University offers extra credit for bisexual students only

An alternative opportunity for students who did not identify as bisexual was not given.

A teaching assistant sent an email to students in his public speaking class with an extra credit assignment for bisexual students only.

A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee teaching assistant is offering extra credit to his students—but only if they’re bisexual.

In an email sent by Jonathan Dellinger to students enrolled in his public speaking class on April 1, the TA promised three extra credit points to any of his students who were bisexual.

“I’m just writing to inform you of another extra credit opportunity (3 points),” Dellinger wrote in the email obtained by Campus Reform. “To be eligible to participate in this study, you must identify as bisexual, so not everyone will be able to do this one.”

A student in the Communications 103 class who wished to remain anonymous told Campus Reform that there are no other extra credit opportunities for students who do not identify as bisexual. Dellinger has allegedly offered extra credit to his students—around 25—a couple of other times in the past, but then the opportunities were open for all students.

According to the extra credit description online, three UWM graduate students—Kristy Jagiello, Megan Lambertz, and Ben Baker—need bisexual students to participate in their survey “examining hurtful communication in close relationship regarding one’s bisexual identity.” A screenshot obtained by Campus Reform said the students would also participate in a 20-minute interview with one of the researchers.

The description said students’ participation is completely voluntary, and they can withdraw from the study at any point and still receive extra credit.

“I don’t mind that this opportunity was sent out besides the fact that an equal opportunity should have been attached to ensure the same chance for every student to earn the same amount of extra credit points,” a student in the class, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Campus Reform.

Dr. Kathryn Olson, department chair of UWM’s communication department, told Campus Reform in an email that she would “investigate” the TA’s extra credit assignment.

“The practice is to offer an alternative equally weighted extra credit opportunity for students who do not meet the specific needs of a particular study's target population if participation carries extra credit,” Olson said.

Matt Sama, a UWM student not enrolled in the class, told Campus Reform that he saw the email and thought the assignment was “off-topic” for a communication class.

“In addition, the fact that the survey is clearly discriminatory in nature to favor students of one sexual orientation over another is frankly everything that the left tries to fight against, yet they so blatantly act in this manner,” Sama, UWM’s Young Americans for Liberty president, said. “It’s disgusting. You can’t get more hypocritical than this.”

“The gay rights movement is not about special rights to privileges for the gay community but equal protection under the law,” Devin Gatton, head of Wisconsin’s Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights advocacy organization, told Campus Reform. “Offering extra credit to a student based off of their sexual orientation is against everything that should be taught in our universities today. This professor is bringing back to pre-1960s when separate but equal was an acceptable practice."

According to his UWM website, Dellinger is a doctoral student who is focused on intercultural communication, health communication, and conflict resolution. He has a master’s in communication from UWM and a bachelor’s in East Asian languages and cultures from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"UWM and the College of Letters and Science take any claims of discrimination or other inappropriate behavior seriously. Until being contacted by Campus Reform, we had no knowledge of any allegations of improper conduct by any teaching assistant in the communication department either through the College or the University’s Office of Equity/Diversity Services (EDS)," Rodney Swain, dean of UWM's College of Letters and Science, said in a statement to Campus Reform.

"While we will investigate the situation based on the information shared by Campus Reform, I encourage students to take advantage of my open door policy and/or that of EDS so that we can conduct a thorough investigation of any such allegations with all available information directly from the individuals involved in the situation," Swain said. "I am proud of UWM’s national recognition as a welcoming campus to all individuals, and any employee behavior that is found to discriminate against any group or individual is unacceptable and will be handled accordingly."

According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, in-state students pay $9,300 per year to attend UWM whereas students not from the Badger State pay $19,029 per year.

Dellinger did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Campus Reform.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn