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TeacherReviews.com Forced Offline 664

Posted by timothy
from the thin-skin-for-teacher dept.
MrCawfee writes "Dylan Greene's site Teacher Reviews which allows students to post reviews of their professors. The site was taken down because a professor complained about comments made against him, and threatened to sue. Here is an exerpt from his blog: 'Yesterday and tonight I talked with a professor who was extremely upset with what written about him on TeacherReviews. He had several inappropriate reviews that made unfounded accusations and inappropriate untruthful remarks such as calling him "Bipolar Paranoid Schitzophrenic."' You can read his blog here."
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TeacherReviews.com Forced Offline

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  • Schools (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:00PM (#8244802)
    Some schools endorsed this. If you google, some schools even link to it [k12.oh.us]
    • Re:Schools (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:28PM (#8245108)
      Schools already have the resources to provide information in a much more reliable way. All they have to do is take the end-of-course data that they share with the professor, and publish it. If they got an average of 1.34 out of 5, that's an irrefutable fact and therefore no libel charge can come of that.... and that's really all the students need to know.
      • Re:Schools (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        University of Texas already does this, it allows students and professors to view these end-of-semester surveys with numerical data for all categories. link [utexas.edu]
      • Re:Schools (Score:5, Insightful)

        by autechre (121980) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:49PM (#8245256) Homepage
        I would have to disagree. Sometimes, students will rate a professor lower because they felt the professor made the course too challenging (or not challenging enough). Certain people would find one of those an advantage rather than a downside. However, there are some teachers who are vague, wrong, incompetant, teach using very ineffective methods, are impossible to understand, rude, refuse to meet with you, grade seemingly randomly, etc. It can take much longer than necessary to get rid of a problem professor, and until then, it's helpful for students to see why they got a low rating.

        If a teacher is rated highly by students for handing out A's without teaching much, and I actually want to learn the subject, I don't want that teacher. The numbers aren't always enough.

        • Re:Schools (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Boing (111813) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:14AM (#8245468)
          The numbers aren't always enough.

          Well then, the responsibility lies with the reader to look at the information for what it really is: a collection of opinions without full context, rather than a factual, discrete rating of the instructor.

          It would actually be pretty neat if we could standardize the instructor review systems in a manner similar to amazon's book reviews... when you're rating the professor, you could submit a verbal review (anonymously, of course). Later, the students of that professor could read the reviews, and meta-moderate them by indicating how relevant and/or accurate each review was. The reviews presented publicly would then present real contextual information, as well as being accountable.

          • Re:Schools (Score:3, Interesting)

            Something similar exists for the students of the University of Maryland.

            Terp Underground [terpunderground.com] isn't officially sanctioned by the University, but it's fairly good at providing reviews of professors and courses.

            Trouble is, doesn't seem like many of the newer students are using it, so the info is becoming out of date as professors/courses change.

          • Re:Schools (Score:4, Funny)

            by SharkJumper (651652) <sharkjumper@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @11:54AM (#8249263)
            It would actually be pretty neat if we could standardize the instructor review systems in a manner similar to amazon's book reviews..

            Or like Ebay's buyer/seller reviews, thus giving the teacher a nice opportunity to respond.

            Student: Test wasn't shipped on time. Professor never explained my low grade. Don't purchase education from this professor!!!!! FFFFFFFFFF-------!!!

            Professor: Student was late to class and never returned emails. Never received payment. Responsibility for education rests on student!!!!!!!

            SharkJumper
        • Re:Schools (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Ubergrendle (531719)
          I agree with all of your comments, but that still does not mean that a quantitative measurement scale could not be devised. You can create a number of categories, which provide a range of opinions on various matters.

          e.g. "Would you take this course again?" (out of ten)
          10 out of 10 ("Hell yeah, 80% for no work!")

          vs "How would you rate the professor's attitude torwards his students?"
          3 out of 10 ("He was always late, abusive, but he still gave out great marks!!!")
        • Re:Schools (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          If a teacher is rated highly by students for handing out A's without teaching much, and I actually want to learn the subject, I don't want that teacher. The numbers aren't always enough

          Actually, from my experience most teachers that don't teach and hand out A's don't get high marks from the students. By the time students reach college most students really want to get the education they paid for. The students that just want to skate are in the minority by college. When someone chooses a major and decides w

        • Re:Schools (Score:5, Funny)

          by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@yBLUEahoo.com minus berry> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @01:03AM (#8245872) Homepage Journal
          " It can take much longer than necessary to get rid of a problem professor..."

          I'm thinking duct tape and a trunk.
      • Re:Schools (Score:5, Interesting)

        by taped2thedesk (614051) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:53AM (#8245785)
        All they have to do is take the end-of-course data that they share with the professor, and publish it. If they got an average of 1.34 out of 5, that's an irrefutable fact and therefore no libel charge can come of that.... and that's really all the students need to know.
        I go to the University of Michigan - at the end of each term, we are asked to fill out scantron course evaluations on the last day of class (the format is similar to what the poster described). This data is used for a variety of purposes, including tenure evaulations. The data is also tabulated and posted for making your course selections. They use a variety of questions to help students make a good decision.

        The evaluations are presented as a series of statements, which the student ranks from 1 (bad) to 5 (good). They post the average rating for each statement, organized by course and/or instructor. The information is restricted to University affialiates, so heres an example of an evaluation summary for a random professor (name removed):

        Course: Honors Calculus II, section xxx
        Students Responded: 13
        Students Enrolled : 19
        Overall, this was an excellent course. 4.43 A-
        Overall, the instructor was an excellent teacher. 4.85 A
        I learned a great deal from this course. 4.31 A-
        I had a strong desire to take this course. 3.60 B
        The workload for this course was (5=LIGHT...1=HEAVY) 2.81 C
        Students felt comfortable asking questions. 4.31 A-
        Graded assignments reflected the material covered. 4.06 B+
        The grades in this course were fairly determined 4.30 A-
        Students' difficulty with the material was recognized. 3.67 B
        My expected grade in this course is (5=A...1=E) 4.21 A-
        The course requirements were clearly defined. 4.25 A-
        The instructor presented material clearly in lectures/discussions. 4.69 A

        Generally speaking, students are fair with the evaluations (unless the prof is just awful...) - I really like that they ask several questions about the professor and the course (rather than simply "How was the professor? 1-5"; it helps to make more objective decisions about the course and the professor. The questions depend on the department (Elec. Engin. and Comp. Sci. has 20-30 evaluation statments for some courses).

