College Student Says His Steamy Essay Got Him Thrown Out | Courthouse News Service
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College Student Says His Steamy Essay Got Him Thrown Out

DETROIT (CN) - His creative writing professor gave him an A for his story, "The Boobs I Wasn't Meant to See," but the college kicked him out of her class for writing a "Hot for Teacher" entry in his journal, an adult student claims in court.

Joseph Corlett sued the Oakland University Board of Trustees, the school's president Gary Russi and vice president for student affairs Mary Beth Snyder, in Federal Court.

He claims he was suspended for his "Hot for Teacher" creative writing assignment, which he calls a "whimsical exaggeration of his attraction" to his professor.

In his complaint, Corlett, a self-employed residential builder, says he enrolled at Oakland University "to attain a bachelor's degree in writing for personal and professional growth."

In his English 380 Advanced Critical Writing class, taught by Pamela Mitzelfeld, "Corlett submitted an essay he drafted for Mitzelfeld's review that was composed to satisfy the class' 'anecdote' assignment," the complaint states.

Mitzelfeld is not a party to the complaint, which continues: "This essay was a personal recollection of several incidents involving plaintiff Corlett accidentally witnessing in public the brief exposure of women's breasts.

"After an English 380 class, Mitzelfeld and her teaching assistant informed plaintiff Corlett that they were amused by his essay and recommended several suggestions including, but not limited to, changing the title from 'The Boobs I Wasn't Meant to See' to 'My Boobs DVD.'

"The final draft of 'My Boobs DVD' garnered plaintiff Corlett an 'A' from Mitzelfeld," the complaint states.

Another assignment in that class required students to keep a Writer's Daybook, which was "randomly reviewed three times during the semester," the complaint states.

"The Daybook was to be 'an ongoing volume that essentially functions as a place for a writer to try out ideas and record impressions and observations." He says the Daybook assignment "was devoid of subject matter restrictions."

The complaint continues: "Plaintiff Corlett was familiar with previous writing professors and their idiosyncrasies and intolerance towards certain topics for writing assignments (e.g., personal sex life, family members, etc.), so he asked Mitzelfeld on the first day of class, in front of her teaching assistant, if any topics were restricted or prohibited. Mitzelfeld emphatically replied 'no' to plaintiff Corlett and that she wanted the 'raw stuff' (i.e., no edits or second guessing) to be captured in the Daybook.

"With this information from Mitzelfeld, coupled with (1) the Daybook handout and (2) Mitzelfeld's positive feedback without objection towards his previously submitted writing, plaintiff Corlett proceeded to compose entries for his personal Daybook exploring a variety of themes and ideas.

"On or about September 10, 2011, plaintiff Corlett composed a Daybook entry entitled 'Hot for Teacher,' which was named after a 1984 song performed by the hard rock band Van Halen. This entry was a whimsical exaggeration of his attraction towards Mitzelfeld.

"Plaintiff Corlett reasonably continued to rely on Mitzelfeld's statement that any subject matter was permitted, and on or about September 23, 2011, he continued his 'Hot for Teacher' theme in another Daybook entry."

But the day after Mitzelfeld collected his Daybook for review, Corlett says, he got a call from the former assistant vice president for student affairs asking him not to go to class the next week.

When the week was up, "plaintiff Corlett calmly settled into the English 380 classroom. But prior to class commencing, in front of his classmates, Mitzelfeld had plaintiff Corlett escorted out of her classroom by the OU Police Department," the complaint states.

Corlett claims the university administration told him he must withdraw from the class and offered him a tuition refund, which he refused.

At a hearing before the University Conduct Committee (UCC), he says, the board "determined that plaintiff Corlett's Daybook entries rose to a level of 'intimida(tion)' towards a 'person engaged in lawful activities on campus.' ...

"Ultimately, the UCC board suspended plaintiff Corlett, which prevented him from enrolling in any OU classes for three semesters (Summer 2012, Fall 2012, and Winter 2013), deemed him persona non grata on its campus during the suspension, and required him to undergo counseling for sensitivity issues prior to his return to University," Corlett says.

He claims that "because of the University's onerous Unlawful Activities Policy and intolerance of any students who dissent from its politically correct orthodoxy, plaintiff Corlett is unable to engage in a full range of dialogue on matters of legitimate political, cultural, and/or social concern."

He seeks an injunction requiring Oakland University to give him credit and a grade for his English 380 class, and $2.2 million in damages for violations of free speech and due process.

He is represented by Alari Adams of ASquared Legal Group with assistance from Kyle Bristow with the France Law Group in Toledo, Ohio.

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