Oakland University

Location: Rochester, Michigan
Website: http://www.oakland.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 6th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Oakland University has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

  • Oakland University: Student Suspended over His Writing Journal

    December 16, 2011

    In fall 2011, student Joseph Corlett was enrolled in Oakland University’s Advanced Critical Writing course, which included a requirement that students keep a journal, described as “a place for a writer to try out ideas and record impressions and observations.” After two of Corlett’s journal entries described the attractiveness of the course’s instructor, she demanded that Corlett be removed from the course. Oakland then charged Corlett with “unlawful individual activities” solely on the basis of his journal entries. Corlett was found guilty, suspended for three semesters, given persona non grata status at Oakland, and may only return to his studies […]

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Red Light Policies

  • Student Handbook: University Ordinances and Regulations- Telephones 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    No person shall use any telephone or other communications device to harass, offend, or disturb any other person, nor shall any person use threatening, obscene, immoral, or insulting language over any telephone or other communications device.

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  • Student Handbook: Behavior Policies- How to Resolve a Complaint 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Discriminatory conduct or discriminatory harassment means any physical or verbal behavior, including but not limited to sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, and any written behavior, including pictorial illustrations, graffiti or written material, that stigmatizes or victimizes an individual on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, age, height, weight, handicap, color, religion, creed, national origin or ancestry, marital status, familial status, veteran status, or other characteristics not permitted by law.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • University Housing Student Handbook: Policies and Procedures 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment of a university employee is defined as any behavior, including gestures or swearing, that is directed at or in the presence of a staff person that is meant to intimidate or be combative while in the performance of his or her duty.

    Harassment of a university student is defined as any behavior, including gestures or swearing, that is directed at or in the presence of a student that is meant to intimidate or be combative.

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  • Student Handbook: Student Rights & Principles of Freedom 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Students have the right of free inquiry, expression and association, and are expected to exercise their rights within the bounds of civility and community responsibility.

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  • Administrative Guidelines Prohibiting Discrimination 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Sexual harassment also includes conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work, academic performance, or use of University services, or which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working, educational, or service environment. Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, sexual assault, and unwelcome: sexual propositions, sexually graphic comments about a person's body, touching, patting, pinching, leering, persistent sexual jokes or comments, and displays of sexually graphic pictures.

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  • Student Handbook: Policies and Procedures- Distribution of Material on Campus 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    Distribution of material and soliciting of any kind by an individual or group are not permitted on OU’s campus without proper approval. … All distribution of printed material, as well as other items, must be approved through the Dean of Students Office.

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  • Student Organization Policies: Advertising 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Posting Policies

    Posting is defined as the hanging of information, advertising, etc. on any campus bulletin board, window, door, wall or other university property. Oakland University reserves the right to refuse permission to any individual or group for posting that a) would seriously impede normal university activity, b) does not follow Oakland University policies and procedures, c) would make posting particular material inappropriate, d) contains contents which are in violation of university policies and ordinances, state and federal laws and/or e) does not support the role and mission of the university. Examples of posters that would be denied posting include advertisements for events at bars/night clubs and posters containing alcohol and/or drugs.

    There are six spirit rocks available for use by student organizations. They are located on the north and
    east end of the Oakland Center. Messages should be appropriate, tasteful and respectful of other
    organizations, individuals and the OU community.

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  • Student Handbook: Code of Student Conduct – Philosophy and Purpose 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Oakland University students and organizations are expected to practice civility and uphold the highest standards of academic and personal integrity.

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  • Use of University Information Technology Resources 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    No member of the community may use Resources to libel, slander, or harass any other person. Harassment includes, without limitation, the following:

    (1) Intentionally using Resources to annoy, harass, terrify, intimidate, threaten, offend or bother another person by conveying obscene language, pictures, or other materials or threats of bodily harm to the recipient or others;
    (2) Intentionally using Resources to contact another person repeatedly with the intent to annoy, harass, or bother, whether or not any actual message is communicated, and/or where no purpose of legitimate communication exists, and where the recipient has expressed a desire for the communication to cease;
    (3) Intentionally using Resources to contact another person repeatedly regarding a matter for which one does not have a legal right to communicate, once the recipient has provided reasonable notice that he or she desires such communication to cease;
    (4) Intentionally using Resources to disrupt or damage the academic, research, administrative, or related pursuits of another;
    (5) Intentionally using Resources to invade the privacy, academic or otherwise, of another or the threatened invasion of the privacy of another.

