'Mainstream' student sues professor for F in poetry class
Universities need to make it easier for people without traditional entry qualifications to succeed in higher education. Source: Shutterstock

Donna Kikkert, a University of Wisonsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) student has sued her poetry professor, demanding the professor change her F grade in Advanced Creative Writing Poetry class to an A, The Telegraph reports.

The claim by the 56-year-old student against Prof Patricia Dyjak, which was made on the basis Dyjak’s course material alienates “mainstream” students due to its LGBT-centric content, has however been thrown out by a Portage County judge. Kikkert is mulling an appeal.

“She 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 argued in her complaint.

The mature student alleged the dismal grade is a “capricious retaliation” by Dyjak because Kikkert had previously complained about the course’s content and Dyjak’s behaviour with students.

According to Kikkert’s complaint, Dyjak had selected five poetry textbooks which focused on “lesbians, illicit sexual relationships, incest and frequent swearing”, of which she finds to be “myopically degrading” and “insulting” to university students’ intelligence.

But Dyjak’s attorney argued the student’s claim has no legal grounds, as to require a professor to only limit her syllabus to certain poets. Dyjak is not required to award her student with any other grade, apart from the one she had earned either.

The university’s vice-chancellor for academic affairs, Greg Summers, has weighed in and stressed that university is a place for academic freedom and the free expression of ideas without repercussions.

Speaking to the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Summers said:

“We’re interested in teaching you the skills necessary to think and form your own judgments.

“Part of that is encountering ideas you may not be comfortable with and you may not agree with, and being able to encounter those ideas, empathise with them enough to take them seriously and then form your own judgment.”

Kikkert’s legal claim comes at a time where campuses are grappling with how to deal with free speech.

Campus events nationwide involving conservative figures such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos at University of California, Berkeley earlier this year have evoked tension and sometimes, violence due to student factions holding different opinions on these speakers and the views they represent.

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