July 10, 2003: This page being updated. Come back this weekend for the latest. Thanks.
--Former student and longtime friend, Dennis Ginnard

John Bonnell Controversy at Macomb Communty College.

John Bonnell Controversy at Macomb Community College.
Student's protest Professor's Suspension


Teacher's Rights Section of the MCC Faculty Contract.
Describing teachers' classroom freedoms, authority, and behavior.

The College's 1993 policy  re: sex harassment and offensive speech
Warning to general faculty from administration regarding classroom language

Journalism class "news sheet" story on Bonnell- May 1996
 preceded President Lorenzo's statement to assembled faculty, " There is no place for perverts on this campus".

"Semester Overview" Bonnell's First day class handout
Letter from former student discussing Bonnell's class

Parent's complaint of "Semester Overview", 1-19-98
Reaction to depiction of classroom speech as described in letter above.

Human Resource's MacQueen to Bonnell re: parental complaint, 2-19-1998
Bonnell is summoned to a disciplinary meeting re: parental complaint.

Bonnell's response to MacQueen's summons, 2-23-98
Bonnell questions procedure and complaint basis.

MacQueen clarifies basis of investigation,2-24-1998

MacQueen reiterates meeting's verbal warning, 3-4-1998
and states that use of language outside of "appropriate textual materials" may be  sexual harassment.

Bonnell responds to MacQueen's warning, 3-9-1998
denies sexual harassment and discontinues use of "first day" handout.


Student's complaint of Sexual Harassment, 11- 6 -1998
The letter that intensified the controversy.

"Yes, Virginia, There is a Sanity Clause"
A satirical essay by Bonnell defending free speech in the classroom while lampooning the College's foray into censorship,

Dean Demas' Memo to Professor Bonnell, 1-5-1999
A list of "findings" culminating in Bonnell's  suspension for three days.

Bonnell's response to Demas Memo

 MacQueen directs Bonnell  to not discuss, 1-8-99
post or distribute any statements to students regarding complaints or disciplinary against Bonnell.

MCCFO'S Attorney's letter to MCCFO, 2-3-99.
A description of the issues of academic freedom, free speech and employer's rights.

MCCFO's letter to Bonnell and Bonnell's Reply, 2-12-99
The faculty union lays out its version of the facts and refuses to pursue Bonnell's grievance: Bonnell objects.

MCCFO's Letter to the Faculty, 3-2-1999
Objecting to the distribution of materials, including the above exchange.

MCCFO's Letter to the Faculty March, 3-31-1999
Informing the faculty of Bonnell's law suit and the union's position regarding it.
Union president insists that the Union has given "fair representation" to Bonnell.

Bonnell Sues, 3-99
The deposition to Judge Borman's District Court.

MCCFO's Letter to Membership, 5-10-1999
Faculty union's view of court proceedings and Bonnell's options.

Students' account of Bonnell's behavior regarding disruption of their education, 5-1999

 Radlinski-"I am an intelligent, adult woman and I do not need you (the College) or anyone else to tell me what I can and can not listen to."
Renkert -"Professor John Bonnell played no part whatsoever in the protest which took place on the night of Monday, February 1, 1999."
 Schriever.-"Professor Bonnell did not even mention his suspension or the matters surrounding the suspension. It was hard not to know about it due to the vast media attention it gained the week prior to his suspension."
Note: these letters were used by the Provost in the following item.

MCC Provost's Memo of Disciplinary Suspension, 7-9-99
The college's list of findings culminating in Bonnell's suspension for a semester without pay.

Bonnell's Attorneys' Respond to the Provost.
Attorney's attempt to refute the Provost's findings.

Borman's decision for Bonnell, 8-27-99
Federal judge halts suspension of Bonnell.

Full text of Cincinnati Court of Appeal's Opinion against Bonnell, 3-1-2001
Court overrules Borman, returning Bonnell's fate to the College and his Union.

Bonnell Petitions for en banc (full court) rehearing, 3-14-01
Despite having a request for more time to respond denied, Bonnell's attorneys meet the deadline.

The College's response to Bonnell's rehearing request, 4-01
The college attempts to rebut all of Bonnell's arguments.

Bonnell's account of MCCFO meeting denying support for his grievance, 5-11-01
Bonnell futilely asks that the Union consider that the punishment of a full semester suspension without pay is  too severe for alleged breach of confidentiality and retaliation.