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Green Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: University Ordinances and Regulations- Unlawful Individual Activities 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    No person shall assemble with others on the campus in any manner which causes or constitutes a disturbance, noise, riot, obstruction or disruption which obstructs or interferes with the free, normal, and uninterrupted use of the campus for educational programs, business activities and related residential, food service and recreational activities, nor shall any person in any way intimidate, harass, threaten, or assault any person engaged in lawful activities on campus.

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  • ‘Hot for Teacher’ Suit Rejected

    July 24, 2013

    by Scott Jaschik Inside Higher Ed   There is no First Amendment right for students to write of their physical feelings for their college instructors, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. Joseph Corlett sued Oakland University, in Michigan, after he was suspended over a “Hot for Teacher” essay in his writing journal. In the essay, he quoted the Van Halen song and then goes on to talk of his affection for an instructor. He writes of her physical characteristics, and says that there’s “no way I’ll concentrate in class,” when he can see “a sexy little mole on her upper lip beckoning….” In […]

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  • Banned from campus over ‘Hot for Teacher’ essay, college student loses free speech suit

    July 23, 2013

    A federal judge in Michigan has dismissed a free-speech suit filed by an Oakland University student who was banned from campus for several semesters after writing an essay about his attraction to his creative writing instructor. It was titled "Hot for Teacher" and described her as "tall, blonde, stacked," the Associated Press notes. In a motion to dismiss (PDF) filed at the end of April, counsel for the university said Joseph Corlett’s complaint concerned “curricular speech,” which can properly be restricted. (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education also provides links to other documents in the case.) "Under the curricular speech doctrine, the slim protection afforded to Corlett’s […]

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  • Students Not Allowed to Call Teachers, ‘Tall, Blonde, or Stacked’

    July 23, 2013

    by Alfred James Guardian Express   Here’s the definition of free speech at a university near you.  ‘You are not allowed to write an essay that describes one of your instructors as ‘tall, blonde, or stacked. A federal judge in Michigan dismissed a free speech by lawsuit by Oakland University student, Joseph Corlett.  Corlett had written an essay titled, “Hot for Teacher,” in which he described his creative writing instructor’s physical attributes.  He has been banned from campus for several semesters. His complaint centered around “curricular speech,” which can properly be restricted. (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education also provides links to other documents in […]

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  • OUR OPINION: UND must reaffirm free speech, other rights

    January 6, 2013

    Look on the bright side: At least UND didn’t get scorched by FIRE as having the Speech Code of the Year. Last week, FIRE — the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — awarded that “honor” to two other schools, including Oakland University in Michigan. There, the school’s policy prohibits offending or disturbing anyone via phone or computer, “nor shall any person” use “immoral or insulting language” over those devices. Oakland’s policy “illustrates perfectly the mock-Victorian sensibility that seems to underlie so many university speech codes, a sensibility according to which adult college students must not be exposed to anything […]

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  • OU student denied appeal for reinstatement over “hot for teacher” essay

    March 15, 2012

    An Oakland University student banned from campus over a racy essay he submitted for a writing class has been denied any future appeals.  University President Gary Russi denied Joe Corlett’s appeal and any subsequent appeals via a letter to the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The group had attempted to get Corlett reinstated at the college claiming he was being denied his freedom of speech.  The 56-year-old Orion Township resident was suspended for three semesters, banned from campus, and must undergo sensitivity training before he can return, after penning an essay about his creative writing instructor fashioned after […]

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  • Oakland University denies appeals by student who wrote ‘Hot for Teacher’

    March 14, 2012

    An Oakland University student who was banned from school for a “Hot For Teacher” essay penned about one of his professors has had his appeal denied, according to a letter sent from the university to an organization that represents the man. Joseph Corlett, 56, of Orion Township, has been banned from campus since a Jan. 3 disciplinary hearing. He was found guilty of unlawful individual activities during that hearing and was suspended for three semesters and banned from campus, according to a press release from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which represents Corlett. Those charges came from […]

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  • When Is Quoting Van Halen a Crime?

