahahaaa....

    Oh... this WASN'T the Friday Funny?

    Damn!

    CB

  • ||

    The average person in this country cannot read and entire sentence and come to their own conclusion of what it means.

    joez law of teh internetz: writing a comment insulting someone's intelligence will result in a spelling error which will cause the reader to question your own.

    e.g., Get a Brain, Morans!

  • ||

    Akira,

    Put up with the proselytizing if you wish, but Title VII includes religious discrimination so your situation meets the definition of a hostile work environment. You are within your right to request that he stop and to file a complaint if no action is taken or there is any retribution. If you proceed, document, document, document.

  • ||

    Other Matt | March 7, 2008, 2:11pm | #

    That's as crazy as an armed nut-form.

    joe-? Typing one handed again? You've...


    zzz

  • Nonny||

    Has anyone offered remedial reading classes to the employee who was offended?

  • thoreau||

    Read between some lines: The basic problem here is that some of his co-workers are being unreasonable and complaining about him. I don't know why they don't like him, just that they don't like him. For all I know there may be perfectly good reasons to dislike him. (Lots of assholes in this world.) But they have decided to complain about him on the most ridiculous grounds possible.

    Normally this is resolved by a boss who has a number of options, including appeasement of the squeaky wheel, ganging up on the odd man out, telling the idiot to shut up and work, or trying to find some compromise that results in minimal inconvenience for the boss. Standard office politics since the dawn of time.

    But these co-workers have decided to take it to somebody higher than the boss, and turn it into something that can't just be resolved by standard office politics. They take it to a person whose job description does not allow her to say "Oh, stop being an idiot." She can't even say "Please stay away from your idiot co-workers, because they're whining, and honestly they're a bunch of idiots so it's to your advantage to stay away from them."

    So she sends a letter telling him that he's harassing his co-workers.

    This is a failure of the system. There are very real incidents of harassment, but this isn't one of them. Unfortunately, the rules do not allow somebody to just say "Oh, stop being an idiot."

  • ||

    As an atheist, I am thrilled to the gills that I work with a bunch of secular Jews! All the hard-core relgionists around here keep their god nonsense to themselves. I really do love West LA.

    Here's my letter to the woman:

    Ms. Charleston:

    I read with utter incredulity the account of your short-sighted abuse of one Keith Sampson in pursuit of an offense-free environment at your campus.

    I ask with not an ounce of sarcasm: Have you completely lost your mind?

    You owe this man, all thinking human beings, and perhaps most importantly America's black community an enormous apology for your revolting witch hunt against Mr. Sampson, which among many other things amounts to a gross infantilization of a huge bloc of American society. Are our psyches really all so fragile?

    And after you apologize, you should resign or be fired. Intellectual freedom cannot afford to have bored, mid-level martinets policing institutes of higher learning for perceived indiscretions such as Mr. Sampson's. The mind will not be hobbled.

    Most sincerely,

    [REDACTED]
    Los Angeles, California

  • ||

    Just got this back from the flack for the university:

    Thanks for your message. Hope this clarifies what's happened.



    Background:

    The office of Affirmative Action at IUPUI investigated a claim of a hostile work environment filed by a co-worker of Mr. Sampson, who is an employee as well as a student at IUPUI.



    Investigation of claims of uncivil behavior, discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace are taken very seriously and investigated by the Office of Affirmative Action at IUPUI.



    Position of the Office of Affirmative Action:



    · Mr. Sampson is free to read whatever book he wishes to during work breaks or other appropriate times at work.

    · Co-workers requesting the investigation perceived that Mr. Sampson was engaged in conduct for the purpose of creating a hostile atmosphere of antagonism.

    · Mr. Sampson believes that he should be permitted to read whatever book he chooses, whether or not the subject matter is of concern to his co-workers.



    The Office of Affirmative Action was unable to draw any final conclusion concerning what was intended by the conduct of Mr. Sampson. Because there was no final conclusion, no adverse disciplinary action has been or will be taken in connection with the circumstances at hand.





    A letter sent to Mr. Sampson by the Office of Affirmative Action in November 2007 referred to a book Mr. Sampson brought with him to read during work breaks, "Notre Dame vs the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Klu Klux Klan." Regrettably, that has focused attention on the book he was reading, rather than the conduct of Mr. Sampson which his co-workers believed to be deliberately hostile.

    Rich Schneider

    IUPUI Media Relations Director

    317-278-4564

    rcschnei@iupui.edu



    A second letter was sent to Mr. Sampson in February 2008 withdrawing the first letter. It sets forth the position of the Office of Affirmative Action that is cited above.

  • T||

    I shudder to think what would have happened to him were he have been reading this.

    So, reading a book in a university creates a hostile work environment? How ridiculous do you have to be to even make that argument? His conduct was deliberately hostile? How the fuck do you deliberately and hostilely read a freaking book? What, watch as he turns the pages with undisguised hatred?

    They must have the good stuff up there in Indiana. I want some of those drugs.

  • robc||

    Get a Brain, Morans!

    joe, you arent keeping up on your farkisms. As of today, it is "Get a Brian, Columbia!"

  • robc||

    Tag problems, link left out. Sigh.

