February 13, 2012

Told to "relax and allow this" writing assignment "to work for you," a college student describes his sexual attraction to various female instructors...

... and is suspended — from Oakland University — for violating a rule that says "nor shall any person in any way intimidate, harass, threaten or assault any person engaged in lawful activities on the campus."
While the entries describe various women in ways that might make them identifiable to those on campus, and are written in ways many would find immature or insulting, the entries don't contain threats against any of the women. 
Oh, lord, they've scanned his Mead composition book and posted it on line, with his name. Talk about intimidation and harassment! Oh, no wait. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which is representing the student, has put the PDF up, so any humiliation involved in making the writing available is self-inflicted. I wasn't going to link to it or name the young man if it was the university that was exposing it, but Joseph Corlett is doing this to himself. Reading. Crossing out "young" because I just read the part, under the title "Hot for Teacher" where he writes: "She is short, height/weight proportionate and brunette like my wife of thirty (30) years..."
I'll be 56 in November of 2011... It was refreshing to have some space in my brain to think about thoughts other than sex. Like dropping from a hundred times a day to just 20. What a relief, but you don't get wood at the titty bars anymore. Small tradeoff.

I can't believe I just wrote that but I did and it's staying. I don't give a fuck. It is what it is. I WILL NOT TEAR THIS PAGE. 
You know, in those Mead composition books, one page is attached to another one, on the other side of the binding. Actions have consequences.

Back to the article link:
FIRE maintains that Corlett's rights were violated by the university, and that there was no reason to treat him as threatening. "It is not against the law to be — or to be perceived as — a creep," said Adam Kissel, vice president of FIRE. Noting that many great writers have expressed their admiration for women (in ways that shocked and offended many), Kissel said, "I can hardly imagine what kind of counseling Oakland would have required for Quentin Tarantino, Vladimir Nabokov, or Stephen King."
Officials at Oakland, a public institution in Michigan, declined to comment on the case, and said that the institution could not do so without violating privacy rules. 
Rights. Everywhere: rights. Boxed in on all sides. One question is: If Quentin Tarantino, Vladimir Nabokov, or Stephen King submitted to a writing class at a university in California Michigan that authorities wielding rules against sexual harassment, what would they write? One answer is: That's a big "if."

Now, the teachers' feelings of intimidation also had to do with guns. The file contains a complaint about Corlett's "gun obsession." Corlett had, in fact written a letter to the student newspaper in support of concealed carry rights on campus.
"I cannot feel safe knowing that he might have a weapon with him at any time. He might have had a gun in his backpack when he sat 20 feet away from me at the writing center last week..." [a teacher wrote].
The article, at Inside Higher Ed, continues:
The Corlett dispute is one in a series of instances in which students have been scrutinized for their work in writing classes -- more typically when the writing is explicitly dealing with violence. Colleges and universities have been criticized both for failing to act on student writing and for overreacting. The issue is complicated, writing instructors say. Instructors note that many students are immature, aren't good writers and mix fantasy and reality without much attempt to differentiate the two...
The article fails to include the fact — which jumped out at me when I read the notebook — that the man is 56 years old. That's part of the factual context of the case. Many students are immature, but when the immature student is 56 years old, that affects the assessment of the evidence.

Let's not jump to assume he was suspended solely for writing about his sexual attraction to the teachers (or for speaking out about gun rights). We don't know the totality of the facts here, only that the man has engaged representation and gone public in a context where the school is not able to explain its action.

By the way, when I think of great writers and Oakland, I don't think of Quentin Tarantino, Vladimir Nabokov, or Stephen King, I think of Gertrude Stein, who famously remarked: "The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there, there isn't any there there." 

Anyway, I don't know what the there here is, and neither do you.

ADDED: I really didn't know where the there there was. Oakland University is in Michigan, not in Stein's no-there-there Oakland, which was the one that's always there there in your head, the one in California.

60 comments:

Jay said...

"I cannot feel safe knowing that he might have a weapon with him at any time.

Are you allowed to carry a gun on Oakland's campus?

Instructors note that many students are immature, aren't good writers and mix fantasy and reality without much attempt to differentiate the two

I suppose this demonstrates how fantastic American high schools are doing. Thanks teachers!

bmodisett said...

