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 a sitcom character he fetishized in a writing assignment, he brought a pig into the parlor,” Duggan wrote.
In Corlett’s 2011 essay, which he said was inspired by the 1984 Van Halen hit “Hot for Teacher,” he wrote about his first impressions of Mitzelfeld, describing her as “tall, blond, stacked, skirt, heels, fingernails, smart, articulate, smile.”
“Kee-Rist, I’ll never learn a thing,” Corlett wrote. “I’ll search for something unattractive about her. No luck yet.”
Corlett, a licensed residential builder, decided to pursue a college degree full-time in 2011 due to the economic downturn, according to the federal complaint.
He said he was under the impression that there were no restrictions on what he could write about in his journal for his creative writing class.
Corlett turned in the journal, containing the essay, in November 2011, and was shortly thereafter called into the dean’s office for a meeting.
In January 2012, after a campus hearing, the university, located in Rochester, Mich., found Corlett guilty of intimidation. Another charge, for sexual harassment, was dropped. Corlett was suspended for three semesters, banned from stepping foot on campus and required to seek out psychological counseling before he could be eligible to re-enroll, according to his federal complaint.
Leonard Niehoff, the university’s attorney, said it was “gratifying that [the lawsuit] has been dismissed so promptly and decisively.”
“Our view from the beginning was this was a case that never should have been filed,” Niehoff said.
Corlett’s attorney, Alari Adams, told the Associated Press she was disappointed Corlett’s lawsuit had been thrown out and is “exploring the next step” in the case.
William Creeley, director of legal and public advocacy for FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said the group, which is not representing Corlett, is “extremely disappointed” with the ruling.
“We find it a very troubling ruling and we think it’s an outlier,” Creeley said. “We’ll be watching to see what happens next.”
Schools: Oakland University