    March 14, 2012

    This week Gary D. Russi, president of Oakland University in Michigan, rejected a request from the Foundation for Inividual Rights in Education (FIRE) to reconsider the three-semester suspension imposed on a student for commenting on the attractiveness of his creative writing instructor in a journal he maintained as part of the course. The “daybook” was supposed to be “a place for a writer to try out ideas and record impressions and observations,” including “freewriting/brainstorming” and “creative entries.” The student, Joseph Corlett, says his instructor, Pamela Mitzelfeld, repeatedly assured him that no topic was off limits, which turned out to be not exactly true. In […]

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  • Appeal denied for student suspended after writings

    March 14, 2012

    ROCHESTER, Mich. (AP) — Oakland University says it’s denied further appeals by a 56-year-old student who was suspended and barred from campus after writing about attraction to his professor for an assignment. The Detroit Free Press reports (http://on.freep.com/zqLWep) a letter from the Rochester school’s President Gary Russi arrived Tuesday at the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has been seeking to have Joseph Corlett of Oakland County’s Orion Township reinstated. Corlett says he’s considering legal action. The foundation says it’s a free speech issue. Corlett has said the writing journal assignment for the Advanced Critical Writing class could […]

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  • OU student, 56, needs a lesson

    February 16, 2012

    ‘D r. S. has dark hair and eyes and occasionally rests her hand across her pregnant belly. Wiping the sweat from her brow, Dr. S. would teach until she dropped were it not for the requisite breaks. …” These are the dangerous musings of Joseph Corlett, an undergraduate student at Oakland University appealing his suspension and official “persona non grata” status from the university. Corlett is 56, not 20. You would think he’d know better than to comment on one professor’s pregnancy and dark eyes or on his writing teacher’s breasts in his writing journal. Surprise, Mr. Corlett: Using “Hot for […]

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  • Joseph Corlett, Oakland University Student Barred For Calling His Teacher Hot In His Writing Assignment

    February 15, 2012

    A college student at Oakland University in Detroit was banned from campus for a year and ordered to undergo “sensitivity” counseling because he wrote about his attraction to female professors in writing assignments, according to Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a free speech advocacy group. Joseph Corlett, a 56-year-old student at OU, was given a year’s suspension for his writings in an Advanced Critical Writing class and told he’d be arrested for criminal trespass if he entered the campus. The University also stipulated if Corlett enrolls for Winter 2013 courses, “he also must show evidence of ‘counseling … to work on sensitivity issues.’” Corlett wrote […]

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  • OU student describes teacher in essay: ‘Tall, blond, stacked’

    February 14, 2012

    by Kim Kozlowski Detroit News   Rochester—Being a guy is tough because the male brain is clogged by thoughts of sex most of his life, a 56-year-old student wrote in an assignment at Oakland University that has since led to his suspension. In a journal entry inspired by the Van Halen rock band song, “Hot For Teacher,” Joseph Corlett described his English lecturer: “Tall, blond, stacked, skirt, heels, fingernails, smart, articulate, smile. I am toast but I stay.” Corlett, a Lake Orion resident, said he was told that no material was off-limits in the journal he was assigned to keep […]

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  • Oakland U. Prosecutes ‘Hot for Teacher’ Student

    February 14, 2012

    Oakland University has suspended a student, Joseph Corlett, for three semesters, banned him from campus, and required that he submit to “sensitivity” training because he wrote in a class assignment that he found his instructors attractive. Campus administrators oddly deemed two items in Corlett’s creative writing journal “unlawful individual activities,” even though his professor described it as “a place for a writer to try out ideas and record impressions and observations” as well as to engage in “freewriting/brainstorming” and “creative entries” on any topic. Joseph Corlett has sought help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which calls the university’s punishment “a wild overreaction” and issuance of “a straitjacket to every writing […]

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  • Oakland University student fighting suspension over ‘Hot for Teacher’ writings

    February 14, 2012

    by Tammy Stables Battaglia Detroit Free Press   Oakland University student Joe Corlett says he’s considering legal action after he was kicked out of an English class for writing a “Hot for Teacher” essay. The 56-year-old student from Lake Orion admits his writings during a fall 2011 “Advanced Critical Writing” class contain sexual fantasies about the instructor leading the class. And the handwriting in his book – which is now in the hands of a free speech activist group — uses the title “Hot for Teacher.” The title references a song on the band Van Halen’s album “1984″ about a student fantasizing […]

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  • Too Hot for Professor?