I believe it is Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Not Oakland, CA.

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)



If ONLY he had fantasized about arresting and sodomizing Booosh…or if he had used his voice to decry the evils of Christianity!

Pastafarian said...

Althouse, I think this is Oakland in western Michigan. Not Oakland, California.

I'm not sure if it matters, but many of your statements make it look like you think it's Oakland, California.

avwh said...

Oakland University is in SE Michigan, nowhere near Gertrude Stein's Oakland, CA.

rhhardin said...

They need a faculty that's more mature.

edutcher said...

I believe the ultimate aim here is Thought Control.

Somewhere, Eric Blair is laughing through the tears.

Ann Althouse said...

Oh, lord, they've scanned his Mead composition book and posted it on line, with his name.

Crossing out "young" because I just read the part, under the title "Hot for Teacher"


Hey, wait, how did Meade's copybook end up in Oak...

Oh, wait...

Never mind.

Pastafarian said...

Before you assume that this guy is just a moron from what you've read: This was apparently meant to be some sort of daily journal, where the student would jot down a stream of consciousness. This guy apparently won an award for his writing a couple of years ago.

I would not want you to read and dissect my daily stream of consciousness. Nor would you enjoy it.

And the fact that he's an older, nontraditional student: You seem to be all icked-out by that, Althouse. It seems somewhat age-ist of you.

T J Sawyer said...

What is the proper number of times per day to think about sex - for a 56 year-old?

I mean, without becoming immature.

traditionalguy said...

Free Speech is at its best when this guy was revealed his true thoughts.

So the language police says thank you, and expels him.

His written Words are either all powerful and contain enchantments that require this witch to be burned at the stake, or he is just a troll that should be laughed at and have his own show at The Punch Line.

And I thought the power of ridicule was the Lib's weapon of choice these days?

I believe Bob Dylan wrote, "some people have knives and forks on the table, and they have to cut something."

The Drill SGT said...

When I read this story the other day, it appeared to me that the student was just doing the assignment given to him, honestly and acturately.

Unless daily journal assignments are designed to be fictions tailored to apopeal to the prejudices of the instructor

The School appears to be exercising poot judgement and viewpoint discrimination here

Hagar said...

Oh, wjat a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!

MayBee said...

And the fact that he's an older, nontraditional student: You seem to be all icked-out by that, Althouse. It seems somewhat age-ist of you.

An older, nontraditional student at a community college in a financially devastated area that has been bleeding jobs.

Eastern Michigan, btw everyone. Near Detroit.

Hagar said...

and, well, you never know when his gun - if he has a gun - might jump out of his backpack, rack itself, and go full automatic at the world!

MayBee said...

I should say community-ish college. It's a university, but I'd call it a community university, if such a thing exists.

Sofa King said...

Anyway, I don't know what the there here is, and neither do you.

Don't you mean, this is craven repression and a shocking violation of free speech rights?

prairie wind said...

He might have had a gun in his backpack when he sat 20 feet away from me

This made me laugh! It also made me think she's just nuts.

I do think that if my husband were to write something like that--even in a personal journal but especially in a journal that he knows someone else will read--I'd be pissed. Maybe that's just me, and maybe I really don't know enough about what he wrote. And maybe I get pissed easily.

EDH said...

I remember I got my first Mead composition book in first grade.

Early that school year, one of the students threw up chunks on the classroom floor.

So, whenever I see the cover of one of those Mead composition books with the white blotches all over the black background, I think of chunky throw-up.

prairie wind said...

Okay, so I've followed the link to the PDF and read enough to know that his journal would make for entertaining reading.

I still wouldn't want my husband to write that. Someone else's husband, though? I want to read it all.

Tank said...

T J Sawyer said...
What is the proper number of times per day to think about sex - for a 56 year-old?

I mean, without becoming immature.


Same as a 25 year old.

It's just thinking.

Rumpletweezer said...

Larry Miller's stand-up act used to include a bit that began with the statement, "Ladies, if you knew what we were really thinking, you'd never stop slapping us."

MadisonMan said...

So he likes big guns.

(beat)

On a woman?

phx said...

I believe Bob Dylan wrote, "some people have knives and forks on the table, and they have to cut something."

That was Dylan referring to poverty and hunger.

