Society

College Student Sued Professor, Didn't Like Gay Poetry

| by Michael Allen

A 59-year-old college student filed a lawsuit to get an A grade after being given a F grade in a poetry course at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Donna Kikkert said in her lawsuit that she wanted to study what she considered classics in her Advanced Creative Writing Poetry course, but Professor Patricia Dyjak assigned poetry that focused on "lesbians, illicit sexual relationships, incest and frequent swearing," notes the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Kikkert asserted in court records that Dyjak "has swung the pendulum far to the side of LGBT students and, in doing so, has chosen to totally discount the importance and the validity of the mainstream student population."

Kikkert alleged in her legal claim that her failing grade was "capricious retaliation" because she spoke up about the course. She also alleged that Dyjak exposed her breasts to the class while showing a back-shoulder tattoo.

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Kikkert was not able to get the university to raise her grade, so she asked a judge to force Dyjak to give her an A.

Kikkert also asked the judge to fire Dyjak or suspend her without pay for a year.

​The state's Assistant Attorney General Katherine Spitz, who represented Dyjak, called for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

"Kikkert's complaint fails because it does not provide any legal authority or other basis (and the defendant's counsel is aware of none) upon which this court could require Dyjak to teach the work of certain poets in a college course ... or to provide any particular student with the grade that student believes she deserves, rather than the one she earned," Spitz wrote, according to court records.

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A Portage County judge dismissed the case on May 23, per online records, noted WSAU.

Greg Summers, UWSP's provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, explained the school's educational goals to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

"We're interested in teaching you the skills necessary to think and form your own judgments," Summers said. "Part of that is encountering ideas that you may not be comfortable with and you may not agree with, and being able to encounter those ideas, empathize with them enough to take them seriously and then form your own judgment."

Kikkert stated: "I think professors need to incorporate having a sensitivity to what students would consider as wanting to learn."

Summers would not comment on Kikkert's lawsuit, but recalled how he taught the history of climate change.

"I knew that people probably had different views about the current politics of it, but I always made sure to frame things so that there was a chance for everybody to engage that material from whatever view they had," he said. "It didn't make me change how I taught it, necessarily."

Sources: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, WSAU / Photo Credit: Royalbroil/Wikimedia Commons

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