    February 13, 2012

    The guidelines for the “Writer’s Daybook” in English 380 at Oakland University specified that students should write regularly, using their notebooks to “try out ideas and record observations.” While students were told they had to use it regularly, and have their entries dated, they were generally encouraged to stretch. Spelling and punctuation would not be checked. Students were told to “try to relax and allow this to work for you.” One of the students may have been too honest in his writing — and he has since been suspended for three semesters, and told to undergo counseling if he wishes to […]

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  • ‘Hot for teacher’: Oakland U student says he was suspended over professor crush

    February 12, 2012

    by Aaron Foley Michigan Live A student at Oakland University says he was suspended from classes for three months because of a “wild overreaction” to a class assignment where he stated an attraction to his creative writing professor. Last fall, Joseph Corlett, represented by the activist group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), was a student in an Advanced Critical Writing course where he kept a writing journal. The group says that students were encouraged to “freewrite” and “record impressions and observations.” FIRE: One entry in Corlett’s journal, titled “Hot for Teacher,” tells a story of being worried about being […]

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  • Journal Entries Get Older Student Suspended From Oakland University

    February 11, 2012

    ROCHESTER (WWJ) - A suspended Oakland University non-traditional student says he was kicked out for saying he found his instructors attractive. Joseph Corlett, a 56-year-old student, wrote about his teachers in a journal he was keeping for class. In a letter from the Dean of Students last month, Corlett was charged with Unlawful Individual Activities. WWJ spoke with Adam Kissel, from The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the group helping Corlett appeal the school’s decision. “They decided they were going to keep him off campus make him get a certain amount of psychological help and not be allowed to enroll in classes for […]

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  • Not Plausible That the First Amendment Protects Offensive Classroom Speech?

    July 29, 2013

    The outcome in Corlett v. Oakland University is frustrating for numerous reasons, some of which my colleague Samantha Harris outlined when the decision was released. Joseph Corlett sued Oakland University for violating his constitutional rights after the university suspended him for three semesters based on entries in a journal that he was required to keep for a writing class. Judge Patrick Duggan dismissed Corlett’s case with prejudice. Behind those legal terms lies a damning indictment of the state of discourse on at least one college campus. Dismissing a case means that the plaintiff is denied the opportunity to litigate his […]

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  • College Student Who Wrote Lusty Essay About Teacher Loses Free Speech Lawsuit

    July 24, 2013

    by Alyssa Newcomb ABC News   A Michigan college student who was suspended for writing an essay called “Hot For Teacher” had no First Amendment right to express his sexual attraction to his creative writing professor, a federal judge ruled. The lawsuit filed by the student, Joseph Corlett, 57, against Oakland University was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan on Tuesday. Duggan said Corlett’s “expressions of lust” for his professor, Pamela Mitzelfeld, and “descriptions of her physical appearance are not entitled under First Amendment protection.” “When Plaintiff referred to his Oakland University English professor as ‘stacked’ and graphically compared her to […]

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  • In Troubling Opinion, Federal Judge Dismisses Free Speech Lawsuit Against Oakland University

    July 24, 2013

    Yesterday, Judge Patrick Duggan of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed former student Joe Corlett’s free speech lawsuit against Oakland University in a deeply flawed opinion (PDF) that has broad and troubling implications for free speech on campus. While there is much to be said about this opinion, for now I want to briefly highlight its two most troubling aspects. First, the judge held that non-academic discipline (e.g., conduct code charges) is an acceptable response to speech deemed inappropriate for a classroom setting. Second, in deciding this case—which involves an adult college student—the judge relied heavily […]

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  • Oakland University’s Motion to Dismiss in ‘Hot for Teacher’ Case Relies on an Unconstitutional Speech Code and Shows Its Lack of Regard for the First Amendment

    May 22, 2013

    Last week, I blogged about Oakland University’s motion to dismiss in Joseph Corlett’s lawsuit against the university for violating his First Amendment rights. Corlett, as Torch readers may recall, is the student who was found guilty (PDF) of "unlawful individual activities" for writing an entry called "Hot for Teacher" in his class journal (PDF). Corlett was suspended for three semesters and subjected to other disciplinary measures because he wrote about his professor being like the character Ginger from the television series Gilligan’s Island, as opposed to the character Mary Ann, as well as other mildly suggestive musings. A full recap […]

