Well, I suppose it had to happen. After eleven years of teaching at a public university, I finally got a call from one of my superiors informing me that I had made one of my co-workers feel ?uncomfortable? in the workplace. For those who may not know, the right to feel ?comfortable? at all times trumps the First Amendment at most public universities.
Naturally, when I found out that I made a co-worker feel ?uncomfortable,? I wanted to know what I had said or done to produce such an unthinkable result. That was when I learned that the ?discomfort? occurred because I had been discussing some of my weekly columns here in the workplace (i.e., at the public university). The penalty for that transgression was simple: a ban on discussing my columns in the office in front of those who might be offended by my opinions. This was accompanied by the shocking revelation that ?not everyone sees things the way you do, Mike.?
When it first hit me that while in the office I could no longer talk about gay rights, feminism, religion, Darwinism, affirmative action, or any issue I discuss in my column, I was outraged. In fact, I got so mad that I raised my voice before storming out of my superior?s office. I never thought that the right of each university employee to feel comfortable at all times would ever actually be enforced against me here in the workplace (a.k.a., the public university).
But after I thought about it for a while, my anger turned to elation. Surely, the power to trump the First Amendment rights of others in response to ?discomfort? is available to all employees, not just a select few. Since that must be the case (because our public university is committed to equality), I decided to make a list of every situation I had encountered at UNC-Wilmington where I felt ?uncomfortable.?
Armed with such a list, university administrators can now identify and silence the responsible parties, and I can enjoy the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of unmitigated comfort. The following list isn?t yet complete, but I thought that I would share some highlights since I?m not allowed to talk to anyone in the office (here at the public university) about these issues:
*My first year at UNCW, a faculty member in our department objected to a job candidate because he was ?a little too white male.? Such comments make me feel really uncomfortable, being a white guy and all that.
*My second year at UNCW we removed a white woman from our interview pool in order to make room for a black woman. When the university forced me to discriminate on the basis of race, I felt really uncomfortable.
*My third year at UNCW someone suggested that we should reject a job candidate because he was ?too religious.? It sure makes me feel uncomfortable when people say things like that.
*My fourth year at UNCW someone objected to a job candidate because she felt that the husband played too dominant a role in the candidate?s marriage. It also makes me feel uncomfortable when people say things like that.
*Then there are all the times that the name Jesus Christ has been used as a form of profanity in the office. That makes me feel uncomfortable. By the way, I am especially offended by the phrase ?Jesus F***ing Christ!? I mean, no one ever says ?Mo-F***ing-Hammed!? or ?F***ing Buddha!,? do they?
*Then there was the time that a gay activist in our department suggested that I switch to bi-sexuality in order to double my chances of finding a suitable ?partner.? That made me feel uncomfortable and she knew it. After I started to blush, she asked, ?What?s the matter, are you a little homophobic?? So what if I don?t think you can change your sexual orientation as easily as your underwear? Is that so wrong? Do I really have a phobia?
*And how about the time that a faculty member called another faculty member a ?mother f***er? in one of our meetings? That was before he said that he should have climbed over the desk and ?slapped the s*** out of him.? These sociologists need to start getting along with one another if they plan to build a Utopian society. Plus, it makes me feel really uncomfortable to hear about these threats of violence in the workplace.
*Then there?s the professor in our department who thinks that I am trying to poison her with tear gas. A few years ago the police questioned me about breaking into her office and spraying chemicals. That was a pretty uncomfortable situation. I think it even qualifies as a Maalox moment. By the way, how long do I have to work with this woman? She makes me feel very uncomfortable.
*And then there was the time that the university attorney read two of my personal e-mails against my objections. Do you have any idea how uncomfortable that made me feel? That?s a long story that you can read about in my new book, which I am not trying shamelessly to promote. I know that capitalism makes a lot of my colleagues feel uncomfortable.
*A member of the UNCW Board of Trustees has been heard calling people ?white trash? and making other racist statements in public. She has to vote on my next promotion as well as the promotion of every other professor at the university. That makes me feel a little uncomfortable, still being a white guy and all that. Maybe my race makes her feel uncomfortable, but some of us can?t afford to change the color of our skin. We can?t all be like Michael Jackson. I know that makes a lot of parents feel comfortable.
Well, that covers the first ten items on my list. I have over two hundred more to go but I?m getting a crick in my neck from writing all of this down. It?s only 10:51 a.m. (EST) but I think I?ll call it a day. I can?t work unless I feel perfectly comfortable, both physically and emotionally at all times.
I?ll be back in the morning. In the meantime, the university needs to start rounding up all of the people who are interfering with my life, liberty, and pursuit of absolute comfort. I hope that no one will feel uncomfortable when they are reprimanded for making me feel uncomfortable.
I know that if everyone follows my lead, free speech will die here at our local university. But at least everyone will feel comfortable at all times. I guess that?s all that really matters.
Mike S. Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of ?Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel.? Note: all UNC-Wilmington faculty, staff, students, and administrators who were offended by this column must keep their remarks to themselves while in the workplace. Discussion of my columns is strictly forbidden. If anyone cares to discuss the incidents mentioned in this article, just meet me for a latte at Barnes and Noble. I?ll buy the first round, unless that makes someone feel uncomfortable.