    Get a brian, Columbia

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Wow, GM. You got an answer?

    I sure didn't. :-)

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Ahh, I see now that my original email bounced. No such address....blah, blah, blah 550 blah, blah

  • ||

    First, this:

    rac·ism (rā'sĭz'əm)
    n.
    1)The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.

    2)Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

    "racism." The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 07 Mar. 2008. Dictionary.com

    Throughout the comments I've surveyed here, and from the links, nobody mentions the whole fiasco is, by definition, racially motivated.

    Because Mr. Sampson happened to have a book with 'KKK' emblazoned on the cover with a hooded mob AND HE'S WHITE, the assumption is automatically he's a racist, reading racist materials.

    Basing disciplinary actions on that assumption, on the say-so of one person, without even a cursory glance at the actual facts, is institutionalized racism, pure and simple.

    Working in a field (contracting) rife with racism in my area, (philly) I can tell you this type of thing only feeds the fires of predjudice. Great for Al Sharpton, lousy for our country.

  • db||

    Epi - I (and robc) work in Louisville, KY, home of Six Flags Over Jesus.

    I've noticed this on my trips to the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot, which is held near Louisville. They open every fucking day up with a prayer. Some dude just starts randomly talking (I know, I know, it's the "Spirit" moving him--but the Spirit evidently isn't a member of Toastmasters):
    "Jesus, we just thank you for this day, and Jesus, we ask that you take our country into your sweet arms and make all the dirty people see the light, and Jesus, we just ask you, Jesus, keep Hillary out of the White House and ..."

    Cripes. Just let me fucking pull the trigger and dump a couple thousand $$ down range without the religious BS. I'm buying the ammo from you anyway.

  • Prickley||

    I am illiterate. I find that people reading anything in public offensive and insensitive to people like me. It is time to ban books.

  • ||

    I, too, work in an office with several pushy evangelicals, including my boss. Prayers at the Monday staff meetings, lunch-hour Bible studies of Revelation ... people asking God to "bring [subject of prayer's] pancreas into alignment with Your will ... "

    The worst part is, I'm a very dedicated Anglo-Catholic, and that just brings me MORE grief. My boss will actually sit me down and say things like, "You know infant baptism doesn't mean anything, right?"

    One of these days I'm just going to flash a tit, scream "All honor and glory to Ba'al!" and run away.

  • Bryan||

    People should contact the Chancellor of the IUPUI campus, Charles Bantz, and let him know that IUPUI has been featured in Reason and why. I'm sure he'd adore the sort of reputation this is giving his campus.

  • Mad Max||

    Think of the incentives here.

    If a university is accused of permitting a "hostile work environment" against a protected group - racial, religious, etc. - then it can be in trouble with federal courts or the Dept. of Education. This is similar to the rules applying to private businesses under Title VII, but with universities there's the extra angle of federal subsidies.

    So imagine a "hostile environment" suit some time down the road by an African-American plaintiff. The discovery process disgorges this incident. What if the affirmative action officer blew off the complaint on the grounds that it's just a [bleep]ing book, and it's *against* the Klan? Then the record would show that the university dismissed a complaint of racial harassment. Ignoring claims of racial harassment could be interpreted as permitting a hostile environment.

    To stop this process in the bud, better to crack down on anyone against whom a complaint is filed, so that if there's ever a hostile environment lawsuit, they can say, "look, we take all complaints seriously and we punish the malefactors! How can you say we tolerate a hostile environment? Please don't force us to pay heavy damages!"

  • Fat person||

    heavy damages

    I resent that, uh, figure!

  • lk||

    the email link is still not fixed completely

    while it reads correct, the hypertext mailto link is still the old one so if you right click an choose 'copy email address' rather than select and copy it will still be wrong

    feel free to delete this comment as it disrupts the flow / is offtopic

  • ||

    "it was the perception of your co-workers that you were engaging in conduct [i.e., reading the book] for the purpose of creating a hostile environment of antagonism."

    Actually, the perception of coworkers is the relevant point. What YOU do, or think is irrelevant; what your neurotic co-worker perceives is all important. Yet another fine result of the PC drift of our country.

  • ||

    THis should not surprise anyone. A few years ago a high-ranking (Democrat) city administator for the city of Baltimore was fired for using the word "niggardly" during a speech.

    The ignorant ones in the audience had never heard the word and just assumed that it was a racial slur. Even after learning the definition of the word (stingy), the man was still fired!

  • ||

    There's some backstory here. Back in November of 2006 a black student group on campus sent out a letter to campus administration implying racial discrimination, http://www.iupui.edu/diversity/assets/061102_through_our_eyes.pdf
    While the group might have had legitimate concerns, their putting forth a list of demands like they're holding hostages hits as pretty juvenile. Anyway, IUPUI administrators took the allegations seriously and reacted decisively. While some of the initiatives have been positive and increased awareness of diversity on campus, it has created a over-heightened sense of racial sensitivity by campus administrators. Charleston's extreme response to this situation just seems to be part of the fallout from what occured back in late 2006.

  • J A Jones-Ford||

    I sent an email to the address listed it came back. What is the corect email address ?

  • wizard of oz books||

    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

  • han||

    I'm not usually one to eagerly await academic journal symposiums

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