Friday Ephemera

Where Reason Never Sleeps

A while ago, I posted a video documenting the bizarre experience of Keith John Sampson, a student-employee at IUPUI, who found himself accused of “racial harassment” and “extremely poor judgment” for “openly” reading a history book in his free time. Following Sampson’s story, and others like it, readers have asked a not unreasonable question: Why does no-one get fired for this?

The FIRE blog reports that firings do happen following dubious accusations, though not in ways one might wish and not to those one might expect

Professor Thomas Thibeault made the mistake of pointing out - at a sexual harassment training seminar - that the school’s sexual harassment policy contained no protection for the falsely accused. Two days later, in a Kafkaesque irony, Thibeault was fired by the college president for sexual harassment without notice, without knowing his accuser or the charges against him, and without a hearing. […]

Thibeault’s ordeal started shortly after August 5, 2009 when, during a faculty training session regarding the college’s sexual harassment policy, he presented a scenario regarding a different professor and asked, “What provision is there in the sexual harassment policy to protect the accused against complaints which are malicious or, in this case, ridiculous?” Vice President for Legal Affairs Mary Smith, who was conducting the session, replied that there was no such provision to protect the accused, so Thibeault responded that “the policy itself is flawed.”

Thibeault’s account of the exchange can be read here. The following extract may be of interest, echoing as it does an assumption we’ve encountered before - specifically, that injured feelings, or claims of such, should override facts, logic and normal proprieties:

Mary Smith was explaining the sexual harassment policy and was emphasising that faculty had to report suspicions of sexual harassment by any faculty member to the college administration. She was stating that the feelings of the offended were proof of the offensive nature of the behaviour.

And thus, presumably, proof of grounds for disciplinary action, even dismissal. And why not? After all, claims of being offended never, ever hinge on the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the supposedly aggrieved party. And no-one would ever exploit the pretence of being hurt, even when it offers unilateral leverage and a license to get even with someone they just don’t like.  

At this point, Thibeault says he asked what provision had been made to protect against malicious or absurd accusations. (Such as those made at Occidental College, in which an innocuous campus radio broadcast was construed as “abusive and intimidating” and as “sexual harassment” of its student audience. Or Tufts University’s Islamic Awareness Week, during which statements of unrefuted fact were deemed to create a “hostile environment” and thus grounds for censorship and punishment.) 

Regarding the possibility of false or frivolous accusations, Smith is said to have replied:

There is no provision in the policy. I must emphasise that if the person feels offended then the incident must be reported to the college authorities. Even if you hear such a statement about a faculty member, you are to report it. If you don’t, you yourself are party to the harassment and harassment is dismissible.

The FIRE report continues,

Two days later, Thibeault was summoned to [college] President John Bryant Black’s office. According to Thibeault’s written account of the meeting - which was sent to Black and which Black has not disputed - Thibeault met with Black and Smith. Black told Thibeault that he “was a divisive force in the college at a time when the college needed unity” and that Thibeault must resign by 11:30 a.m. or be fired and have his “long history of sexual harassment… made public.” This unsubstantiated allegation took Thibeault by surprise. Black added that Thibeault would be escorted off campus by Police Chief Drew Durden and that Black had notified the local police that he was prepared to have Thibeault arrested for trespassing if he returned to campus. At no point was Thibeault presented with the charges against him or given any chance to present a defence.

At the time of writing, almost six weeks after the initial exchange, Professor Thibeault still hasn’t been presented with any evidence of his alleged involvement in sexual harassment, beyond highlighting a major flaw in the harassment policy itself.

However, as FIRE notes,

Further communication between Thibeault and a colleague has revealed that one day after Thibeault expressed his concerns, his colleagues were pressured to produce evidence of “sexual harassment.” A central item of evidence apparently was Thibeault’s reading aloud of non-sexual excerpts from the book An Encyclopaedia of Assholes to colleagues in a faculty break room - with the alleged element of “sexual harassment” arising simply from the book’s title.

Thus, “exposing faculty members” to a book about public figures said to deserve the appellation “asshole” – including Bill Clinton and George Bush - can now be construed as “sexual harassment” and grounds for dismissal. Indeed, mere visibility of the book’s title may be taken as evidence of “divisiveness” and intent to oppress.

Behold academia, where reason never sleeps.


Breitbart.tv has a 23-minute B-Cast interview with Professor Thibeault. It’s not looking good for EGC administrators (or the ACLU).

Update 2:

“East Georgia College Settles Lawsuit for $50,000 After Firing Professor Who Criticised Sexual Harassment Policy.”