Tuesday, February 14, 2012

'Free Writing, Free Thinking' Punished At Oakland University

Joseph Corlett is a 56-year-old student at Oakland University taking a creative writing course. At least he was until his assignment got him not only booted from the class but also trespassed off the property.

Corlett's assignment was to write under the topic "Hot for Teacher"
which he did. As the title suggests he wrote about being hot for his teacher. He did not write a raunchy, sex-laden piece about intercourse with her, just the effect she had on him.

Instead of counseling her student (whom she had made no complaints about previously and who had been receiving stellar grades in her class up until that point) she reported him to the Dean of Students for sexual harassment and had him removed from the school.

Corlett has appealed and is threatening a lawsuit against the school. He says he followed all the rules of the class, did nothing untoward his teacher and had no prior knowledge that he was writing off topic. (Again: The topic was "Hot For Teacher")

Oakland University officials cite this as a "student conduct matter" and will not comment. They did find him guilty of "intimidating behavior"; not guilty of sexual harassment but said if Corlett wants to return to the school he must first attend psychological counseling.

Wow. I've turned in some bad essays in my life but this one must have been awful.

It's very telling to me that Corlett had received excellent grades in the class up until this point and that no effort of remediation was offered by the school. The instructor was essentially given a free pass and all blame was heaped on the student. How is this possible? How is it a student can be exemplary one moment and banned from the premises the next when all he did was follow an assignment?

What exactly did the instructor expect when the assignment was "Hot For Teacher"? If she was unprepared for someone to write about HER, then she needs further education.

If Corlett had done something, anything, threatening to her, or even alluded to something threatening, I would have a different opinion of what happened. But as it stands it seems to be yet another writer being unfairly treated for what they have written.

Words have power. Remember I said that.

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