Fucking victory! 

Macomb Community College professor John Bonnell, suspended for the past seven months, returned to the classroom Monday after a U.S. District Court judge ordered his reinstatement last week.

Bonnell, who initially drew fire from the college for using profanity in his lectures, showed no sign of reversing course during an English composition class on his first day back at work.

Bonnell says he used the words "phallus and penis and cocks and dicks" while explaining to students the language they’d be dealing with; the course includes discussions of sexual subtexts in literature.

"I wanted them to know that this is adult material and adult language we’re dealing with here," he says. "So fasten your seat belts, here we go."

Although initially suspended for three days last February for using words such as "fuck" in class, Bonnell’s suspension became open-ended after he was accused of, among other things, insubordination and retaliating against a student who complained about his language. Bonnell is suing the college, saying the disciplinary actions violate his civil rights. U.S. District Judge Paul Borman ordered Friday that MCC return Bonnell to work with pay immediately, foiling administrators’ plans to suspend the professor for four more months, without pay, beginning this month.

The controversy began last November when a female student submitted a written complaint alleging that Bonnell’s "lewd and obscene comments" in class were sexual harassment.

Bonnell was suspended for three days with pay. He reacted by releasing a copy of the complaint (with the student’s name blacked out) and a satirical essay he wrote about the issue.

The college claims that Bonnell’s distribution of the complaint and his essay were a form of retaliation against the student and a violation of her privacy. Before classes started last week, the suspension was extended through December.

Bonnell’s lawyer, James Howarth, argued in court that the college’s allegations of insubordination, retaliation, and privacy violation were attempts to sidestep the issues of free speech and academic freedom. The school’s lawyer, Hunter Wendt, argued that the constitutional issues were red herrings.

Judge Borman sided with Bonnell, ruling that his release of the student’s complaint and the essay were protected by the First Amendment

The judge’s also dismissed the college’s insubordination claim, saying the professor had a right to talk to the media and others about his suspension.

Wendt did not return phone calls Monday from the Metro Times, and a college spokesperson declined to comment.

Bonnell and his wife, Nancy, learned of the ruling shortly after 4 p.m. Friday. Says Nancy Bonnell: "We were overwhelmed to the point of speechlessness, actually, which in John’s case is very rare."

Although Borman’s opinion indicated that the ruling was not on the First Amendment issue relating to the "specific profane speech" Bonnell used in the classroom, he stated: "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 a professor or censors the students, the free expression of ideas and thoughts as supported by the First Amendment is impinged upon."

On Monday, Bonnell says he was greeted at the college with hugs and thumbs up from some students and faculty members.

He 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."

To see the student complaint, Bonnell’s essay and other material, go to this linked Web site.

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