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  • Motion to Dismiss in ‘Hot for Teacher’ Case Is Legally Weak But Tactically Disturbing

    May 17, 2013

    Joseph Corlett – The Detroit Free Press When Oakland University, a public university in Michigan, suspended student Joseph Corlett for writing an entry called “Hot for Teacher” in his class journal, the story generated widespread media coverage. As Torch readers may recall, Corlett’s ordeal began when he submitted his writing journal to his Advanced Critical Writing professor in early November 2011. The course materials describe the student journal as “a place for a writer to try out ideas and record impressions and observations,” and state that it should contain “freewriting/brainstorming” and “creative entries.” One entry in Corlett’s journal (PDF), titled “Hot […]

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  • ‘So, Are You SURE I Can Write Whatever I Want in This Assignment?’

    March 19, 2013

    As Torch readers know, yesterday FIRE announced that Oakland University student Joseph Corlett had sued the college for $2.2 million and four academic credits for suspending him in the fall of 2011 after he authored two journal entries that described the attractiveness of his professor for an Advanced Critical Writing assignment. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff explained the situation in his recent book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, so we wanted to bring you an excerpt from the book that tells you more about the case and, more importantly, why you should care. — Stepping away […]

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  • Student Suspended for ‘Hot for Teacher’ Essay Sues Oakland University Administrators

    March 18, 2013

    On Friday, student Joseph Corlett filed a federal lawsuit against administrators of Oakland University, near Detroit, for suspending him in the fall of 2011 after he authored two journal entries that described the attractiveness of his professor for an Advanced Critical Writing assignment. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, alleges that university officials violated Corlett’s First Amendment rights by finding him guilty of “unlawful individual activities” solely on the basis of the journal entries. Corlett was suspended for three semesters, banned from campus, and required to undergo “counseling” for […]

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  • ‘Hot for Teacher’ Essay Lands Student Joseph Corlett in Trouble

    March 15, 2013

    GA Daily News   A Michigan college student is crying foul after he was kicked off campus for writing a sexually suggestive journal entry about his teacher for a class assignment. Joseph Corlett, a 56-year-old countertop refinisher who is pursuing a degree in writing and rhetoric at Oakland University, wrote the essay as a part of a creative writing journal assignment in a writing course. In his essay, which he said was inspired by the 1984 Van Halen hit “Hot for Teacher,” he wrote about his first impressions of his professor, Pamela Mitzelfeld, describing her as “tall, blonde, stacked, smart, articulate.” Corlett said […]

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  • Speech Codes of the Year: 2012

    December 27, 2012

    Each month, FIRE singles out a particularly reprehensible campus speech code for our Speech Code of the Month designation. While all of 2012′s Speech Codes of the Month flagrantly violated students’ and faculty members’ right to free expression, two of them were so egregious that they deserve special mention as 2012′s Speech Codes of the Year. Oakland University. At Oakland University in Michigan, the policy on “Telephones” (PDF) provides that “No person shall use any telephone or other communications device to harass, offend, or disturb any other person, nor shall any person use threatening, obscene, immoral, or insulting language over […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Oakland University

    April 3, 2012

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for April 2012: Oakland University in Michigan. Oakland has been on our radar for some time now due to its severedisciplineofstudentJosephCorlett, who was barred from campus, suspended for three semesters, and required to undergo “sensitivity” counseling for authoring a class assignment in which he stated that he found his instructor attractive. As it turns out, Oakland’s treatment of Joseph Corlett is not the only way in which the public university is disregarding its obligation to uphold students’ First Amendment rights. The university also maintains a number of speech codes that impermissibly restrict […]

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  • ‘Hot for Teacher’ Case Hits the Press Again

    March 14, 2012

    The Detroit press has jumped on FIRE’s case at Oakland University again following yesterday’s FIRE press release. In fall 2011, student Joseph Corlett was enrolled in Oakland University’s Advanced Critical Writing course, which included a requirement that students keep a journal, described as “a place for a writer to try out ideas and record impressions and observations.” After two of Corlett’s journal entries described the attractiveness of the course’s instructor, Corlett was found guilty of “unlawful individual activities,” suspended for three semesters, given persona non grata status, and told he may only return to his studies if he undergoes “counseling” […]