"Some people got a lot a forks and knives on the table. But man, they gotta cut somethin'"

Andrea said...

I don't know, but when I was going to college, even when the instructor would encourage us to write "what we really felt/thought" for an assignment, I wasn't stupid enough to actually do so. Of course, I'm a woman -- women self-censor all the time because we're raised to know that the world is not always interested in our every precious thought. (And I'm not actually totally against that -- censorship can sometimes be a goad to better writing.)

Men on the other hand... we're still primed to think that their thoughts on anything are somehow more important. That results in stuff like this, where a man, of supposedly mature years, somehow didn't realize that his public airing of his sexy-teacher fantasies would offend. And yes, I know about the complaint that "feminists" have taken to crushing mens' self-esteem by telling them they're stupid or something. It's resulted, as far as I can tell, in exactly zero instances of males actually internalizing this enough to self-censor the way women do all the time. And no, sulking and resenting being dissed by a "feminist" isn't the same thing.

ricpic said...

He lies! Any man who thinks about sex twenty times a day gets wood at the titty-bar.

James said...

I laughed out loud when I read this blog on Saturday. See the first comment: College Student Suspended For Writing About Being Attracted To Professor

Matthew said...

In general, when a woman you do not know on a very intimate (as in personal, you perverts) manner asks you to be honest with her, it is often very much to your detriment to do so.

This is the real reason for all those awkward pauses about "what are you thinking" questions. Sometimes it is because honesty will be a bad idea, and sometimes simply admitting we're choreographing fight scenes in our heads is probably not what they want to hear.

deborah said...

Sounds like this guy just might be mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. 'You want my stream of consciousness, you bull-shitting liberal arts twit? Well, here ya go.'

Matthew said...

The key rule is what I learned in high school for, like, any essay assignment ever.

Never write what you think, when you can write what you know will get you an A. This journal? It will not get you an A.

John Lynch said...

If he's gone 56 years without a criminal record, that matters too.

Matthew said...

I don't think longevity in not committing a crime is a reasonable defense. If he did something to threaten people, then getting kicked out is fair and good.

If it is just for writing this and a letter to the editor? Then it is not fair.

But, we'll see if anyone is honest against their own interests in her writing class ever again.

Lyssa said...

Anyway, I don't know what the there here is, and neither do you.

One thing I do know, however, is that this writing assignment was stupid and of no educational value to an adult, and was a waste of money from everyone who spent it.

Matthew said...

I wonder if they would have felt threatened by his writing without -also- including his letter to the editor?

I dunno though, I feel like too many things are not in focus yet to get a good feel. In other places talking about it, posters claiming to know what happened, use phrases like "waving his gun around," which if it is a literal statement, is good enough reason to kick him out.

I somehow think this is going to be a bit more nuanced than that though.

Crunchy Frog said...

Students note that many instructors are immature, aren't good writers and mix fantasy and reality without much attempt to differentiate the two...

Fixed.

George Grady said...

Andrea wrote:
women self-censor all the time because we're raised to know that the world is not always interested in our every precious thought...Men on the other hand... we're still primed to think that their thoughts on anything are somehow more important.

It's resulted, as far as I can tell, in exactly zero instances of males actually internalizing this enough to self-censor the way women do all the time.


Andrea, I'm sorry, but this is utter bullshit. Take it from me, a man, that I self-censor all the time. It is true that I've met plenty of men who seem to lack this capability, but I've also met plenty of women who aren't into self-censoring, too. This is not a male/female issue.

glenn said...

Joe should plead "Boomer". Likely the judge will be a Boomer too and Joe will skate.

Matthew said...

Self-censoring is a social survival skill that I actually don't think favors one gender over the other.

Kirk Parker said...

"I cannot feel safe knowing that he might have a weapon with him at any time. He might have had a gun in his backpack when he sat 20 feet away from me at the writing center last week..." [a teacher wrote]."

Why are educated people so incredibly stupid? (Yes, I'm presuming that someone considered a "teacher" is indeed "educated".) Is it just that the thought of crime is so subliminally devestating that you have to be in denial and can't possibly think rationally about it?

Hello babe*--if a guy is likely use his weapon in a criminal way against you, he for darn sure isn't the type who would give the slighest fraction of a damn about obeying some administrative rule about possessing it in the first place!