        Oddly enough, the worst professor I've ever had told us that 'we didn't need to come to class' for one of the last days of the course. Turns out he gave out evaluations that day, and very few people were in class. The next term, somebody checked the evaluation stats for the class, and saw that while there were only a few people in class that day, 100+ students responded with evaluations (with VERY high ratings). He told the department, and an investigation revealted that the professor filled out the forms himself (with very high ratings, of course). He was promptly fired. Sweet, sweet revenge :-p

        • Re:Schools (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Wavicle (181176) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @02:05AM (#8246214)
          The information is restricted to University affialiates, so heres an example of an evaluation summary for a random professor (name removed):

          Your random pick turned out a poor example:

          Course: Honors Calculus II, section xxx

          Your random selection turned up a rank-and-file class that is selectively taken above-average students. You are going to pick up almost exclusively outliers of the desired population.

          The workload for this course was (5=LIGHT...1=HEAVY) 2.81 C

          Either the students are definitely outliers and think several hours of homework a night isn't bad or the professor was easy going. Calc II is usually a course covering methods and applications of integration. It's the course when such fun things as integration by partial fraction decomposition - an almost universally hated subject - are explored. Getting the hang of integration generally requires doing lots and lots of integrals and appropriately the course workload should be fairly high.

          My expected grade in this course is (5=A...1=E) 4.21 A-

          Wow! Do A's grow on trees at umich?

          Students typically give evaluations whose numbers directly correspond to their grade. Professors who give out A's like they're cheap hard candy on average receive higher marks even if their students tend to learn less.

          This is particularly true of general ed. classes. I'd rather take a humanities course from someone who is an interesting lecturer and gives out high marks cheaply than from someone who is an interesting lecturer but requires 5,000 words of critical thinking essays which require mastery of the material to write.

          While I think it is interesting to hear the professor's passion for the subject, I have a lot of other courses in line with my major that I need to give the bulk of my attention to. I'd rather not risk my GPA on a humanities course. I enter notes into the school's unofficial professor rating web site whether or not a particular professor is good for getting an easy A in.
          • Re:Schools (Score:5, Insightful)

            by taped2thedesk (614051) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @02:45AM (#8246462)
            Your random selection turned up a rank-and-file class that is selectively taken above-average students. You are going to pick up almost exclusively outliers of the desired population.
            It wasn't exactly random; I just tried to pick a course with a good mix of questions and responses. Each department uses their own set of questions, and some only have a few basic ones. The math department was the first one I clicked on. tried to find a section with a variety of marks, this was the first one I found after 2 or 3 tries. I wasn't trying to make a point with the actual data - just trying to show what information was provided.

            Wow! Do A's grow on trees at umich? Well, generally speaking students in this class are way above average in math (generally there are a few hundred taking the 'regular' Calc II class, and about 40 students total took the honors class). Also, this is the estimated grade, so in this case I think it's a class of freshman that haven't found out that they won't get straight A's in college (for the most part). From experience, I can tell you A's don't exist at umich, especially in the math department... :-/ The actual average grade in the honors section was about a 3.3(B+), while in the 'regular' sections of calc 2, the average grade was about a 2.7(C+)

            Either the students are definitely outliers and think several hours of homework a night isn't bad or the professor was easy going.
            Students typically give evaluations whose numbers directly correspond to their grade. Professors who give out A's like they're cheap hard candy on average receive higher marks even if their students tend to learn less. Well yeah, of course they do. That's why the multiple ratings are helpful. If the average workload is a 5 (light), then chances are the prof got a good rating because of that. If the workload was a 3, then the prof ratings mean a lot more to me. If they just said "Math xxx section xxx with prof xxx got a 4.2 rating", that would mean nothing to me.

            I do have a professor that always ranks very high on evaluations, yet assigns much more work than other profs do, and makes the classes a lot more difficult. He's a great prof, and the extra work actually translates into better understanding of the subject/doesn't assign work just for the sake of assigning work. Obviously this isn't always the case though.

            Making decisions based solely on these ratings isn't a great idea - you can get a lot more insight by talking to other students that have taken classes in that section before. The course evals are a great place to start, and are a good source of advice if you don't know anyone who has had that professor before.

      • Re:Schools (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hendridm (302246) * on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @01:28AM (#8246026) Homepage

        > All they have to do is take the end-of-course data that they share with the professor, and publish it.

        Right. That's "all they would have to do", but they don't, which is why sites like TeacherReviews.com came to be. As a former student, it was nice to know which profs were hard-asses and which were not. The fact that this guy is threatening to sue this site just reinforces how much of an asshole he/she is. I'm sure there was a reason several people posted negative comments.

  • by a.koepke (688359) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:01PM (#8244810)
    What happened to TeacherReviews?

    TeacherReviews.com is free site I run for students which lets students share opinions of professors with other students. I have been pressured to shut it down. I'm not sure if it will be down forever or just a short amount of time until some changes are made. Please read on to find out why and what I am going to do about it.

    Yesterday and tonight I talked with a professor who was extremely upset with what written about him on TeacherReviews. He had several inappropriate reviews that made unfounded accusations and inappropriate untruthful remarks such as calling him "Bipolar Paranoid Schitzophrenic." These reviews should not have been on the site.

    I immediately deleted this professor's reviews, as I always do those rare times that a professor complains. He still threatened to sue - and even threatened to get the involvement of the teacher's union American Federation of Teachers. A lawsuit is not something I have the time or money to be involved in, no matter how confident I am that the courts would side in the favor of free speech and the site.

    This would be the first lawsuit against TeacherReviews, however TeacherReview, the precursor site to TeacherReviews had one lawsuit against in about four years ago. TeacherReview had a "no review is ever deleted" policy. The ACLU helped defend TeacherReview, and TeacherReview achieved a victory - the two professors involved settled just days before the San Francisco Superior Court hearing .

    The purpose of Teacher Reviews has always been to help students find the best professors to take, however the quality and reliability of TeacherReviews has been diminished by the few users who have used the site to write insults, accusations, remarks that can be considered slanderous.

    As I find about about these reviews, I always delete them. They no have merit, are not helpful to anyone, and are obviously the product of a bored student who just wants to harm the reputation of a professor. That is not the purpose of TeacherReviews.

    There are over 36,000 reviews on the site - far too many for me to read and evaluate. Because of this, and the threat of lawsuit, I have elected to take down TeacherReviews.com for now - at least until I can make some needed changes to how the site works.

