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A prelude to mob rule

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Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, 9:01 p.m.
 

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.” 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.

At Tufts, a conservative newspaper committed “harassment” by printing accurate quotations from the Quran and a verified fact about the status of women in Saudi Arabia. Lukianoff says Tufts might have been the first American institution “to find someone guilty of harassment for stating verifiable facts directed at no one in particular.”

In 2007, Donald Hindley, a politics professor at Brandeis, was found guilty of harassment because when teaching Latin American politics he explained the origin of the word “wetbacks,” which refers to immigrants crossing the Rio Grande. Without a hearing, the university provost sent Hindley a letter stating that the university “will not tolerate inappropriate, racial and discriminatory conduct.” Hindley was required to attend “anti-discrimination training.”

Such coercion is a natural augmentation of censorship. Next comes mob rule. Last year, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the vice provost for diversity and climate — really; you can't make this stuff up — encouraged students to disrupt a news conference by a speaker opposed to racial preferences. They did, which the vice provost called “awesome.” This is the climate on an especially liberal campus that celebrates “diversity” in everything but thought.

Parents' tuition dollars and student indebtedness are paying for this. Good grief.

George F. Will is a columnist for The Washington Post and Newsweek.

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