Official Notification of Suspension for Fall 2001 Semester plus 2 weeks.
A memo from Provost Bellanca to Bonnell.

Commentary and Opinion
(will be posted as received.)

Prof. Bonnell in class. (photo courtesy of Macomb Daily

Former student's critique of Bonnell's class. 1992
"a safe place to discuss things....wonderful...room to breath"

"Student Voice" article re: investigation May 1998.
Bonnell is unnamed in journalism class project.

Students speak out at Trustee's meeting, 1-19-99

Tammy Harris:"...education is not preparation for life, education is life itself and that's what we're here for. "
Kristina Peltier: "Every-thing he did teaching the class applied to the literature."
Kelly Cloutier: "I did teach catechism and he's very human, he's very truthful and he's never disrespected anything or anyone in the classroom."
Donna Liening: "I'm scared to death, but the influence that John Bonnell had on my life and my career here at Macomb is so great that I would feel very lax if I didn't get up and say something."
Debra Duffy: "Mr. Bonnell is more in touch with the plight of women than even most of the female professors in this College...."
Shevonna McKenzie:"...I was astounded by how intelligent he was, how kind and understanding he was, I wish he could teach my boyfriend some things."

Again students speak out at trustee meeting, 2-16-99

Debra Duffy: "My daughter will be attending this college in the Fall and I know who each of you are and I voted for most of you and I'm trusting you, I'm counting on you, to hear my voice, my voice and the voice of all the people who spoke at the last meeting. "
Jeff LaButte:"... I found him to be one of the most dynamic, thought-provoking teachers that I ever had and probably ever will have."
Michele Kazyak:"...I am a certified religious education instructor for the Roman Catholic Church, and I do not find Professor Bonnell to be offensive. What I do find to be offensive are the actions of the administration at Macomb Community College. "

Students Protest Suspension by Calling for Action, 2-10-1999
"adult language in front of adult students"

MCC Board of Trustees call for Student Free Speech
oppose discipline on any student exercising free speech

Dean of Students threatens disciplinary action against  a demonstrating student
for depriving "others of an orderly atmosphere for study."

WDIV-TV's Alan Frank's Editorials

Lou Kitchenmaster's Letter - 3-5-1999

"If either of my girls had had you for a class, you and I would have met face-to-face early on, Mr. Bonnell. Your attitude and behavior is disgraceful."

MetroTimes Article March 10-16, 1999
"He totally opened the doorway to the critical analysis of Iiterature," says Michele
Kazyak, a former student of Bonnell's. "Unfortunately for the administration of
Macomb Community College, literature is rife with sexual and adult themes.
Apparently, they have a problem with that."

Frank DeFrank Editorial in the Macomb Daily, 2-26-1999
"...a college campus should shine as a beacon of free thinking and free
speech. But at MCC, the beacon is extinguished."

MCC Prof. Ralph L. Schmitt's reaction to DeFrank, 3-21-1999
"Is he aware that his edict for "all of us" to be outraged, because of Bonnell's
"unfair" treatment, is itself an outrage to all who want to live, work, play and,
yes, learn in an environment conducive to those pursuits? "

Former Student Jim Pruss' letter to President Lorenzo, 8-20-1999

"...As I look back with these 45-year-old eyes, I tell you truly that before those days of discovery in Mr. Bonnell's class, I never lived. In the years since I first attended his class, my life has been full of discovery, joy, pain, and love...."

President Lorenzo's Response
"...State and Federal laws and recent Supreme Court decisions have set new requirements for educational institutions and the type of environment that students have the right to expect when on campus.  The College must keep pace with these changes or risk legal liability.... "

Heather Rohlfing's letter to The Macomb Daily. - 1999
"I am a twenty-three year old practicing Catholic female engineering student, who attended Catholic school for twelve years..... The best teachers are the ones who relate to the students and make them think for themselves. Professor Bonnell is that kind of teacher."

MCC Trustee's Ad in the Macomb Daily, 7-22-1999
"The College does not believe that the classroom setting is the appropriate forum
to discuss personal sexual practices, techniques, experiences, or fantasies unless
germane to course content."