    Here are some of the changes I hope to put in place:

    * Instant review removal. As a rule, I have always removed reviews upon a professor's request. Today the system is manual and it is not obvious enough how it works. The new system will have a link for removing reviews next to every review. Anybody will be able to instantly remove inappropriate reviews. Some friends and I will evaluate these removed reviews.
    * Easy professor removal. I believe professors should have the right to make their reviews be private. A professor will have the ability to hide all reviews from public view. Reviews posted will be emailed to that professor, but not shared with the rest of the world. The number of reviews and possibility other information will remain on the site.
    * Hide Reviews from Google. One of the complaints I got from a the professor was that if you searched Google for his name, his reviews would show up pretty high in the list of found items. Normally this is a good thing, but if the reviews are inappropriate, then it is not approbate for the to be showing up in Google.
    * Email notification of New Reviews. Professors should not have to regularly visit TeacherReviews to see if they have new reviews posted. This feature will give them the option of receiving email when new reviews are posted. Students will be able to use this feature as well. New reviews will also be available via RSS.
    * Date-separated reviews. Today reviews that are two years old and older are listed along side of recent reviews. Since people change, I believe that these older reviews need to be identified as older reviews, and be put on a separate page.

    These features I'm not sure about:
    • "Slander is spoken. In print, it's libel."
      --J. Jonah Jameson
    • by z01d (602442) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:10PM (#8244943)

      ...and I appreciate any comments you have,...

      He mean "sue", right?
    • by ryanjensen (741218) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:31PM (#8245122) Homepage Journal
      This guy is a pussy and he's selling out if he thinks these changes would benefit his USER BASE (i.e. students) in any way. Professors get anonymous, private reviews every semester at most schools. What's the point of having another resource (TeacherReviews.com) tell the professor privately what his potential students want to know? Obviously libelous and false reviews should be removed from the site, or moderated before they even appear live. However, no professor should have the right to remove ALL reviews just because the reviewers didn't kiss his ass.
      • by gcaseye6677 (694805) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:47PM (#8245240)
        Its amazing how much privacy some professors at public universities often feel they are entitled to have. I'm not saying all professors are like this, but some have this superiority attitude where they feel completely accountable to nobody. They don't want criticism of them or their classes made available to the student body. They don't want anyone making lecture notes available outside the classroom. They won't change aspects of their class that students and/or administrators dislike. And to top it off, they feel that material they develop on the university's dime is their own property. Someone needs to remind these jokers they are paid by public funding and student tuition, so they are accountable to both of those groups.
        • by Txiasaeia (581598) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:31AM (#8245598)
          As a student I want to agree with you, but as I'm wanting to become a prof someday, I'm not sure how far I'll go to do so. *some* profs don't feel accountable to anybody. *some* don't like criticism. Yeah, maybe you're right, but you're also wrong. Generalisations aren't going to help your argument.

          HOWEVER, as to the "material they develop on the university's dime is their own property," I'm definitely going to have to disagree with you here. What do you consider to be "on the university's dime"? What do you consider "material"? If they make up course notes for a course that they're teaching, I think that they own them, and that students don't have an absolute right to possess them. I also think that if a prof writes a book, they should get the profits from it.

          You may not realise this, but most profs are still active in their field, and tend to publish a few papers every year; are you really saying that the University should own these papers, and not the profs, simply because they're employed? /. had a discussion about this a couple days ago about IP and programmers; why is it different for professors (or any of the "intelligencia")?

          • by m00nun1t (588082) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @01:55AM (#8246164) Homepage
            I also think that if a prof writes a book, they should get the profits from it.

            Yes, and it will be reviewed on Amazon.com (and other places as well), if it's bad, users will be forthcoming in saying so. The teacherreviews is (or should be) about their performance as a professor. In much the same way I might ask a friend to recommend an accountant, teacherreviews helps me choose a college/course to attend.
    • by pla (258480) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:49PM (#8245269) Journal
      He had several inappropriate reviews that made unfounded accusations and inappropriate untruthful remarks such as calling him "Bipolar Paranoid Schitzophrenic." These reviews should not have been on the site.

      Okay, let me get this straight...

      The professor threatened to sue, even after removal of the offensive posts, because someone called him paranoid?

      Umm... Gee, Tweaky, you might want to lighten up on the coffee. That "paranoid" idea sounds all too appropriate... Most people would have brushed it off as a crack by some waste of flesh that couldn't pass the class, but no, Tweaky here had to have a valuable internet resource taken down.

      If that doesn't count as paranoid...
      • by shadowbearer (554144) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:47AM (#8245731) Homepage Journal
        Yes

        and if this professor is so scared of negative reviews, perhaps he should review his arrogance quotient.

        Does said professor seriously think that opinions about him don't get discussed between students in private discussions? Does he think he's immune to that? Does he think that his status makes him immune to being judged? Who the fuck does he think he is?

        One of the problems in education nowadays is that bad teachers are *not* being reviewed they way they should be. The very fact that he resorted to a lawsuit against this website makes me think that there's probably a lot of truth to what was being said about him. I realize that he's busy ( I hope he is) but the proper response would have been to rebut the accusations against him, to defend himself against them, publicly (he's a public figure, after all).

        I'm not putting it very well, but if he has someone critizing him in such a way as to damage his public reputation (if he *really* thinks those accusations are unwarranted) then the recourse is *not* suing the website (could just as well have been a magazine, or newspaper article) but to retaliate against them *publicly* in speech, not against a website that is simply offering another form of free speech.

        Excuse me for not being completely coherent but I'm pretty damned mad, mostly because I wish forums like that had been available when I was in college. We had *plenty* of bad professors (mostly tenured).

        Political Correctness and the "It's NOT FAIR" whine rears it's ugly head again. I can just imagine what some of my professors would have said about him. It wouldn't have been complimentory, that I can assure you.

        What I can assure you of, is that the most common quote among the really good teachers I had, would have been Shakespeare. You know which one.

        This one goes into my notes under "Decline and Fall of America".

        SB

      • by DrEasy (559739) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:52AM (#8245771) Journal
        Those prof ratings can be pretty cruel and unfair. Yes, it's true that profs must have a thick skin to do their job, but still imagine being insulted on a public forum, and knowing that all your present and future students have access to that site, and that they can form a prejudice before even getting to know the prof.

        How about starting RateTheStudents.com ? Would you like being publicly called a cheat or an incompetent lazy weasel (for good reason or not)? Would you like the profs to consult such a site before they start marking the final exam? I thought not.

        Yes, that prof might have overreacted, but there's only that much abuse anyone can take. Who knows what else is going on in his life/job, maybe that was the last straw.
    • by br0ck (237309) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @01:04AM (#8245883)
      According to Dylan Greene's blog, THE LAWSUIT HAS BEEN DROPPED [dylangreene.com]

      TeacherReviews.com is coming back, and it's going to be better than ever - for both students and professors.

