You probably know her. She?s only in her forties, but she?s already on her fourth marriage. Her kids are grown so she decides to get a job at the local university. Now she has secure employment, even if her salary and benefits are not up to par. But, most of all, she likes what she hears from day one; namely, that her employer will assiduously defend the rights of blacks, women, and gays never to be offended in the workplace. She is protected by the campus speech code.
At first it starts with the occasional offhand remark. She jokes with a student worker, saying that she should just sleep with her professor to get a better grade. Then she jokes with a professor by telling him that the female office staff ?sexually evaluate? him when he isn?t around. Then she embarrasses a student worker who complains about a kidney infection by saying ?yes, we all know where that came from.?
But then it happens. Someone offends her. And it isn?t a woman or an African American. It isn?t even a homosexual. It?s just a conservative professor.
At first she says that she just wants to talk to him. But he doesn?t react the way that she expects. He isn?t condescending or angry. He just politely asks her what he might have said to offend her. So she starts to cry. Then she raises her voice. Then she asks for a three-way meeting with the department chair as she storms out of the office.
But the meeting never happens. Instead, while the accused ?offender? is at lunch, she runs to the department chair, saying she was made to feel uncomfortable by the professor?s political remarks. She cannot identify anything specific but the chair caves in anyway. He calls the professor into the office to make sure that he stops saying the unknown word or phrase that made her feel uncomfortable.
The woman I am referring to suffers from what I call Free Expression Menopause Syndrome (FEMS). FEMS causes her to have hot flashes and to become emotionally unraveled every time she hears an opinion contrary to her own. But this kind of reaction is by no means a female problem.
In fact, you probably know him, too. He?s in his thirties. He came out of the closet in his twenties. He?s never worked anywhere but a public university. He thinks that the speech codes were written because of cases like the one involving Matthew Shepard. And he thinks they were written for gays only.
He recently helped to organize a trans-gendered law seminar at the university. It was there that he made offensive remarks about Christians. But when a professor later writes to ask how much money the seminar cost the taxpayers, he suddenly remembers the university speech code that protects him from offensive speech.