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  • ‘Reason’ Riffs on ‘Hot for Teacher’ Case

    March 14, 2012

    Jacob Sullum of Reason‘s blog Hit & Run takes on the case of Joseph Corlett at Oakland University in an entry titled “When is Quoting Van Halen a Crime?” Sullum provides a rundown of the case, including the fact that Corlett’s views on concealed carry on campus were used as evidence against him. Sullum notes, “It’s pretty clear that Corlett’s journal entries did not amount to sexual harassment. Are they nevertheless a kind of disruptive speech that universities should punish?” He also asks, “[W]hat, if anything, do his views on gun control have to do with it?” An excellent question—and one Oakland […]

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  • Appeal denied for OU student who authored ‘Hot for Teacher’ essay

    March 14, 2012

    by Tom Greenwood The Detroit News   An Oakland University student banned from campus for penning a “Hot for Teacher” essay for a writing class has been denied any future appeals of his ban by the school’s president. Oakland University President Gary Russi denied the appeal of Joe Corlett in a letter to the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) after the group tried to have Corlett reinstated. A resident of Orion Township, Corlett, 56, was suspended for three semesters earlier this year and banned from campus after described his English instructor as “tall, blond, stacked, skirt, heels, […]

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  • Oakland University president denies ‘Hot for Teacher’ essay writer further appeals

    March 14, 2012

    by Bill Laitner The Detroit Free Press   Oakland University President Gary Russi has sent a letter denying any further appeals by a student who was kicked out after writing a “Hot for Teacher” essay in his creative-writing class. Russi’s letter arrived Tuesday at the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which tried to have Joe Corlett of Orion Township reinstated, an official of the group said Tuesday. That’s leading Corlett, 56, to plan on suing the university, he said Tuesday night. “They’ve painted me into a corner,” said the home remodeler, who was taking English classes until last […]

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  • ‘Hot for Teacher’ Student’s Appeal Denied: Suspended for Writing an Essay

    March 13, 2012

    Here is today’s press release:  DETROIT, March 13, 2012—Oakland University in Michigan has denied the appeal of a student who was barred from campus, suspended for three semesters, and required to undergo “sensitivity” counseling for authoring a class assignment in which he stated that he found his instructors attractive. While the assignment specifically permitted students to write creatively about any topic, the university bizarrely classified his “Hot for Teacher” essay as “unlawful.” Joseph Corlett came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Oakland University made up its own definition of the ‘law’ in order to punish a student […]

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  • ‘Hot for Teacher’ Student’s Appeal Denied: Suspended for Writing an Essay

    March 13, 2012

    DETROIT, March 13, 2012—Oakland University in Michigan has denied the appeal of a student who was barred from campus, suspended for three semesters, and required to undergo “sensitivity” counseling for authoring a class assignment in which he stated that he found his instructors attractive. While the assignment specifically permitted students to write creatively about any topic, the university bizarrely classified his “Hot for Teacher” essay as “unlawful.” Joseph Corlett came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Oakland University made up its own definition of the ‘law’ in order to punish a student for his creative writing,” said […]

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  • Oakland University’s Punishment of Student Makes National and International Press

    February 16, 2012

    The national press has lit up over the news of Oakland University student Joseph Corlett’s suspension (and additional punishment) from the university over the contents of a writing journal for his writing class, where he wrote of finding his instructors attractive. Corlett’s appearance on MSNBC provided national TV exposure of the case and of Oakland’s very troubling punishment of his protected expression. You can watch the video of his appearance here.  Elsewhere, numerous ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliate networks have covered the story of Corlett’s suspension (ABC News has provided national online coverage, and please also check out the latest […]

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

    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 […]

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  • ‘Hot for Teacher’ Essay Lands Student in Trouble

    February 16, 2012

    by Ashton Marra ABC News   A Michigan college student is crying foul after he was kicked off campus for writing a sexually suggestive journal entry about his teacher for a class assignment. Joseph Corlett, a 56-year-old countertop refinisher who is pursuing a degree in writing and rhetoric at Oakland University, wrote the essay as a part of a creative writing journal assignment in a writing course. In his essay, which he said was inspired by the 1984 Van Halen hit “Hot for Teacher,” he wrote about his first impressions of his professor, Pamela Mitzelfeld, describing her as “tall, blonde, […]

