WASHINGTON — In 2007, Keith John Sampson, a middle-aged student working his way through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as a janitor, was declared guilty of racial harassment. Without granting Sampson a hearing, the university administration — acting as prosecutor, judge and jury — convicted him of “openly reading a book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject.”
“Openly.” “Related to.” Good grief.
The book, “Notre Dame vs. the Klan,” celebrated the 1924 defeat of the Ku Klux Klan in a fight with Notre Dame students. But some of Sampson's co-workers disliked the book's cover, which featured a black-and-white photograph of a Klan rally. Someone was offended, therefore someone else must be guilty of harassment.
This non sequitur reflects the right never to be annoyed, a new campus entitlement. Legions of administrators, who now outnumber full-time faculty, are kept busy making students mind their manners, with good manners understood as conformity to liberal politics.
Liberals are most concentrated and untrammeled on campuses, so look there for evidence of what, given the opportunity, they would do to America. Ample evidence is in “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” by Greg Lukianoff, 38, a graduate of Stanford Law School who describes himself as a liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, lifelong Democrat who belongs to “the notoriously politically correct Park Slope Food Co-Op in Brooklyn” and has never voted for a Republican “nor do I plan to.” But as president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) he knows that the most common justifications for liberal censorship are “sensitivity” about “diversity” and “multiculturalism,” as academic liberals understand those things.
In recent years, a University of Oklahoma vice president has declared that no university resources, including email, could be used for “the forwarding of political humor/commentary.” The College at Brockport in New York banned using the Internet to “annoy or otherwise inconvenience” anyone. Rhode Island College prohibited, among many other things, certain “attitudes.” Texas Southern University's comprehensive proscriptions included “verbal harm” from damaging “assumptions” or “implications.” Texas A&M promised “freedom from indignity of any type.” Davidson banned “patronizing remarks.” Drexel University forbade “inappropriately directed laughter.” Western Michigan University banned “sexism,” including “the perception” of a person “not as an individual, but as a member of a category based on sex.” Banning “perceptions” must provide full employment for the burgeoning ranks of academic administrators.
Many campuses congratulate themselves on their broad-mindedness when they establish small “free speech zones” where political advocacy can be scheduled. At one point Texas Tech's 28,000 students had a “free speech gazebo” that was 20 feet wide. And you thought the First Amendment made America a free speech zone.