Boston University professor Margaret A. Hagen was accused of uttering a politically incorrect sentence in the privacy of her office. Before long, she found herself in the Orwellian grasp of her campus’ liberal thought police–under investigation for possibly uttering words that offended a “protected class.”
‘F**k! The Maine same-sex-marriage initiative passed!”
This is what someone who does not know me and happened to be passing my university office the day after the fall elections allegedly heard me say on the telephone.
He filed a complaint with my employer’s Equal Opportunity Office.
On November 19, 2012, I was forced to meet with the executive director of the EOO, and with the chair of my department, to have a “conversation” about the complaint.
The director threatened to investigate on her own if I did not show up.
The complainant said that he found the allegedly overheard expression “offensive.” He said — or the director inferred — that he was gay, that the remark indicated a demeaning attitude toward his lifestyle and made him uncomfortable, and that believing that a senior professor felt vehement opposition to the passing of the Maine initiative created for him a “hostile work environment.”
The director assured me that the complaint was in an unspecified category that did not rise to the level of an actual legalcomplaint of harassment or discrimination.
I asked if she would investigate a complaint by someone with a traditional religious orientation who overheard a senior faculty member vehemently expressing joy that a state same-sex-marriage initiative had passed. She said, “No,” such a person would not be a member of a “protected class.”
Persevering, the director asked me again what I had said on the phone. I objected that she was inquiring about my political views. She denied that, saying she wanted to know what I had said only because a complainant’s knowing that a “senior faculty member” held a view different from his could make him “very uncomfortable.”
But only some discomfort-causing views are investigated by the university.
On April 29, 2009, my school’s official newspaper, BU Today, ran an interview with a Boston University law professor described as a gay-rights supporter and “an advisor for Outlaw, the law school’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender student group.” When asked about arguments against same-sex marriage, he replied, “Most of them are religiously based, but marriage is a civil institution. So I don’t think private morals have any place in this debate, and I don’t think I should have to live by someone else’s moral code or religion.”
I wrote to the university provost asking, “Is there a listing of political opinions that are acceptable to the university and/or to the EOO Director posted somewhere on our Web site to inform employees when they have the wrong views?” More than two months later, I got a reply stating that the university enforces all federal and state discrimination and harassment laws and, in addition, is a supporter of academic freedom.
Now, three and a half years later, the issue of political opinions acceptable to the university has arisen again. While there is no actual posting anywhere on the university website of political views that may not be expressed on the school campus, there is certainly an unwritten list that includes opposition to same-sex marriage, and there are real consequences to ignoring that list.
Accompanied as it was by the clear threat to undertake an “investigation” — presumably by questioning colleagues and students about my political beliefs — and the direct demand to know what political view I had expressed on the Maine marriage initiative, the EOO director ‘s coerced “conversation,” with the department chair present, was an unambiguous attempt to intimidate me…