      The professor who threatened a lawsuit has decided to drop the case. This happened after we talked about the situation, the site as it is today, and the intent of the site, which has always been to help students, as opposed to insult professors. This professor is now helping the site by providing feedback to the new features from a professor's point of view, which is something I have not looked into before.
  • Problem is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by centralizati0n (714381) <tommy.york@gmail.MOSCOWcom minus city> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:02PM (#8244828) Homepage Journal
    The problem is, a good system would allow exactly those kinds of comments. Slashdot, for example, allows you to post whatever you want, but you can get modded down and not be seen. A similar system would work for teacher reviews - if you want to read all of the "drivel" (per se) then go ahead.
    • Re:Problem is... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by s20451 (410424) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:08PM (#8244915) Journal
      I'm sympathetic to the prof, especially if he's new faculty. This could be the only exposure that his potential students get to him. A determined effort to slander his teaching ability -- when very people know him anyway -- could literally ruin his career, as tenure decisions are made in part on teaching ability.

      I can't think of a scenario in which someone's career could be ruined by a Slashdot troll.
      • Re:Problem is... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NeoSkandranon (515696) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:15PM (#8244996)
        If he's a horrible enough teacher that he warrants consistent bad comments then perhaps tenure shouldn't even be what his superiors are considering
        • Re:Problem is... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by s20451 (410424)
          How do you know the comments are accurate?

          To say someone is schizophrenic when you are not an expert in the field is libelous, in any case.
          • Re:Problem is... (Score:3, Informative)

            by LordHunter317 (90225)
            No, its only libelous if you are attempting to use the statements to damage a person's reputation or character. That's why its nearly impossible to win a slander or libel case in the USA -- unless the person slips up and writes down that they're intentionally damaging someone's character, you have no proof that'll hold up in court.

            Now in the rest of the world, the standard is much different.
          • by droleary (47999) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:25AM (#8245548) Homepage

            To say someone is schizophrenic when you are not an expert in the field is libelous, in any case.

            This is a good example of why the system is screwed up. The way it should be is that if you are not an expert in the field (of psychology) then it cannot be libel. In that case, you're just a guy stating your opinion and not a medical professional giving a diagnosis. What's next, I need to be a proctologist to claim the President has his head up his ass, and then I can only do so with with the x-ray as evidence?

      • Re:Problem is... (Score:5, Informative)

        by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:45AM (#8245704) Homepage
        I'm a physics professor (now tenured). A lot of the students at my school used this site [whototake.com] until recently. I didn't realize until today that this site, just like TeacherReviews, is being shut down because of threats of lawsuits.

        I think it's a shame that these sites are so vulnerable to this kind of legal abuse. I also take music courses at my school, so I'm both a teacher and a student at the same time. I've posted reviews of my music teachers, because I thought the site was a good idea.

        Switching back to my other hat as a teacher, it was always interesting to see the contrast between the whototake.com comments on me and the comments students would write when they were formally surveyed at the end of the semester. The online reviews seemed to be self-selected: AFAICT, only the most disgruntled 10% of the class would ever bother to post there.

        This could be the only exposure that his potential students get to him. A determined effort to slander his teaching ability -- when very people know him anyway -- could literally ruin his career, as tenure decisions are made in part on teaching ability.
        Well, no, because (a) the tenure decision would be made based on the surveys administered formally by the school; (b) research-oriented schools only pay lip service to teaching as an important component of the tenure decision; (c) tenure committees are made up of faculty memers, who realize that disgruntled students are generally disgruntled because they wanted an easy A and didn't get it.

        I have to admit to being a little cynical about the whole thing. Some students make good comments that really help me improve my teaching, but many just can't believe that they're really expected to put in 2 hours a week outside of class for every unit they're taking. Many of them write comments that just show totally unrealistic expectations, e.g., they complain that I won't let their whole lab group turn in a single lab report for a grade.

        It was also funny reading some of the things students posted on whototake.com about other teachers: DR SMITH SUCKS BIGTIME!! SHE THE FUCKIN WORST ENGLISH TEECHUR IN THE WORLD! WHAT A BITCH!!!! I TOOK ENGLISH 1 FROM HER. AND I HAD TO DROP! CUZ, SHE THINK WE GOT NOTHING TO DO BUT READ BORRING BOOKS. N RIGHT PAPERS N SHIT.

        • Re:Problem is... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rfovell (226905)
          Good points.

          At my university, we also have a prof rating website (www.bruinwalk.com/professors/). The reviewers do indeed tend to be self-selected, tho on our boards, the top segment of the class also (thankfully) seems motivated to post. However, the biggest difference may be that the online reviews tend to be posted after the course grade is known. That can have unintended consequences.

          As a professor myself, I have had mixed feelings about this board. However, some recent changes, and also this slas
    • Re:Problem is... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LostCluster (625375) *
      Libel at -1 can still attract a lawsuit. And /., for its part, will immediately respond by standing up and... telling them the IP address the post came from, and that, coupled with the timestamp, equates to an ISP account somewhere.
  • Legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drcagn (715012) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:02PM (#8244829) Homepage
    Is this legal? I don't understand how user submitted reviews would get this site knocked offline. How is this any different from someone posting bad stuff about a teacher on a LiveJournal (or other blogging site) blog?
    • Well.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by danoatvulaw (625376) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:36PM (#8245153)
      Two points - The professor has no right to force a shutdown of the site, lawsuit threat or not. He can insist and plead, but short of an injunction (or the ISP taking the site down, as is their right), the host could keep his site up. The professor might not like what content was up there, but his remedy is against the AUTHOR of the statements, not the SITE. Second, this seems to me to be a case of the site getting a threat of suit and just caving in to the threat. Under 47 USC 230(c) [findlaw.com], the site would not be liable as an author of the posts, foreclosing suit against them. Given that, I would really like to see what legal grounds they have to stand on.

      Disclaimer - The foregoing is only to be used for the purpose of discussion and should not be construed as legal advice related to any current or future problem, nor should it be relied upon by anyone without consulting a licensed attorney.
  • by Ghoser777 (113623) <fahrenba@@@mac...com> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:02PM (#8244833) Homepage
    I'm pretty sure "Bipolar Paranoid Schizophrenic" (now spelled correctly) is a prerec for being a professor, so I'm not sure what he's complaining about.

    Matt Fahrenbacher
  • Ebay precedent? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Neppy (673459) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:02PM (#8244834)
    Didn't Ebay just win a case that said they are not liable for the statements posted by users?
    Wouldn't this logically apply to teacher reviews and make them nonliable for things posted by their users?
    • Re:Ebay precedent? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chunkwhite86 (593696) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:07PM (#8244904)
      Didn't Ebay just win a case that said they are not liable for the statements posted by users? Wouldn't this logically apply to teacher reviews and make them nonliable for things posted by their users?

