A man suspended from a Detroit-area university after writing about his attraction to teachers in a class journal sued the school Friday for $2.2 million and four lost credits, claiming his free-speech rights were violated.
Joseph Corlett, 57, a home builder who enrolled in college because of the weak economy, said he was an A-student in a writing class at Oakland University in Rochester until he submitted a journal in 2011 titled “Hot For Teacher,” the name of a song by the rock band Van Halen.
Corlett compared his female instructor to Ginger, a sultry movie starlet character on the 1960s TV show “Gilligan’s Island.” He feared being distracted and said, “I’ll never learn a thing.” He said another teacher who was pregnant was “hot, and not just from baking the bun in her oven.”
The teacher informed an Oakland dean after reading the journal for the first time. Officials said Corlett’s writings violated a policy against intimidation or harassment and last year barred him for three terms, through winter 2013. The university said he must undergo counseling if he wants to return as a student.
In an interview, Corlett, who now lives in Sarasota, Fla., said he’s fighting for his civil rights.
“When you get past the titillation, you’ve got to look into what’s really going on here,” he said. “It’s academic freedom or no academic freedom. We’re all collectively dumbed when speech is suppressed or challenged.”