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 instructor to Ginger, the attractive starlet 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."
"I've had a few worries lately, the first that Lynn Anne, my wife, would read this. But now I don't care. I suppose my fear is a good sign that I'm writing honestly," Corlett wrote in journal pages that were attached to his lawsuit in Detroit federal court.
The lawsuit said the "entry was a whimsical exaggeration of his attraction" toward his English 380 teacher.
But Oakland officials said his assignment violated a policy against intimidation or harassment and last year barred him from taking classes for three terms, through winter 2013. The university said he must undergo counseling if he wants to return as a student.
Corlett, who now lives in Sarasota, Fla., said there were no restrictions on his journal assignment in English 380. The lawsuit states that the university's interpretation of its policy "has a chilling effect on Corlett's right to freely and openly engage in discussions of his theories, ideas, and beliefs."
A message seeking comment was left with an Oakland spokesman.
Attorney Alari Adams said Corlett is seeking $2.2 million for mental anguish and the embarrassment of being kicked out of school.