      It's a good precedent but as the poster stated - he doesn't have the time/resources to put on a legal defense. No matter how good the previous rulings are, you still need legal counsel.
    • Re:Ebay precedent? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Trillian_1138 (221423) <slashdot@f[ ]aythang.com ['rid' in gap]> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:22PM (#8245046)
      IANAL. This is a personal opinion.

      I don't think sites should be LIABLE for what people post, but because of the unique nature of the Internet, once something is posted on a site it's likely to stay there and be easily accessable, in ways past forms of communication weren't. That gives sites like Teacher Reviews, and even places like Slashdot, unique responsibility.

      If I tell a friend that Mr. Example Teacher is an ass, word may or may not spread, and the comments may or may not be linked back to me. But it takes an active effort by many people for the comment to spread. And if it's not true, it will probably fizzle out. Even if it isn't true and does NOT fizzle out, rumors are very specific forms of communication that most people don't take serriously.

      On the other hand, if I post a comment to Teacher Reviews, 30 seconds of my time has created something that may stay there for ever and ever. And, unlike rumors, there's no way for others to say, "I don't think this is true, but I heard that...." All the comments are posted as equals.

      So I would say if something libelous is posted to a website, while the webmaster isn't responsible for the actual content, I would say they're responsible for removing it in a timely manner, once notified of the content.

      Speaking of Teacher Reviews specifically, I think if a bad review of a teacher was posted (talks slow, bad assignments, boring) then Teacher Review does not have a responsibility to take it down. On the contrary, they have a responsibility to leave it up if they want to achieve their goals of a student-reviewed teacher database. But I would say labeling a teacher as a "Bipolar Paranoid Schitzophrenic" could be considered libelous. I don't think it's unreasonable that it be asked to be removed.

      Bringing it back to Slashdot...

      This site is in a very odd position, in that much of the postings here (for example, about SCO or Microsoft) could easily be considered as libel. But unlike Teacher Reviews, they're (usually) posted as jokes. And Slashdot has a moderation system and a reply system so posts that are blatently untrue get shouted down by more accurate responses.

      I'd say Teacher Reviews, unfortunatly, took the only realistic course of action. They took the site down, and are taking time to regroup. I'd be sad if some of the suggested implimentations actually happen (hiding teacher reviews from Google, or non anonymous reviews) but I think things like emailing professors reviews or having a better process for review removeall are very reasonable.

      All in all, I hope Teacher Reviews is able to continue. It's a great site and a very nifty idea.

      -Trillian

      PS I didn't find a way to work it gracefully into my post, but I think the teacher who threatened to sue, even after the review was removied, is an ass. I'll risk the possibility of getting Slashdot sued, and go so far as to say he sounds like one of those crazy Bipolar Paranoid Schitzophrenics you've been hearing so much about recently....
  • by emily_the_dragonet (749396) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:02PM (#8244842) Homepage
    I liked that site. My school had tons of reviewed teachers, and you could read 'em and then there would be this moment of "Hey! I know who wrote this!" That was cool. If one teacher has one problem, he should get it removed and make the site check what's being posted more. He doesn't need to shut the site down.
  • by Via_Patrino (702161) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:03PM (#8244846)
    You don't need to delete all the site, just delete the article the professor thought offensive, or mod it troll :-)
  • E-Bay... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:04PM (#8244856)
    E-Bay just won a court case where they were found to not be responsible for user feedback. Specifically not being responsible for policing or even being required to remove false feedback.

    Just a few days later teacherreviews.com caves in? Typical.
  • Not surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Killswitch1968 (735908) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:05PM (#8244870)
    Once profs have tenure their incentive to teach better is dramatically reduced. If they can get more grants doing research with no chance of being fired for imcompentent teaching then you can believe the grants will come first.

    This becomes especially easy if the students can't voice their discretions publically. I don't think a single university publically displays the stats of student reviews after a semester with a prof. The profs can complain all they want but in the long run it's the students who will suffer.
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:05PM (#8244872)
    True anonymous posting is simply imposible to allow because the web site operator ends up assuming the liablity for libel and slander when the eventual misbehaving trolls invade the site. The closest any web site operator can come is to know as little about their posters as possible, but to log the exact timestamp of the post and the IP address, so that if the site is ever bothered with a legal threat, those two pieces of information can be turned over, which when taken to the ISP starts a path that leads to the identity of the poster, or at least a service operator that (sometimes knowingly, sometimes not...) provides anonymity and will either A: be on the hook or B: continue the path that leads to the user...

    Sorry, you've got to stand behind what you write, even online.
  • by ArgumentBoy (669152) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:06PM (#8244884)
    I have some real sympathy for being able to "shop" online to get info about courses and teachers. But I'm a college prof myself, and have sat on a number of personnel committees, and have read a *lot* of student comments over the years. Many of those comments - perhaps most - are intelligent, or plausible, or reasonable expressions of feelings. Sometimes more than one of these. But sometimes they are simply irresponsible - 'get another career,' 'you shouldn't be allowed to teach anyone, anywere,'and sadly, a lot of 'you #@$$!, get #%&*$#.' Insults, psychiatric diagnoses, speculations about home life - these are rare, but not rare enough. It's bad enough that these go into personnel files and get read by peers and supervisors (yes, they really are, and they really matter). But at least these people understand what sorts of things, good and bad, students will say anonymously. Unmoderated posting of these things on the internet is a bad idea, personally damaging, and maybe harmful to careers.
    • Personally, I think student evaluations should be made public. If a student completely fails to grasp even the simplest of concepts, and fails a course as a result, that information should be online as a public record so that people can choose to avoid that student in the future.

      Oops. You're talking about the opposite type of student evaluations. My bad.
    • by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:48PM (#8245254) Journal
      The same can be said about *any* opinions expressed about anyone from anyone. The fact is, you just like most other people care what people say about you because you fear others will believe it's true. While I can sympathize with you, I think the best thing to say is to just deal with it.

      Students badger other students. Professors have been known to badget other professors. And how many stories are there of professors who badger students? It's not surprising that there are students who do the same to professors. I'm not saying of the above is warranted or real (ie, it might just be paranoia). Of course, your case seems to prove that it's at least real.

