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“To Sir/Madam with Love”: An Unfolding Tragedy
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“To Sir with Love” no more seems passé; rather an attitude frowned upon with penal consequences. At least that is what Oakland University student Joseph Corlett found out to his chagrin this week.

For writing in a class assignment (that specifically allowed students to write creatively on any subject), that he found some of his teachers attractive, Joseph Corlett was hauled up for “unlawful individual activities,” barred from campus, suspended for three semesters, and instructed to undergo “sensitivity” counseling by the Oakland University, Detroit.


So, what hurt the delicate sensibilities of the faculty to question the application of the First Amendment to an extent that his professor wrote in an email on November 29 “Either Mr. Corlett leaves campus or I do.”?

It seems Corlett accepted the assuring directives of his course too literally: The course material described the student journal that students had to write as part of the course as “a place for a writer to try out ideas and record impressions and observations….free-writing/brainstorming…creative entries.”

Corlett’s journal entry submitted to his Advanced Critical Writing professor contained an entry titled “Hot for Teacher,” and expressed his worries over getting distracted in class by attractive professors.

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The Dean of Students and Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Glenn McIntosh informed Corlett in writing on January 20 that,

  1. He had been found “guilty” and was being suspended for three semesters through Fall 2012;
  2. He wouldn’t be allowed to transfer credits during the suspension;
  3. He would have persona non grata status and that
  4. He would be arrested for criminal trespass if he entered the campus; and that
  5. He would be on disciplinary probation for the rest of his college career, and
  6. If he chose to enroll for winter 2013 courses, he also must prove that he had undergone “counseling on sensitivity issues”

Corlett, being effectively barred from all directions for his creative attempt, sought legal help with FIRE (Foundation of Individual Rights in Education).

FIRE Vice President of Programs Adam Kissel commented, “Oakland University is treating Corlett like a student with a mental disability who needs counseling for insensitivity…I can hardly imagine what kind of counseling Oakland would have required for Quentin Tarantino, Vladimir Nabokov, or Stephen King.”

FIRE has already written to Oakland University President Gary D. Russi that Corlett’s creative writing was fully protected under the First Amendment, which is binding on public universities such as the Oakland University.


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