--------------------------------
*Mega-dollars to micro-donuts particular teacher being quoted is female.

Kirk Parker said...

I don't understand all this talk about "think about sex X times a day". Isn't it more like ONE thought about sex, that starts first thing in the morning and continues until you fall asleep?

phx said...

One thing I do know, however, is that this writing assignment was stupid and of no educational value to an adult, and was a waste of money from everyone who spent it.

Whoa. Why do you say that?

Jess said...

...and sometimes simply admitting we're choreographing fight scenes in our heads is probably not what they want to hear.

Fight scenes, huh? Nothing wrong with that, but I'm more of a car chase scene guy, myself.

Hagar said...

I'm with Deborah.

Writ Small said...

many students are immature, aren't good writers and mix fantasy and reality without much attempt to differentiate the two...

Once they graduate and start commenting on blogs, that all changes.

DADvocate said...

We all know that anyone who speaks out for 2nd amendment rights must be carrying a gun, probably multiiple guns (3-4 at least, of huge caliber and illegaly modified to full automatic) and is extremely dangerous.

I suppose a 56 year old man is more likely to find a 30 something instructor sexy. A traditional student would find her over the hill and halfway down the other side.

Sounds to me like the willy nilly, scared of their own shadow academians overreacted.

alan markus said...

Isn't it more like ONE thought about sex, that starts first thing in the morning

Gives perspective to some "waking up to the crack of Dawn" joke I heard so long ago.

Rob said...

In 1966 the Soviet writer Andrei Sinyavsky was tried and convicted for slandering the state in his literary works. In his plea to the judge before sentencing, he said, "I want to repeat a few elementary arguments about the nature of literature. The most rudimentary thing about literature--it is here that one's study of it begins--is that words are not deeds. . . ."

Sinyavsky was sentenced to seven years in a forced-labor camp. I'd have hoped that in this country we wouldn't have to be reminded that words are not deeds. Apparently not.

phx said...

many students are immature, aren't good writers and mix fantasy and reality without much attempt to differentiate the two...

Once they graduate and start commenting on blogs, that all changes.


Yeah, then things start to go bad.

Joe said...

I wasted my time reading the journal. It's not very good writing. The initial part is rather tacky.

It's also apparent that the teacher felt some of his writing was inappropriate and asked him to stop and he didn't. Worse, he really did write stuff that's definitely in creepy territory. (I mean, who writes that they wouldn't have sex with their sister-in-law or history teacher.)

Above all, he failed to learn a lesson I've finally got my children to understand; when doing assignments, a) pick topics that have lots of information and b) write what the teacher wants to read. (The notion that the journal is supposed to be your authentic thoughts is absurd. You couldn't publish most people's actual thoughts. Even if they weren't obscene, they'd be mostly incoherent. Just now I jumped from this to "where is the server that does X" to "why in the world is he creating a bitmap that way" to "what was I writing?".)

Hagar said...

"Let a thousand flowers bloom!"

//ss Chairman Mao

Swisssh!

DADvocate said...

write what the teacher wants to read.

Should have been rule #1, which, rephrased is: such up to your teacher and make the outrageous statements in blogs after you graduate.

Coketown said...

1) Gertrude Stein was not a great writer. She was a babbling idiot. It's a misconception typically reserved for mystics that the nonsensical babbling of idiots must be inspired.

2) This story is example #24,043 of why "non-traditional" students are ruining higher education in America. Old people are choosing to spend their retirement by going back to school to pursue degrees in the liberal arts. They have higher disposable incomes than young students and are therefore impervious to the tuition hikes their very presence creates. Further, the amount of money given to scholarships for "non-traditional" students is scandalous. Surely there are other students far more in need of financial assistance than retired people pursuing creative writing degrees.

3) I taught creative writing, and old people, male or female, are invariable perverts. It's expected of men, but old women buy into the notion that they've spent their lives oppressed by patriarchal power structures and now, finally, an MFA is the perfect vehicle to throw off their bonnets and bare their breasts to a shocked public. The best writers are middle-aged people who are past their Ayn Rand/J.D. Salinger phases but haven't yet tranformed into perverts--but it will come. They seem to think their lack of sexual arousal makes them disinterested and dispassionate about sex, and therefore perfect to write on the topic, but really all we get is the sappy, over-wrought verbosity of fleeting nostalgia. "Remember, dear Cecil, when we used to get boners? O, lithe nymphs of yore!"