      The fact is, freedom of speech has been known to do a lot worse than ruin careers. Just think of the number of minorities or woman who have been physically assaulted or worse because of unfounded allegations. The simple fact is, there's very little that can be done about the speech itself because even removing this one site won't stop the word of mouth or a newsletter someone writes or the next blog someone starts. The only people you should really worry about is those in power to ruin your career or those around you who can do personal damage. The way of resolving that is to talk to them. While you're at it, maybe you can try a little harder to gain the respect of your students. You can't force people to think one way about you, but you can try your best to personally impress upon those people you think matter what you're really like so that you can alleviate your fears. There's no way elsewise to begin to solve the problem.
  • Polyratings (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shaklee39 (694496) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:06PM (#8244889)
    Here at calpoly [calpoly.edu] we have a third party ratings system at http://www.polyratings.com [polyratings.com] which does almost the same thing. I was looking on it the other day and there are comments about how they want a teacher to die, just random profanity unrelated to the class, among others. The site has not been taken down, nor has it even removed these comments which are still up for everyone to see. Anyone with a half brain ignores these comments and just goes to the next one anyways since they are probably from a disgruntled student who couldn't make the grade.
  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:07PM (#8244895) Homepage Journal
    I think it's wrong that calling somebody that could be construed as an insult.

    I've been working for quite some time to change that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:08PM (#8244914)
    I'm afraid people are talking about me behind my back, they're always there, there always watching, I'll just google my name..

    Hmm, TeacherReviews.com? I'M ON THERE?!?!?!!?!?

    WHAT? WHAT? I'M NOT A BIOPOLAR PARANOID SCHITZOPHRENIC! I KNOW, I'LL SUE THEM!

  • by parliboy (233658) <parliboy@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:08PM (#8244923) Homepage
    "I'm not paranoid! Which one of my enemies told you that?"
  • by suwain_2 (260792) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:10PM (#8244948) Journal
    Is that "Constitution" thing still intact? I seem to recall a portion of it with some silly notion of "freedom of speech" or something, or was it repealed?
  • Chilling effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joelparker (586428) <joel@school.net> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:13PM (#8244975) Homepage
    Today is a professor vs. teacher reviews...
    tomorrow is a president vs. editorial reviews.

    Maybe donate to the ACLU [aclu.org] and EFF [eff.org]
    to help them protect our freedom of speech online.

    Cheers, Joel

  • by DavittJPotter (160113) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:20PM (#8245024) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, the magic curse of "I'll sue!" once again forces something unpopular to an individual or a small group to conform or bow to their will. All this does is reinforce the power of frivolous and stupid lawsuits. Fine, the professor didn't like or agree with what was said about him. He could have had the site admin take it down for review, or asked for rational discourse. If indeed the slam was incorrect or unwarranted, then it shouldn't remain.

    Now, this professor has forced a valuable tool off-line, thereby preventing other prospective students from finding out about difficult/unreasonable professors or classes they choose to avoid. Many of these professors *shouldn't* be teaching any more, and if enough students learn to avoid their classes, maybe it will help that school with some positive change.

    Sadly, this seemingly paranoid and thin-skinned professor (oops, maybe he'll threaten to sue me now!) makes a huge deal out of a negative review, and now further entrenches the 'false' reputation he feels he doesn't deserve.
  • by gjb6676 (647228) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:26PM (#8245089) Homepage
    Many professor rating systems are threatened with legal action. We ran a similar system at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology). For a long time the site was under intense pressure from the academic senate. After awhile they realized they had no legal grounds and left us alone.

    We ended up exporting all of our comments (over 7000) to TeacherReviews. We figured they already survived one lawsuit, so they would be around longer than us.

    Looks like we were wrong... the RIT only review site is still online, read-only though: http://professor.ritstuff.com [ritstuff.com] Username: pguest Password: pguest
  • RateMyProfessors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MattHawk (215818) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:28PM (#8245105) Homepage
    Another decent teacher review site is RateMyProfessors.com - it's got moderation, to avoid issues like this; Bascially, the intent of the moderation is to remove libel (saying someone has a psychiatric condition on a whim without proof definately isn't legal...), but leave pretty much anything else that describes in some way the teacher and their class.
  • It's going back up. (Score:5, Informative)

    by MacGabhain (198888) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:37PM (#8245166)
    Somewhat ironic timing on the information from a week ago, as today's blog entry is that the site is being completely rewritten with some changes to address these concerns and will be back up soon.

    February 10th blog entry [dylangreene.com]

    In part:
    TeacherReviews.com is coming back, and it's going to be better than ever - for both students and professors.
    The professor who threatened a lawsuit has decided to drop the case. This happened after we talked about the situation, the site as it is today, and the intent of the site, which has always been to help students, as opposed to insult professors. This professor is now helping the site by providing feedback to the new features from a professor's point of view, which is something I have not looked into before.

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:43PM (#8245219)
    The site was taken down because a professor complained about comments made against him, and threatened to sue.

    No. The site was taken down because the site owner caved (temporarily) in the face of a potential lawsuit. There was no legal decision, no jackbooted thugs at the door, no massive DoS attack, no trashing the First Amendment.

    The site owner took it down himself. And it appears it will be coming back online [dylangreene.com], with some form of moderation.
  • by madmancarman (100642) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:09AM (#8245422)
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but anonymous teacher rating sites are largely worthless because, with no accountability, there's no reason for anyone to be truthful, whether they're supportive or critical. We've seen the effect anonymity has on people who post to usenet, send email, and troll slashdot - no direction connection with real lfie and a person's reputation, so no real accountability.

    There's a similar web site called RateMyTeachers.com [ratemyteachers.com] that lets you rate high school teachers (its sister site, RateMyProfessors.com [ratemyprofessors.com], offers the same service for college profs). I've been teaching high school for 5 1/2 years now, and after my sister emailed me a link to the ratings site, I immediately told my students that hang out in my classroom during lunch to go to the site and say the meanest, most ridiculous things about me possible. Why? Simply to prove the point that if students who like me can say awful, untrue things about me and have them published on the internet, then it's impossible to take those reviews any more seriously than a slashdot poll.

    Now, as a professional educator, I value feedback and constructive criticism (it's a fundamental basis of education, so if it's good enough for our students, then why not the teachers?), but like any feedback, it needs to be accompanied with sufficient explanation and some degree of trust. Unfortunately, there's no incentive for anyone to be constructive or even honest on sites that allow anonymous ratings. Sure, you might be able to get an overall view of how students liked or disliked a teacher or professor, but giving them a numerical rating from 1.0 to 5.0 is as useful as basing a person's abilities solely on their SAT, ACT or IQ test score.

    If a student really wants to have an effect on a teacher, they should go and talk to them about the problems they were having or make some friendly suggestions. Is this going to work on every teacher? Absolutely not - teachers can be some of the most egotistical and defensive people, and there are some you simply can't reach. (You should see teachers react to having other teachers come into their classroom for peer review - you can almost see their skin crawl.) However, I've found some of the negative comments I received about my teaching, especially early on when I was student teaching, which was such a bad experience that I considered not going into teaching at all, and from students who try but are still struggling, are some of the most helpful when I try to improve my teaching abilities.

