A Wisconsin judge has dismissed a 59-year-old college student’s claim against a professor at a taxpayer-funded university who gave the student an F in a poetry class.
The student, Donna Kikkert, attends the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, reports the Stevens Point Journal, the main newspaper in town.
The sole defendant in Kikkert’s lawsuit is Patricia Dyjak, an assistant professor at the school.
Kikkert — a lover of the classics — contends that she signed up for Dyjak’s 300-level course, entitled “Advanced Creative Writing Poetry,” hoping to study great poetry by bards such as Robert Frost and Edgar Allan Poe.
Dyjak did not include anything remotely approaching time-honored verse as part of the materials in the “Advanced Creative Writing Poetry” course, Kikkert claims. Instead, Dyjak assigned materials focused on “lesbians, illicit sexual relationships, incest and frequent swearing.”
At one point during the course, Dyjak also allegedly flashed her breasts to the whole class in the course of showing off a tattoo on her back.
Kikkert says she complained about the material on offer and asked Dyjak to supplement the material by assigning more well-known, less lewd poetry.
Dyjak allegedly responded by failing Kikkert. This response was “capricious retaliation,” Kikkert claims.
Kikkert tried but failed to convince Wisconsin–Stevens Point administrators to raise her grade.
In her lawsuit, filed earlier this year, the quinquagenarian student asked a judge to change her F grade to an A.
Kikkert also wanted Dyjak either fired or suspended for a year without pay.
“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, according to the Stevens Point Journal.
The office of Wisconsin’s attorney general is representing Dyjak in the lawsuit because the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point is a state institution.
“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,” assistant attorney general Katherine Spitz said in a statement provided to the Stevens Point Journal.
Kikkert, who says she may appeal the judge’s ruling, told the newspaper she believes professors should “have a sensitivity to what students would consider as wanting to learn.”
Dyjak’s faculty webpage trumpets her dissertation, “Snakes in the Garden/Goodness: Power, Privilege, and Poetry in the Creation of Authority,” as a consideration of “the cultural construction of goodness in particular groups, ending with the examination of three American woman poets who use snake imagery to represent the female divine.”
“Pat publishes as ‘P.R. Dyjak’ and her work has appeared in national poetry journals, including Earth’s Daughters,” the faculty webpage also says.
An example of Dyjak’s poetry includes “Once (a slam poem)” discusses the time she allegedly had unsatisfactory sex with a Republican.
“It wasn’t doggy-style or anything remotely interesting — just boring old missionary position,” the professor writes, in something dimly approaching a poem.