4) The fault here rests with the instructor that actually read the student's freewriting exercises. You don't do that. Free-writing is an excellent method for shedding inhibitions, which is the biggest block emerging writers face, and the emphasis is not on what the student wrote but whether or not he wrote. This controversy sends a blunt signal to all other writing students: Be careful where you let your mind wander during these "free-writing" excercises. Don't relax too much."

deborah said...

Coketown, you kill me :)

Stephen A. Meigs said...

On balance, males ought to be more sexually explicit in their writings and conversations. In particular, the consideration that someone might be frightened by one's writings is not a particularly moral one. A more appropriate consideration morally is whether females would be more safe if males actually were honest and relatively open about their sexual opinions, or whether they would be more safe if males were not honest and relatively open about their sexual opinions. Clearly female safety would be better served if it were the norm for males to be quite open about their sexual opinions. Sure, if a male says something to a female to suggest he might be sexually interested in her, she is likely to become more frightened than if she never had occasion to view him otherwise than as indifferent towards her, but in a climate of openness, she will be less scared of the ones not saying sexual things to her, and on balance will be safer on account of having a better idea of whom to be wary of (and of course there are other reasons besides safety why a female might want to know the sexual opinions of the males around her, e.g., because she might want sex).

Males who hide their sexual and romantic opinions excessively usually are doing so for expediency or their own safety rather than for moral reasons, imho. And choosing expediency over morality very well not be the right thing to do.

Threats are reprehensible, though.

bagoh20 said...

"Truth? You can't handle the truth!"

If women knew the true nature of male sexuality, we would be hunted down and shot. Gentlemen, please don't tell them. It's natural, but they won't accept that as an excuse. A wolf's instincts are natural too, and look what happened to them.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

Have you ever heard of the 'double bind?' At one time, before you couldn't consider it, that was a fashionable theory of an underlying developmental problem for schizophrenics. Theodore Lidz has some nice examples of it in The Person I think is the title. At any rate your are told to express your feelings and having done so attest that you thought and felt something else. There is no way that both actions can be true. That is what this instructor asked for and probably he in part realized it. Now a young person, say 10 years younger than the instructor, would say 'This is an idiot (adult). Turn on response to idiot adult, D2, and come out with...' He being her senior is feeling a little castrated by this exercise and so gives her some associations maybe ostensibly sexual but imbued with his hostile position.

Synova said...

One of my youngest daughter's Middle schoolteachers was afraid of men. Period. She found all men threatening and intimidating and would just about freak out if she had to deal with a father instead of a mother.

Sounds to me from the quoted bits that some people are simply afraid of guns.

I don't really care if there is a reason for someone to be irrational. It's still irrational and if you've got a job professionally, expecting others to bow to your irrational fears is unacceptable.

bagoh20 said...

"...if you've got a job professionally, expecting others to bow to your irrational fears is unacceptable. "

I think half the laws passed in the last 20 years are based on irrational fears, at least in California. For example: We have signs in virtually every establishment that say ~ "This building contains substances known to the state of CA to be hazardous. Now just about every building you enter has one of these sign, so if you take the signs serious you would be home bound, and soon starve to death, which is not warned against anywhere. Oh shit, now that's next.

Writ Small said...

She found all men threatening and intimidating and would just about freak out if she had to deal with a father instead of a mother.

Even gay men can be threatening, what with the real danger of scratched corneas from glitter bombs and all. That and the constant reminders that your presidential field is a joke.

Jube said...

When you think of Oakland (CA), you don't think of Jack London?

Revenant said...

We have signs in virtually every establishment that say ~ "This building contains substances known to the state of CA to be hazardous.

That's thanks to a state referendum making it easy to sue any business that fails to warn people of the presence of carcinogenic substances.

So the sign tends to get posted regardless of whether or not the business has any reason to believe dangerous levels of toxins are present. For example, the parking lot of the place I work has them posted; car exhaust is carcinogenic.

It says a lot about California's business environment these days that FALSELY warning customers that they'll get cancer from your store is considered a smart move.