A 56-year-old Oakland University student, banned from campus for a year for writing in course assignments about his sexual attraction to a female professor, has enlisted the help of a Philadelphia foundation that argues the man’s constitutional right to free speech is being violated.
The Oakland Post is withholding the names of the student and the instructor due to the sensitive nature of the subject, although the man’s name and samples of his writing are included in a press release issued Friday by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
FIRE is encouraging free-speech advocates to send protest emails to OU President Gary Russi.
The student was accused of violating ordinance number 6.02 (unlawful individual activities) of the University Ordinances and Regulations, according to emails from the Dean’s Office, which were made public Friday in a press release from FIRE.
According to the dean’s office document, the student has been given persona non grata status at OU and is suspended for the remainder of the 2012 school year. He will be allowed to register after his suspension only if he undergoes “counseling … to work on sensitivity issues.”
The press release stated that the student was suspended from his Advanced Critical Writing course after he wrote about his feelings of sexual attraction towards his instructor in an ongoing assignment.
FIRE’s senior vice president Robert Shibley declared the suspension a violation of student rights.
“Oakland University violated (the student’s) rights when it decided to punish him for his constitutionally protected expression in class,” Shibley said. “(The student’s) journal did not threaten anyone or contain anything that met the legal definition of harassment.”
In a response to FIRE’s press release, Sherry Wynn Perdue, the director of the OU Writing Center and the instructor’s immediate supervisor, said the FIRE report was misleading and “victimized” the instructor.
The student “never once addressed the course readings but instead used it as a platform to sexualize the instructor, describe his sexual relationship (or lack thereof) with his wife, write about a student in the course, and compose a fake letter from the course instructor to himself in which he admits that his entries are inappropriate and would be met with a visit to the Dean of Students,” Perdue said.
The student described the assignment, entitled a “daybook” by the course syllabus, as a journal to keep track of essays, first impressions, thoughts and free thinking.
He was suspended for two journal entries in the daybook written under the title, “Hot for Teacher,” which described his sexual struggles and his own sexual attractions to the instructor and previous instructors. He described his inability to concentrate due to her physical attraction and described his reaction when she first entered the room, to which “(he said) to (himself), drop mother——, drop.”
In a separate entry in the same notebook, the student called his instructor “my Ginger,” referring to the character from “Gilligan’s Island,” and he referred to a previous instructor as “my Maryanne.”
The student argues his constitutional right of free speech was violated and that the instructor said there were no restrictions in the writing.
The Office of the Dean of Students has declined to comment on the matter, due to the private nature concerning a student.
FIRE’s press release is located here.