Nancy Bonnell's Reaction to Ad
"....the Open Letter is a list of lies and distortions. This is why the College paid $1400.00 to run the "ad." Their method eliminates the possibility of a competent reporter, one who has actually read and comprehends the district court ruling, from exposing their deceit. "

MetroTimes Article, September 1, 1999 (after Judges Borman's ruling)
"(Bonnell) says, 'A lot of people ask me, 'Are you going to be careful about what you say?'... I will not willingly give aid and comfort to those who favor censorship and oppression.... I will do everything I can to resist that.' "

MCC Prof. David Barr's letter to MCCFO,9-30-1999
"Are we now catering to the repressive, anti-enlightenment, anti-intellectual, anti-educational forces of our time?  Historically it has been academia that has led the fight against such blind and narrow cruelty."

FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION, INC. ("F.I.R.E.") files amicus curiae brief in Bonnell case with Sixth Circuit Court
"The teaching of college English requires the communication of thoughts and ideas by reading and writing, and the use of the entire English language. When a college gags the professor or censors the students, the free expression of ideas and thoughts as supported by the First Amendment is impinged upon."

R. Scmitt-Bonnell et al in MCCFO Meeting, 3-3-2000
Bonnell, having been elected to the union's board, expresses opinions re: handling of grievances. Others object. .

Legal Cost to MCCFO to defend against Bonnell-4- 2000
 $55,391. (Excerpt from union's treasurer's report)

Harvey Slivergate's Memo to Free Speech Advocates
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The bottom-line question is: Are the faculty and students ....capable of living with the Bill of Rights? One hopes    the answer is yes.

 Professor Deming of the University of Oklahoma- 1-25-2001
Professor relates his experience with "free speech" and "sexual harassment"

Rebecca M. Ellis Letter - 1-25-2001

 "Since Mr. Bonnell's class, I have had a better understanding of literature,
and am even more critical of how I read it. "

 Macomb Daily Bonnell article, 2-11-2001
The college claims these punishments are not about free speech, but involve academic  disruption, retaliation against a student in a harassment case and breaching the student's confidentiality.

Chronicle of Higher Ed. article,3-5-2001
"This case was very important to the college because the lower court ruling undermined our ability to provide and protect a nonhostile academic setting in which free expression and the exchange of ideas thrives for both students and faculty," said Rose B. Bellanca, provost of Macomb Community College.

Student Christine Christel's letter to Bonnell,3-5-2001
"I hope that you know that I am very proud to be a student of yours and consider myself so very lucky to have crossed paths with you."

Student M. Komendera's letter to the editor,3-16-2001
 "He's a dedicated, passionate teacher with a  dramatic flare and one of the most gentle persons  I've ever had the good fortune to know."

Macomb Daily's April 9, 2001 article update
Appeals court ponders rehearing.

Palermino and Christel address the Board-4-23-2001

Sherry Palermino: " His ability to use vernacular in the classroom to enhance the student's comprehension of the subject matter, is one of the most remarkable teaching methods I have witnessed since returning to the classroom. The removal of Professor Bonnll from the classroom would deny future students the opportunity to experience literature taught by a man whose only desire is to bestow his passion for the English language, on others. "
Christine Christel: "I have witnessed firsthand what you describe as a "hostile learning environment" and let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. .... In no way nor at any time has he degraded anyone in our class. He does not coerce or intimidate us to plead his case.  Our right to free speech should not be squelched because someone doesn't like the sound of it...."

Letter from Wendy Wojtas- 5-7-01
"I have been so inspired by your teachings that I have changed my major to English Literature and hope to teach one day. I would love to teach in the same manner you do, but how effective will this be coming from a woman? Or will teaching such as yours be silenced? Being a middle- aged student I am quite impressed by the life lessons you are attempting to give students, both young and
old alike."

Kenneth Farhat's Letter to Macomb Daily- 7-13-2001

"I believe that MCC used its superficial complaint against Bonnell to retaliate against him for some prior employment conflict."

Bonnell's Reply to Farhat's Letter
"In effect, he is correct again.  MCC tweaked the usual mendacity by absurdly claiming that I "retaliated" against the woman who wanted me censored; and that, without ever identifying her, I violated some supposed "right to confidentiality." "

Matt Fletcher's Letter - 8-14-2001

 I learned more from Bonnell than any 10 other professors combined.  The man is an outstanding teacher and intellect.  If I can teach half as well as Bonnell, I will be far above average."
English Professor John Bonnell      (photo courtesy The Detroit News)

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April 17, 1999

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