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Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
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Friday, February 10, 2012

College Student Suspended For Writing About Being Attracted To Professor

Oakland University (near Detroit) reportedly suspended a student for 3 semesters because he wrote in a class assignment that he found his instructors attractive. The course specifically permitted students to write creatively about any topic. In one entry titled "Hot for Teacher," the student tells a story about being worried because he is distracted in class by attractive professors. From the Press Release I saw, nothing vulgar was written. I do not know how many stories were written.

The student has retained a lawyer and is apparently bringing a First Amendment case to challenge his suspension. He is supported by an organization called Foundation For Individual Rights in Education, or "FIRE." You can read more about this bizzare story here.

UPDATE: February 13, 2012

It appears that some of the participants in this matter have chosen to comment. Their comments appear below.  

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/adjunctprofs/2012/02/college-student-suspended-for-writing-about-being-attracted-to-professor.html

College Professors, Colleges, Constitutional Law, Education Law | Permalink

Comments

I would have taken the compliment and run if I were Prof. Pamela Mitzelfeld. She's not too bad, to be sure, but she's no Ginger. By all accounts she's a good teacher, though, so perhaps there's more to the story . . . ?

Posted by: Nick | Feb 10, 2012 2:54:24 PM

The professor's email (which is linked to in the FIRE article) does not even refer to these journal entries when she says she will not return to campus until the student is dealt with. What it does allege is that the student has advertised a gun obsession while simultaneously harassing many women on campus.

Suspending a student for the journal entry above alone is ridiculous. But if it was part of a harassing pattern of behavior, well, that's another matter entirely. And the school should have made it clear that it was the threatening pattern of behavior and not the writing alone that was at issue. Otherwise this case does set a chilling precedent.

Posted by: LaceElephant | Feb 11, 2012 2:42:13 PM

My wife is a language professor at a Very Large Public University and, for what it's worth, she is good looking (and an excellent instructor).

Every couple of years she gets an essay that is "inappropriate" like the one described here. So she asks the student to her office hours (as to not embarrass him in front of the class), and tells him politely that this sort of thing isn't, well, appropriate, and to rewrite it on another topic. The kid will sheepishly say "Um, okay, sorry." And that's that.

But then, she's a grownup.

Posted by: jim | Feb 11, 2012 3:30:53 PM

I've wondered about whether you would be excluded from a jury pool if you volunteered that you found one of the lead attorneys distractingly hot. Probably the attorneys would know you were lying: If you really did have a crush on one of the attorneys, you wouldn't want to be excluded so you wouldn't admit it.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Feb 11, 2012 3:36:02 PM

Brain dead faculty and universities. I wonder why he wasn't charged with rape and sexual assault!! Charged with "unlawful individual activities," and found guilty.

Posted by: moron | Feb 11, 2012 3:38:46 PM

Funny how I didn't even have to read the article to know that it was a male student writing about a female professor. You'd never read a story like this if it was the other way around. More male=evil misandry in higher education

Posted by: Steven | Feb 11, 2012 4:30:04 PM

I think photos would help this story immensely. *ahem*

Posted by: Curmudgeon Geographer | Feb 11, 2012 4:55:11 PM

As a Casper, Wyo high school teen-ager (1956)...I went to Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo once...and...saw (3) of my teachers drinking ...and...carrying on with some guys...they were definitely hot...!

Posted by: mike | Feb 11, 2012 5:44:42 PM

There are many more facts to this case than the few that Mr. Corlett has presented to various media outlets in his attempt to raise publicity for himself. The University Conduct hearing in which Mr. Corlett was found responsible for repeatedly and deliberately intimidating his professor and another student in the class considered a range of evidence, not just his writing journals. Moreover, Mr. Corlett had a history of inappropriate classroom and campus behavior prior to this event. His case was reviewed by a committee of faculty and student representatives, and University procedures were followed to insure that Mr. Corlett received a full and fair hearing. Please do not mistake this for a free speech issue: it is not. This is a case where a student’s pattern of deliberate and repeated intimidation led to his suspension.

Posted by: Kathleen Pfeiffer | Feb 12, 2012 9:44:21 AM

Mr. Corlett, Let me remind you that you were not, based on the story, enrolledin Fiction writing but Academic writing, and a daybook is a very specific assignment. In addition, sexual commentary on a professor in an academic text is a poor rhetorical decision not to mention rude and inappropriate. The reality is that your writing is not the only issue stated in the case against you.

Academic freedom is not dead at OU, nor is safety for your peer group. Administration did what was necessary to protect the campus community when you chose to start waving your gun around on campus.

Posted by: S | Feb 12, 2012 9:57:00 AM

There are many more facts to this case than the few that Mr. Corlett has presented (and misrepresented) to various media outlets in his attempt to raise publicity for himself. The University Conduct hearing in which Mr. Corlett was found responsible for repeatedly and deliberately intimidating his professor and another student in the class considered a range of evidence, not just his writing journals. Moreover, Mr. Corlett had a history of inappropriate classroom and campus behavior prior to this event. His case was reviewed by a committee of faculty and student representatives, and University procedures were followed to insure that Mr. Corlett received a full and fair hearing. Please do not mistake this for a free speech issue: it is not. This is a case where a student’s pattern of deliberate and repeated intimidation led to his suspension.