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  • MSNBC Covers ‘Hot for Teacher’ Case

    February 15, 2012

    FIRE’s case at Oakland University, which suspended a student who wrote about his attraction to his professors in his writing journal, has lit up the airwaves all over Metro Detroit. It even has started to hit music sites such as the Van Halen News Desk, since the student’s essay was titled “Hot for Teacher,” the name of a 1980s Van Halen song. Now MSNBC has posted about the case as well, picking up an article from ClickonDetroit.com. The student in the case, Joseph Corlett, says: “It’s an encroachment on the Bill of Rights by our own government. … My wife […]

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  • Isn’t There More to the Story at Oakland University? Not Really. (Part 3)

    February 14, 2012

    In this blog series, I am discussing the four examples of concerns cited by Oakland University Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Mary Beth Snyder regarding student Joseph Corlett’s “behavior” (all of them actually examples of expression) which “was perceived by female members of the campus community as intimidating and/or threatening.”  We discussed the fourth example, Corlett’s writing journal, in last week’s press release—and I should repeat that the writing journal constituted the only example of the four, according to Snyder, that had “resulted in student-conduct charges.” My previous posts described the first two examples, so this post […]

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  • Isn’t There More to the Story at Oakland University? Not Really. (Part 2)

    February 13, 2012

    In this blog series, I am discussing the four examples cited by Oakland University Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Mary Beth Snyder of complaints that student Joseph Corlett’s “behavior” (all of them actually examples of expression) “was perceived by female members of the campus community as intimidating and/or threatening.” According to Snyder, the fourth example—Corlett’s writing journal, discussed in last week’s press release—was the only one that “resulted in student-conduct charges.” My previous post described the first example. Here I describe the second one: “A late night phone call to a female student in your English 380 […]

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  • Isn’t There More to the Story at Oakland University? Not Really. (Part 1)

    February 13, 2012

    In my previous post about FIRE’s free speech case at Oakland University, I explained that being insensitive, seeming creepy, and being the subject of subjective complaints about feeling “intimidated” do not equate to true threats, intimidation, or harassment. Student Joseph Corlett’s writing journal, in which he wrote about his attraction to his professors, is far from meeting the legal standards for such conduct. But considering the reaction, surely there’s more to the story at Oakland, right? Not really. On December 7, 2011, Oakland University Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Mary Beth Snyder sent Corlett a letter explaining […]

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  • Creeping Someone Out Does Not Equal Threats or Intimidation

    February 13, 2012

    Last week, FIRE drew attention to a free speech case at Oakland University near Detroit, which wildly overreacted after a student wrote in his writing journal for class that he was attracted to his professors. Student Joseph Corlett appears to have been charged with no crime outside of campus, but Oakland found him guilty of “unlawful individual activities,” even though the journal assignment specifically permitted students to write creatively about any topic. Corlett was suspended for three semesters, barred from campus, and required to undergo “sensitivity” counseling. That’s right: Far from seeing Corlett as the next Virginia Tech shooter, Oakland […]

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  • Writing about Attraction to Professors Gets Oakland U. Student Suspended

    February 10, 2012

    Here is today’s press release:  DETROIT, February 10, 2012—Oakland University near Detroit has suspended a student for three semesters, barred him from campus, and demanded he undergo “sensitivity” counseling because he wrote in a class assignment that he found his instructors attractive. While the course specifically permitted students to write creatively about any topic, the university bizarrely chose to classify his writing as “unlawful individual activities.” Joseph Corlett came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.  “This is a wild overreaction to a student’s creative writing,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “The university has essentially issued […]

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  • Writing about Attraction to Professors Gets Oakland U. Student Suspended

    February 10, 2012

    DETROIT, February 10, 2012—Oakland University near Detroit has suspended a student for three semesters, barred him from campus, and demanded he undergo “sensitivity” counseling because he wrote in a class assignment that he found his instructors attractive. While the course specifically permitted students to write creatively about any topic, the university bizarrely chose to classify his writing as “unlawful individual activities.” Joseph Corlett came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “This is a wild overreaction to a student’s creative writing,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “The university has essentially issued a straitjacket to every writing […]

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