STEVENS POINT, Wisc. — A 59-year-old university student has sued her teacher at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for giving her a failing grade, as she believes the F is tied to her complaint about the themes of homosexuality, sex and swearing found in class reading assignments.
Donna Kikkert said that when she enrolled in the advanced creative writing poetry course at the university in 2014, she wanted to study classic poets. However, she became disappointed when Professor Patricia Dyjak rather selected material that contained contained profanity and references to sex.
“For the reading material in this course, Ms. Dyjak chose five poetry textbooks … which focused on lesbians, illicit sexual relationships, incest and frequent swearing,” her lawsuit states.
“A rational person would surmise these textbook choices to be myopically degrading and insulting to the intelligence of university students, who would have greatly benefited from a balanced study of poets, including Frost, London, Dickinson, Poe and others,” it reads.
Kikkert also became uncomfortable when, during one class, the discussion turned to tattoos and Dyjak allegedly lifted her shirt to show students the tattoo on the back of her shoulder, which exposed her breasts to the class.
She states that she wrote to Dyjak to express concern about her poetry selections, and suggested that she consider adding “one or two” of the classics into the selected material.
Dyjak responded that members of the University of Wisconsin community need to have tolerance toward one another, and that when she chose the poems, she purposefully selected material “that would appeal to … my LGBT students.”
“From Ms. Dyjak’s response, a rational person would surmise that she has swung the pendulum far to the side of LGBT students, and in so doing, has chosen to totally discount the importance and the validity of the mainstream student population,” Kikkert wrote in her legal challenge.
She outlined that her grades in other classes have been mostly A’s and a few B’s, resulting in a 3.8 average, and while she completed all assignments for the poetry class, Dyjak gave her an F. Kikkert believes that it is retaliation for reporting the professor to the chair of the university English Department.
Kikkert is asking that the court find that Dyjak acted in malice, and that she either be suspended a year without pay or terminated altogether. She is also seeking an adjustment of her grade from F to A.
Assistant Attorney General Katherine Spitz, who is representing Dyjak, has argued in court that the case should be dismissed because there is no legal standard requiring teachers to select certain material for their class.
“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,” she wrote.
Kikkert, who is considering an appeal after an initial dismissal of the case, is studying for a Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of University-Stevens Point.