    However, I simply don't think online, anonymous reviews do anyone any good any more than high-stakes testing helps schools or students improve. The only way to improve a professor or teacher is to try to approach them about their shortcomings, and if that doesn't work (which really wouldn't be surprising), then switch classes and take someone you can enjoy, or suffer through it and hope the class goes quickly.

  • I am a teacher (Score:4, Insightful)

    by b17bmbr (608864) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:12AM (#8245452)
    I am a high school history teacher (and geek on the side!!). I don't give two cents worth about teacherreviews.com. And yes, I'm on there (the ratmyteacher.com site I think), and yes, I've checked. Why would I have been rated low? Hmmm, perhaps because I am not the easiest history teacher on campus. For instance, our semester project is an historical biography of a 20th century figure. Kids ar reading everyone from Roosevelt (both), Hitler, Stalin, Che, Reagan, Dr. King, etc. Some of the books I had to say no to simply because the person, while interesting, was not an historical figure. Or perhaps because I assign more reading than just the book. Last semester we read from Locke's Second Treatise, Rousseau's Social Contract, and Hobbes' Leviathan. The assignment was to write about what each would have said about the US constitution. That is why I am not the "favorite" teacher. I can deal with that. I would rather be tougher and challenge them. How 'bout a teacherreview.com when they're 25, eh?
  • Travesty (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:22AM (#8245530)
    I find the taking down of this website to be an absolute travesty and a disservice to all teachers whose students post feedback on the site.

    As an executive manager myself, feedback is absolutely critical to personal and professional improvement. Managers who do not listen to the folks they manage are often have very short and exlosively misguided careers. Often the personnel themselves are significantly more experienced or more recently experienced in the field that one manages, so to ignore them is to make a constant slew of inevitable mistakes. Managers and execs MUST take into account the opinions of their folks to achieve success.

    In the same vein, teachers are managers of students and the learning process. These teachers must have an avenue for feedback (even if students only feel comfortable commenting in annonymous web-based environments such as TeacherReviews) to improve. To deny students and teachers themselves this feedback, is to admit that you are unwilling to improve.

    In regards to the few blatant examples of potentially undeserved negative feedback, anyone with a little backbone and self-confidence should be able to see through these. Ignore the few so as not to invalidate the mass.

    Within these terms, notification of the professors that comments have been written on them is potentially an extremely valuable addition to the site. The limiting factors that the site author proposes should be dropped out of hand as they limit the value of the vast majority of content, but the lack of quality in a few posts.

    Bottom line, put the site back up. You are providing an invaluable tool to both students and teachers. The constitution and court precedence clearly protects you (as delineated by other posts) so any suit should be thrown out in the preliminary stages. Teachers should (and hopefully do) applaud your efforts, not resort to whining to the 'principal' when they get called a bad name.
  • by totatis (734475) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:25AM (#8245545)
    So, basically, in order to avoid being seen as some psycho by a few students, he looks like an asshole to the whole world.

    This slashdot publicity should really help him regain his reputation !
  • by Cycline3 (678496) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:25AM (#8245546) Homepage
    My anti college site [wvscsucks.com] is offline too - for the same reasons. The forums and content got too hot for the administration and they wanted to go to court. I did once - and won hands down - but I was still out the money. So, in the end they still win. Cause they have the tuition of thousands of students and I don't. There is no free speech in America anymore unless you are rich. Any one that tells you other wise is a liar, wrong or both.
  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:34AM (#8245620) Homepage Journal
    I mean we're talking about the same thing really, right? Lord only knows how many people get panned and flamed on this forum, any one of which could be considered libel. I know part of it is the disclaimers plastered across the site, so what happened with Teacher Review? Maybe Slashdot simply has more money to fend off these attacks?
  • by failedlogic (627314) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:48AM (#8245746)
    You ain't seen nothing yet. Wait until you see his reaction when he sees his bandwidth bill after getting a /.'ing ;)

    On a separate note, I'm a 3rd year university student. I think anyone can attest that they've had good & bad professors.

    I think this site may well be valuable to students. This site is certainly prone to slandering. I would have loved to have read reviews of teachers before taking a class. In university you don't always know students who'd taken a class. It's easy to miss a class from a good professor and equally easy to sign up with a bad professor. I think some amount of review should be made of the reviews and perhaps proof of enrollment. I don't advocate censorship but this would at least remove slanderous or untrue accounts.

    Admittedly, determining what qualities make a good or bad professor is subjective. On the other hand, universities should be more forthcoming about the results of teacher reviews. They discard the reviews as if they never happened. Students cannot find out from the faculty or administration which teachers are performing well and which are not.
  • by DarkHelmet (120004) * <mark@seventhcycC ... t minus language> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:52AM (#8245770) Homepage
    Amazon.com has a nice little feature that says, "Is this review useful?"

    And by default, you can see the review of the item that is most relevant.

    How can this not apply to Teacher Reviews? If a review of the teacher is particularly bad, but gets voted as useful / accurate, then oh well.

    Maybe reviews should be blammed Newgrounds Style [newgrounds.com], but with a few modifications. After a certain number of votes, if the review is found slanderous / not useful, it becomes invisible and flagged for review.

    Also, why not instead of censor it, allow the actual teacher room to respond to his / her own review? If there are 200 upvotes on a negative review of the teacher, the teacher should have the right to defend his / her own philosophy.

    Apparently this fellow doesn't care for his work *too* much. If he fought the good fight, I'm sure the ACLU et al would help foot the bill.

    Thoughts? (I'd prefer responses over moderation on this one)

  • F***ed Company (Score:3, Insightful)

    by salesgeek (263995) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:52AM (#8245772) Homepage
    They need to simply follow Pud's lead at F***ed Company and post the cease and desist letters. If you piss off students so bad you need to get a lawyer to shut them up, there is something wrong with you.
  • by dylan95 (307651) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:52AM (#8245776) Homepage

    Actually -- TeacherReviews is coming back.

    I put up another blog post this morning at about 4am about it:

    Quoted from
    http://www.dylangreene.com/blog.asp?blogID=3 88

    ==================
    TeacherReviews.com is coming back, and it's going to be better than ever - for both students and professors.

    The professor who threatened a lawsuit has decided to drop the case. This happened after we talked about the situation, the site as it is today, and the intent of the site, which has always been to help students, as opposed to insult professors. This professor is now helping the site by providing feedback to the new features from a professor's point of view, which is something I have not looked into before.

