‘Hot for Teacher’ FOIA: ‘Continuous inaccurate characterization and attacks’

By February 16, 2012

FIRE has posted two new documents in the Oakland University case, in which the university suspended a student for "unlawful" activity after he wrote about his attraction to his professors in his writing journal for a writing class. Both documents were supplied by the university in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the student, Joseph Corlett. 

The first document is a November 15, 2011, email from Oakland University Dean and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Glenn McIntosh to Susan Hawkins, Department Chair and Associate Professor of English. McIntosh writes, in relevant part:

I believe you need to clarify to Professor Mitzelfeld that I did not contact you to request her to have additional contact, of any type, with Corlet[t]. I contacted you as the department chair to support an administrative withdrawal from the course, or other options, which did not involve Professor Mitzelfeld. I am totally dismayed by her continuous inaccurate characterization and attacks. … Since Corlet[t] has not made any threats to anyone, our only recourse is an administrative withdrawal, or the options we discussed. 
[Emphasis added.]

The second document is a November 23, 2011, email from Mitzelfeld to McIntosh, with copies to Hawkins and others:

Dear Dean McIntosh:

I am officially filing a claim of sexual harassment against Joseph Corlett, a student. This is an ongoing situation that you have been aware of since November 1, 2011. I have also sought outside legal counsel to seek the protection and advice not being offered by the university.

Sincerely,

Pamela Tristen Mitzelfeld

In this email, it seems that Mitzelfeld is suggesting that Oakland University is not meeting its Title IX obligation to address what she perceives as sexual harassment. (FIRE’s December 16 letter to Oakland University explains how Corlett’s writing journal does not come close to any reasonable standard for sexual harassment.) This may explain why Oakland University prosecuted Corlett, even though his speech was protected and McIntosh had acknowledged that Corlett had "not made any threats to anyone." 

Given McIntosh’s acknowledgment, how did Oakland come up with a finding of guilt for "unlawful" activity?

FIRE’s December 16 letter to Oakland University explains the timeline further. Stay tuned for further updates.

Schools: Oakland University Cases: Oakland University: Student Suspended over His Writing Journal