Eminent UCLA law professor and blogger extraordinaire Eugene Volokh exposes a case of political correctness run amok, to the point of absurdity. “Harassment by reading”? Oh, it’s worse than that. University administrators in Indiana came down hard on an employee reading during breaktime a scholarly book that included “Ku Klux Klan” in the title. (You can learn more about the incident, and the book’s clearly anti-Klan theme here.)
Here’s the key excerpt from a university Affirmative Action Office letter, reprinted on Volokh’s site:
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 you were instructed to stop reading the book in the immediate presence of your coworkers 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.
I guess if you’re looking to be offended, one way or another you will. A new disclaimer label may be needed for many of our nation’s postsecondary institutions:
Warning: Outbreak of politically correct platitudes and victimhood ideologies on campus. Extended exposure may result in a long-term deficit in common sense and a chronic inability to be taken seriously by people in the real world.
Volokh’s post also highlights the follow-up “clarification” letter from the Affirmative Action office that may leave you scratching your head.