    Here are some changes I've been working on:

    Redesigned and rebuilt the entire site from scratch. Not one line of HTML, ASP, or stored procedure code is from the old site. There will be a fresh new look that will hopefully be easier for you to navigate, and the system will make it easier for me to plug new features into.
    I've reorganized the database. For example, departments are now associated with classes instead of professors - since a professor might teach classes in different departments, but classes typically don't change departments. All 34,000 reviews are still there.
    Reviews can be "Flagged for Removal." Anybody can flag a review, but only volunteers and I will have the ability to permanently delete them. When a review is flagged, you will see the grade and the flag, but not the content unless it is unflagged.
    When a Flagged Review is removed, it is considered Banned from the system. If a user has too many Banned reviews, that user risks being banned from using TeacherReviews.
    Professors who ask not to be reviewed will still have their names in the system and it will still accept new reviews for them in case they change their mind. Their reason for not wanting to be on the site will replace their reviews.
    Helping out:

    Contact your editors: TeacherReviews can make a great story for your school or local paper. I've been interviewed twice this week from different papers. Who's next?
    Donate: Donations will go toward improving TeacherReviews unless you say otherwise.
    Create Fliers: Schools always have players for posting flyers. Save those fliers because I'm also going to create a Flier Exchange to share your fliers with others.
    Finally - once again, thank you everybody who wrote in. As of right now (~4am), my blog entry "What Happened to TeacherReviews?" has just under 200 comments. I've received over 100 emails, and I think I managed to reply to every single one of them. If you didn't get a reply it might have been eaten by my spam filter.

    So... Save your TeacherReviews.com bookmarks. The new site is coming soon.
    ==================

    My first time being slashdotted and I was off watching The Daily Show...
    • Query? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by juuri (7678) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:28AM (#8246611) Homepage
      Why don't you just establish a rating system for reviews. Allow students who submit reviews to also rate other submitted reviews. This would easily allow you to move the trash down below a viewable threshold. It would also encourage people to leave longer, more detailed reviews full of useful content.
  • Use a trust method (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macdaddy (38372) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:54AM (#8245788) Homepage Journal
    I vote for a trust method or mechanism to weed out the trolls. A review from a student that has only submitted a single review should have very little weight on the professor's overall score. In fact it should receive a low "trust" rating on the website. As that student submits more reviews of other professors that student's "trust" rating should increase. Think of it like karma; until you prove to a subset of the masses that your comments (reviews) are ontopic, well-written, and worthwhile your karma (trust rating) won't be high enough to adversely affect the thread (professor). This would be one simple solution.

    Along these same lines they could implement a peer review process for review submissions. A new user's review could be kept in limbo until, say, 10 other reviews (perhaps once they reach a certain level of "trust") have given the ok to it. Effectively these Trusted Reviewers would act like moderators and weed out the intentionally inflamitory reviews, spam, or poorly written reviews from the well-written and on-topic reviews. The anti-spam project Razor [sourceforge.net] uses something similar to this called the Truth Evaluation System or TeS. It's all done automaticly, using spam reports and revokes to ascertain what a registered user's confidence level should be.

    Why can't something like this be implemented to solve their problem? It still doesn't prevent a person from commiting libel but it does help weed out the intentionally imflamitory reviews and blatent personal attacks on educators. I've often commented on how I think such a review system should be used on Slashdot for the moderation system. I think all negative-scoring reviews should be confirmed by a second moderator before the post is scored. This would be best accomplished by not penalizing the moderator for participating in the confirmation process by losing a moderator point.

  • Libel (Score:3, Informative)

    by That's Unpossible! (722232) * on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @01:25AM (#8246014)
    For the clueless... yes, it is illegal to print falsehoods about a non-celebrity (and in most cases, a celebrity).
  • Freedom of speech? (Score:3, Informative)

    by KZigurs (638781) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @01:58AM (#8246179)
    Hello guys, are you really telling that your legal system is SO screwed now that you cannot post your negative opinion about some person online? Somehow I have always believed that this was quite an important point of Freedom of speech, that USA is so proud of. Or isn't the CNN the only entity in USA that has no rights to say anything true or unpleasant to someone else... Fuck the professors. I'm sure that even in case if maintainer of site GETS suied, it would be a simple post in a site to raise all the necessary funds for best legal defense someone can afford (and truthfully in such a case it would require about three hours of work from a competent lawyer + court appearance). Get a life, dear paranoid americans. Do you really will always consider that someone is threatening your positions? Then they were commies, now they are students. And your army still walks around the world doing whatever it wants without any reason.
  • by Debillitatus (532722) <devillel2&hotmail,com> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @01:31PM (#8250284) Journal
    Let me say that I don't much care whether or not I am featured on such a site. But the reason is that I really know that these sites are complete wastes of time and energy.

    For example, I have a profile on ratemyprofessor.com , which is something similar to this site. I was reading the comments, and they were somewhat amusing. For example, one of my reviews said that I spoke so well I should be elected the prime minister of the UK. (Keep in mind that I'm an American teaching at a US university, so this is clearly facetious.) There were a lot of more reviews which were clearly put there for the purposes of humor. Some were serious, but there's no way to know.

    The real problem with these types of sites is that anyone on Earth can write a review. At least with the official evaluations at the end of the semester, you need to be in the class to give input. This can be written by any random crank. I cannot stress enough that any information you get on a site like this is useless, because it can be written by anyone.

    Furthermore, a lot of students give really high marks to easy professors because it is easy to get an A. I know that I didn't, because I am a hard-ass. On the other hand, if you just want an easy A, I certainly don't want you in my class. So maybe this will select out some people I don't want. Again, though, if you want to learn something, you don't want the easy guy.

    All in all, deciding which professor to take based on a site like this is like deciding whom to vote for based on a Slashdot poll. And for exactly the same reason. It's probably better than reading tea leaves, but not much.

    Now, as far as this professor goes, I don't know why he would get bent out of shape. At the end of the day, very few professors care at all what the students think, and for those that care at all, don't care much. I don't know why he gives two fucks what is on some random site.

    I can say for myself that I have gotten some good feedback from evaluations and I have tried to incorporate suggestions into my teaching style. But this is a rare event. More than 99% of student feedback I have received is completely useless and was a waste of time, most typically it's someone with an axe to grind.

    And I think a lot of students fool themselves into thinking that this feedback will actually matter in the long run. Let me put it this way: it is almost inconceivable that student evaluations can affect a professor's life. If he is tenured, then the probability is exactly 0. If he is tenure-track, then only if his research is borderline will these kinds of evaluations come into play, but I would say that this plays a role in fewer than 1 out of 1000 cases. Again, like I said, if you want to give constructive critism to a professor that you think might take it to heart, give it a shot. But I have seen tons of "axe-grinding" evaluations, even of me, and I can state unequivocally that they are a waste of graphite.

    And by the way, the reason for this is simple. If you're at a good school, the school isn't good because you, the undergrad, is there. You are there because the school is good, and the school is good because the international reputation of the research is strong. Research is what matters. End of story.

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