Yesterday, we brought you the "Hot for Teacher" essays that got 56-year-old student Joseph Corlett banned from classes at Oakland University. Now we've talked to him and some former classmates, and the story is even weirder than we thought.
First of all, Corlett has asked me to clarify that he did not transcribe a note from his ("hot") professor Pamela Mitzelfeld into his journal. Rather, he "made it up." For reference, here's the note in full:
While your writing is fair, it is completely inappropriate. I have broken your rule and torn out the offending pages. If this continues, I am obligated to report
thisyou to the Dean, otherwise I will consider the matter closed.
When I asked Corlett why he chose to make up a note calling his work inappropriate and threatening to report him to the Dean (which Mitzelfeld in fact later did), he said, "who knows?" When pressed, he said he was "a creative writer" and that he was "just riffing." Nonetheless, the note implies he was aware that his writing might be offensive, and that there could be consequences.
Despite this, Corlett swears that Prof. Mitzelfeld gave no indication she had any problem with his essays until he was suddenly banned from class. He says he got As on other assignments with sexual content, and that Mitzelfeld even praised them. He says he has no idea what made her change her opinion of him. I've contacted Mitzelfeld for comments on this, but haven't yet gotten a response.
Corlett also told me that he took a women's history class last year, and befriended three young women who repeatedly invited him to join their study group. Two former classmates, however, have less fond memories. Both asked not to be named because they said they were afraid of Corlett. One reported having "dealt with Mr. Corlett on many occasions" and said "he truly is a threatening man." The other wrote,
It is not easy to intimidate me and I have met my fair share of creepy people on campus. I have never reported anyone I have encountered on campus or on an outside assignment. Except for this man. There were times when I was afraid to leave my office in order to go to the bathroom. I would succumb, but look both directions before crossing a narrow stretch of hallway. After each encounter with this person, I would breathe deeply and need to calm myself down because I was shaking so much — all the while steeling myself for the next visit, which I knew would come minutes later. Because I was a student leader with an interest in treating all fairly, I allowed this to go on until the encounters reached a tipping point. I suspect that is what [Prof. Mitzelfeld] felt like.
When I asked Corlett why people might be afraid of him, he said "I have no idea." He said he'd never threatened fellow students and, "I've never intimidated anybody." He provided me with his essay "The Story the Oakland Post Does Not Want You To Read," which is a defense of the right to carry handguns on the Oakland University campus, but he said he never carried a gun to school. He did tell me, though, that when students were asked to introduce themselves at the beginning of his writing class, he introduced himself as a licensed gun carrier. This may have freaked some people out. Whether Corlett is, as he claims, an innocent 2nd-Amendment defender or, as others allege, a scary and threatening guy, one thing is clear — his problems with his college are as much about guns as they are about sex.