Posted by: KP | Feb 12, 2012 10:00:51 AM

What, Professor Pfeiffer, is the evidence that Corlett "chose to start waving your gun around on campus"? Is there a police report or a student disciplinary charge? Any eyewitnesses? Or is this fiction?

Posted by: Ann | Feb 12, 2012 11:32:10 AM

Excuse me: I am addressing S in the previous comment. My query for Prof. Pfeiffer is to explain what even a single shred of this alleged additional evidence is.

Posted by: Ann | Feb 12, 2012 11:34:40 AM

Perhaps you could ask Mr. Corlett to permit the release of a transcription of the University Conduct hearing. There, both the professor in question -- a distinguished and valued member of our community, by the way -- and the student who also testified against him (note how he doesn't mention that students also accused him of intimidation as part of the hearing), explain in clear detail the series of events that led the case to be brought before the University Conduct Committee. As I said, Mr. Corlett received a full and fair hearing before a committee of faculty AND student committee members and the sanction was NOT imposed by the administration. His sanction resulted from diligent and conscientious attention to University Conduct policy. This is not a free speech issue. It is an issue of repeated and deliberate intimidation -- which Mr. Corlett is continuing through this internet publicity campaign of misrepresentation and attack.

Posted by: Kathleen Pfeiffer | Feb 12, 2012 4:17:05 PM

I see the "student's" attorney has been very, very busy selling this story to the right-wing blogs. He has strategically left out quite a few items, like the gun fetish that the student mentioned, often in heavily erotic contexts, in his "journal" which was supposed to be about the reading assignments. This "student" is over 50 years old -- no silly adolescent who would mumble "um, sorry" after being told that his stories were inappropriate. He also had quite a long history of hanging around the campus and harassing female students before he enrolled as a student. I wouldn't claim to know why he enrolled, but the suspicion is hard to avoid that it gave him an excuse to be on campus that would prevent his eviction by university police.

Anyone besides me remember Virginia Tech? Remember who tried, in vain, to warn the administration that the student was mentally ill and potentially dangerous? That's right, his English professor, who read his disturbing essays. Need I ask what you would be saying about the "politically correct, weak-kneed, sissy administrators who cared more about a mentally ill student's sensitivities than about the safety of students" if some tragedy like that had happened at Oakland?

Posted by: Susan | Feb 12, 2012 6:05:26 PM

By the way, there's a comment above that mentions one of the parties in this dispute by name. I'm appalled that your moderator allowed that; it should be pulled, especially since this individual's privacy has already been violated in disturbing ways.

Posted by: Susan | Feb 12, 2012 6:06:46 PM

Joe, you're a total whackjob and you know it. Your desperate attempts to rally support from a bunch of anonymous strangers on the internet is an endless supply of amusement.

Posted by: Robert | Feb 12, 2012 9:00:23 PM

But was the writing any good?

That's the funny thing about Advanced Critical Writing; it doesn't matter what the subject is, but whether the student is learning to write.

My own critique is that the writing isn't so good and the exercise pointless. There isn't a cogent argument, but rather a stream-of-consciousness that does make his point a little unclear. Furthermore, his comment that he wouldn't have sex with his sister-in-law or history professor implies that he would have sex with his writing teacher.

I'd give him a "C" for writing and "F" for being tacky.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 13, 2012 7:52:59 AM

Corlett wrote:
"I also called the University out in the student paper when Trustee _____ was criminally charged with adultry (yes, it's illegal in Michigan)but not subject to an automatic investigation as would a student charged with sexual harassment. In an amazing coincidence, I was charged with sexual harassment two months later."


It's only an "amazing coincidence" in your mind, Joe. Under any circumstances, the things you wrote in your journal would provoke harsh criticism and justifiable allegations of sexual harassment.

You're not a victim, Joe. You're a garden variety idiot.

Posted by: Smith | Feb 13, 2012 9:28:24 AM

What you don't get from the links is the fact that in the Fall of 2010 I was offered extra credit in my Journalism class if I got my interview with an OUPD Leiutenant, confirming that OU's weapons policy did not comport with state law an was therfore unenforceable, published anywhere. The Oakland Post, the student newspaper, agreed to publish but reneged when Gabrielle Giffords was shot. They ended up publishing a letter to the editor from me and another gun rights activist.

I also called the University out in the student paper when Trustee Henry Baskin was criminally charged with adultry (yes, it's illegal in Michigan)but not subject to an automatic investigation as would a student charged with sexual harassment. In an amazing coincidence, I was charged with sexual harassment two months later.

The committee who convicted me disregarded the testimoony of OU's Diversity Director and attorney, Ms. Joi Cunningham, who told them that my Daybook did not meet the US Department of Education's sexual harassment standard, upon which OU's policy must be based, as a Title XI school.

At my hearing, Ms.________ admitted to violating the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by giving my assignmet to a fellow student. She also held a "public" (her word) hen party with the English department BEFORE my hearing where she discussed her allegations in an effective attempt to "poison the well". This meeting turned my choice of hearing adviser, Dr. D____, against me, denying me my choice by default. Apparently the OU adminsitration has no control over their faculty.

In my Fiction 303 class this fall we had to study "Me and Miss Mandible", the story of a student having sexual relations with his teacher. Apparently emulating assigned writers gets you thrown out of school. Does OU see the irony?

This travesty must not stand or academic freedom is dead at OU, especially if you have a penis.

Joseph Corlett

Posted by: Joseph Corlett | Feb 13, 2012 9:33:55 AM

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