Political Correctness Run Amok

     ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – A student claims the University of New Mexico illegally booted her from a film class for using the words “perverse attraction to the same sex” and “barren womb” in an assigned critique of a lesbian film, which the professor did not even deign to read through.
     Monica Pompeo, a part-time student, took “Images of (Wo)men: From Icons to Iconoclasts,” taught by adjunct professor Caroline Lawson Hinkley, in the spring 2012 semester.
     Pompeo sued the UNM, Hinkley, and UNM Cinematic Arts Director Susan Dever, in Bernalillo County Court.
     For a February 2012 assignment, Pompeo critiqued “Desert Hearts,” a 1985 lesbian romantic drama. When Hinkley returned the papers to the class in March, she told Pompeo that she wanted to meet with her later to discuss her paper, according to the complaint.
     Hinkley then canceled the meeting, and told Pompeo “that she could pick up her paper from the Cinematic Arts office and ‘ponder the responses’ defendant Hinkley has written on her paper over Spring Break,” the complaint states.
     Hinkley wrote on Pompeo’s paper that her “critique was inflammatory and offensive,” the complaint states. “Defendant Hinkley further disparaged Ms. Pompeo’s critical review that one of the characters in the movie had a ‘perverse attraction to the same sex’ and a ‘barren womb.'”
     Pompeo claims that Hinkley violated her own syllabus and “Contract for a Restricted Class,” which stated “that ‘[t]he intellectual project of this challenging course is for us to investigate and consider, with open minds, representations of a plethora of genders and sexualities. I hope it’s quite clear that we do not expect anyone to necessarily agree with the positions and arguments advanced in our work. There’s controversy built right into the syllabus, and we can’t wait to hash out our differences.'”
     Pompeo says Hinkley did meet with her in March to discuss her paper. “Despite the representations in the Contract for a Restricted Class, defendant Hinkley rejected Ms. Pompeo’s opinions, viewpoints and conclusions in her ‘Desert Hearts’ paper, solely on the basis of the intellectual content of the paper and orally accused Ms. Pompeo of participating in ‘hate speech.’ She told Ms. Pompeo that the language used in her paper was the kind of language that would incite violence and endanger people’s lives,” the complaint states.
     Pompeo claims that “Hinkley refused to grade the paper and made it clear to Ms. Pompeo that it would be in her best interest not to return to her classroom.”
     But Pompeo says she continued to go to the class.
     After she submitted her “Desert Hearts” paper, “she was treated more harshly by defendant Hinkley,” according to the complaint.
     On March 23, Pompeo met with defendant Dever, chairwoman of the cinematic arts department, and with James Stone “to discuss Ms. Pompeo’s paper and defendant Hinkley’s continued refusal to meet with Ms. Pompeo. Ms. Pompeo was informed that the use of the word ‘barren’ was inappropriate and very offensive. Mr. Stone also objected to the use of the word ‘cock’ in Ms. Pompeo’s paper and said the word was not allowed to be used in his individual classroom. Ms. Pompeo was informed that the use of the words ‘barren’ and ‘cock’ were not appropriate in academic writing,” according to the complaint.
     The complaint does not state what Stone’s job title is or was. He is not a party to the complaint.
     Pompeo claims she was forced to withdraw from the class, and take an independent studies class, taught by Dever.
     In April, Dever “threatened plaintiff not to use certain language to convey particular points and not to use the word ‘barren,'” according to the complaint. “Specifically, in an email on April 9, 2012, Ms. Pompeo wrote that she intended to use the word barren in a rewrite of her paper. Defendant Hinkley responded, ‘you can make your choices, certainly, but after so much conversation about the word, we know that, as I said in my email and out meeting, your choices have consequences.'”
     Pompeo claims she met with Associate Dean Holly Barnett-Sanchez “to discuss the reason why she was not allowed to participate in the film class. During that meeting, Associate Dean Barnett-Sanchez told Ms. Pompeo for the first time that the reason that Ms. Pompeo was not allowed to attend the Images of Women class was because defendant Dever and defendant Hinkley advised that Ms. Pompeo was ‘very disruptive’ and ‘disrespectful to the professor and the students.'”
     The University of New Mexico refunded Pompeo’s tuition after she was expelled from the class, “but took no further actions to repair the violation of Ms. Pompeo’s rights,” the complaint states.
     Pompeo seeks declaratory judgment that her First Amendment rights were violated, and compensatory and special damages.
     She is represented by Louren Oliveros of Gorence & Oliveros.
     “Desert Hearts,” fictionally set in 1959, is about an English professor who goes to Nevada for 6 weeks to establish residency for a quick divorce, and stays at a guest ranch with other women doing the same. She has an affair with one woman there, and the movie has a happy ending – which was unusual, perhaps unique, for a lesbian love story at the time.

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