I recently wrote an editorial entitled ?With Liberty and Comfort For All? after I was admonished for making one of my co-workers feel ?uncomfortable? in the workplace. The point of the article was to argue that university speech codes are responsible for a dangerous trend on college campuses whereby the actual constitutional right of free speech is being trumped by the perceived constitutional ?right to feel comfortable.?
The response to my article has been simply overwhelming. In fact, I have received more email about that article than any I have ever written. Scores of readers have written with disturbing stories explaining how they had been admonished for making someone else feel ?uncomfortable.? Sadly, most of the incidents took place at public universities where freedom of speech is supposed to be sacred.
After I wrote that article, I was asked to give a speech at UNC-Chapel Hill on April 19th. When I arrived for my speech, the campus was already buzzing with talk about speech codes. Specifically, the Committee for a Queerer Carolina (no, I am not making this up) held a protest that day because they feared that the concept of ?hate speech? was being used to silence a faculty member who is also a campus gay activist.
Those who regularly read my column remember that controversy, which began when an English instructor attacked a conservative Christian student in an email (sent to all of his classmates) for his moral opposition to homosexuality. Specifically, she labeled his constitutionally protected speech as ?hate speech? and a form of ?violence.? Now, after attacking the student, the instructor is being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights for engaging in ?hate speech? herself. The reaction of the Committee for a Queerer Carolina?s Christina Delane really says it all:
?We feel like it (the investigation) is threatening every policy on campus. The federal investigators are breaking down our entire system.?
Christina just reiterated my three main points concerning campus speech codes. First, speech codes are the underpinning of the campus diversity movement. Second, speech codes were designed to censor conservative speech only. Third, once in place, speech codes are a threat to everyone (including liberals).
But, of course, campus liberals like Christina don?t see the big picture. They just want the feds to call off this particular investigation of a like-minded activist. They are not interested in abolishing a campus speech code that might come in handy for them at some point in the future.
But I am interesting in abolishing these speech codes. And I am starting right now with this editorial.
Without any further ado, I am proud to announce that Monday May 10, 2004, will be the first annual National Day of Comfort on college campuses everywhere. Between now and May 10, I am asking students, faculty, and staff all around the country to set aside several hours (or days) to make a complete list of every form of speech they have ever encountered that made them feel even slightly uncomfortable while on campus.
Readers of this article should first look to their campus speech code for guidance in the construction of that list. For example, the UNC-Wilmington speech code creates a constitutional right to comfort by banning all ?offensive speech or behavior of a biased or prejudiced nature related to one?s personal characteristics, such as race, color, national origin, sex, religion, handicap, age or sexual orientation.?
Once you have found it, you too can use your speech code to help you recall all of those jokes, opinions, posters, signs, gestures, and offhand remarks that have ever hurt your feelings in any way. I am proud to say that I have already compiled a list of literally hundreds of instances where I have felt uncomfortable as a college professor. And my list is growing every day! In fact, just this week I added a new entry after I heard the term ?Mother F?ing Ho? over the stereo system at the campus recreation center. I believe it was Snoop Doggy Dog who violated my ?comfort rights? that day.
When students, faculty, and staff at my university finish with their list, they can send it to:
601 S. College Rd.
Wilmington, NC 28403
The rest of you can find the address of your Human Resource Office on your university?s website.
When faced with potentially thousands of complaints filed simultaneously, maybe some universities will recognize the absurdity of their speech codes and abolish them immediately. Perhaps others will be forced to admit that their speech codes are only designed to protect certain groups (i.e., blacks, gays, and feminists). If they admit it in writing then let the litigation begin!
Either way, the National Day of Comfort will help me to fulfill a promise I made to Neal Boortz when I was on his radio show in January. That promise was simple: To dedicate 2004 to making college administrators feel as uncomfortable as possible every chance I get.
I need to keep that promise. And I need your help doing it.
Mike S. Adams is a professor at UNC-Wilmington. Signed copies of his new book, ?Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel? can be ordered on www.DrAdams.org.