Mona Charen

Administrators at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis had seemed to be vying for the title of most ludicrous educators in America. The story began when a student, Keith John Sampson, who worked in the university's janitorial department, was seen reading the book "Notre Dame Vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan" in the break room. Sampson was notified by the university's Affirmative Action Office that he had committed the offense of "racial harassment." He protested that the book lauded the Notre Dame students who had taken on the Klan in 1924. Never mind, said Lillian Charleston, the AAO director. By "openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject," he had violated university policy.

The university has since reversed itself and expressed "regret that this situation took place." But consider the fascist environment the PC police have created. That the student felt constrained to defend the book's content as politically acceptable is an outrage in itself that goes to the heart of academic freedom. Welcome to an America where you must glance over your shoulder to wonder whether your co-workers will inform on you for reading forbidden matter!

The stifling effect of racism and sexism allegations has led some to extremes. Richard Peltz, an award-winning law professor at the University of Arkansas, felt trapped by accusations of racism. Peltz had alienated some of his black students in the following fashion: 1) he participated in a panel discussion on affirmative action and argued against it, 2) he displayed in class a satirical article from The Onion that mentioned, among other things, Rosa Parks' death and 3) he illustrated the unfairness of affirmative action policies by offering to give all minority students an extra point on a test just for signing a form.

Members of the Black Law Students Association, together with a black lawyers group, then accused Peltz of "hateful and inciting" speech. They complained to the administration that this "racist" professor should be dismissed or at least disciplined. The university declined to fire Peltz but did withdraw him from teaching required courses. Now Peltz is suing his former students for defamation (assuming a mediation recently undertaken fails) and so academic freedom spirals down and down.

How do we avoid this swamp for our own kids? We should all donate to FIRE. Beyond that, I'm open to suggestions.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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