SHADMIA'S WORLD

Just Another Guy with Opinions

School Apologizes to Student Janitor

Posted by shadmia on July 17, 2008

It never fails to amaze me how asinine and full of bigotry some people can be. The following racially-charged story is set in an institution of higher learning……yes, a university!! It involves a student, Keith John Sampson, working as a janitor; a co-worker, Nakea William; a book: Todd Tucker’s “Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan”; the school’s affirmative-action officer, Lillian Charleston, and the school’s administration. Before the situation is resolved the ACLU, FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) and the Wall Street Journal all got involved.

It all began at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI), when Keith Sampson, a white man, brought a history book to read in the break room of the university where he studies and works as a janitor. The book was about the defeat of the Ku Klux Klan by Notre Dame students in a 1924 street brawl. Sampson, who is part Irish explains it this way:

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.)

One of his co-workers, Nakea William, complained about his reading material which started the following ridiculous chain of events in motion:

  • Mr. Sampson was in short order visited by his union representative, who informed him he must not bring this book to the break room, and that he could be fired. Taking the book to the campus, Mr. Sampson says he was told, was “like bringing pornography to work.” That it was a history of the battle students waged against the Klan in the 1920s in no way impressed the union rep.
  • The assistant affirmative action officer who next summoned the student was similarly unimpressed. Indeed she was, Mr. Sampson says, irate at his explanation that he was, after all, reading a scholarly book. “The Klan still rules Indiana,” Marguerite Watkins told him – didn’t he know that? Mr. Sampson, by now dazed, pointed out that this book was carried in the university library. Yes, she retorted, you can get Klan propaganda in the library.

The matter was brought to the attention of Lillian Charleston, the school’s affirmative-action officer who responded to the incident by writing Sampson the following letter:

Upon review of this matter, 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 [sic] 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.

After the official judgment against him, Mr. Sampson turned to the Indiana state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, whose office contacted university attorneys. The case also got some sharp local press coverage that threatened to get wider……it was a great story:  A university had brought a case against a student on grounds of a book he had been reading.

Bowing to the pressure of the publicity surrounding the case, Lillian Charleston decided to revise her comments and wrote another letter to Simpson to clarify the first one:

And so the new letter to Mr. Sampson by affirmative action officer Charleston brought word that she wished to clarify her previous letter, and to say it was “permissible for him to read scholarly books or other materials on break time.” About the essential and only theme of the first letter – the “racially abhorrent” subject of the book – or the warnings that any “future substantiated conduct of a similar nature could mean serious disciplinary action” – there was not a word. She had meant in that first letter, she said, only to address “conduct” that caused concern among his co-workers.

What that conduct was, the affirmative action officer did not reveal – but she had delivered the message rewriting the history of the case. Absolutely and for certain there had been no problem about any book he had been reading.

What, then, was the offense? “Harassing behavior.” While reading the book? What the behavior was, one learned, could never be revealed. There was, of course, no other offensive behavior.

University Chancellor Charles R. Bantz, after being pressured by FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) as well as the ACLU, finally sent them a letter expressing regret over this affair, and testifying to his profound commitment to freedom of expression. After it was pointed out that the Chancellor “forgot” to express his regrets to the person most affected by the entire incident……Keith John Sampson, he also sent the following letter address to Sampson:

I want to offer you my apology for the problems associated with the letter you received from the Affirmative Action Office………A recent column in the Wall Street Journal reminded me that while I had expressed my regrets to……the Indiana Civil Liberties Union and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education…..I had not done so to you personally.

I can candidly say we regret this situation took place….

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3 Responses to “School Apologizes to Student Janitor”

  1. 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.

  2. Keith John Sampson said

    MPA is a LIAR! “…he was working as a janitor before he started taking classes” I was a student at IUPUI for a 15 years before I became a janitor. I took a semester off when I ran out of money.

    MPA “I can only guess that he was reading the material, not because he sided with Notre Dame, but because he empathized with the Klan.” You guessed wrong LIAR! I was reading the book for two reasons, One, I hate the Klan and wanted to learn more about their domination of Indiana in the 1920’s. The other reason for reading the “legal” library book was because I am historical fiction writer and I was mining for information for a fiction story. Why in the hell would I read an anti-Klan book if I was a Klan supporter. NON SEQUITOR!

    “he failed to get any money, which is his true agenda.”

    MPA lies again, I was not trying to get money I was trying to prove that I was not committing a crime by reading an Anti-Klan history book on a University campus. The Chancellor apologized to me, not the other way around.

    MPA is a hateful, mental and moral midget!

    KEITH JOHN SAMPSON

  3. Keith John Sampson said

    MPA was my Supervisor for one year. In that time I was never disciplined by my dept. for anything. It was the University AAO that labeled me a racist. MPA was infamous for screaming at his workers. Once he had a black co-worker and friend of mine in tears after he yelled at her for no cause.

    Also MPA was written up for a book situation of his own. He was using work time to hold bible study classes. When I read the Anti-Klan book I was on my break time. MPA was stealing from the company by using the time we were being paid for, to run his own personal bible study classes.

    MPA “Keith is a troublemaker and a rabble rouser” That is what they said about Jesus and Martin Luther King,

    MPA: “Keith is student, yes but he was working as a janitor before he started taking classes.” Wrong ! I have an Associate’s degree (1978) from another college.

    When I became a janitor I had over 150 college credits. I was a senior at IUPUI when I became a janitor.

    In 1999, I was taking classes and I wrote an editorial for the campus newspaper that said the Confederate flag stands for “racism and slavery.”

    I was a janitor, on my break reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X”. Does that sound like a racist person? If I really were some kind of Klansman racist as MPA is implying then why would I have a photo of Malcolm X in my living room and why would date women of color and live in a all black neighborhood.

    In my opinion MPA is a mean hateful person. Don does not even use his real name.

    Keith John Sampson

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