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Professor Sues Site Operator 202

CmdrPorno writes "ZDTV's [Cybercrime Section] reports that the fellow who created the Web site is being sued by one of the professors who claims he was defamed on the site." Oh, my. Someone said something bad about someone else on the Internet? Maybe I should sue Slashdot for every AC that's said something about the quality of my writing. Seriously, take a look at this, although some of the language is questionable.
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Professor Sues Site Operator

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    As a former teacher (laboratory and lecture instructor) I have to say that we don't see the reviews until well after grades are reported (at least here at the University of Arkansas). Anyway, I'm torn between thinking this is protected under the First Amendment and prohibited under privacy laws. I know that teachers are prohibited from publicly posting student's grades (or any other reports on their progress) in a way that can identify them, unless you get their prior written approval. Since this site identifies the professors and publicly rates their professional skills, would this fall under the same criteria?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...(2) To put up signs in my own house saying you are a child molestor?

    That might depend on who/how many people saw them in your home. You see you have a right to defend a trespass to your reputation, just as you have a right to defend a trespass against anything else you own. If you took the sign and nailed it to your front fence you would almost certainly be guilty of defamation.

    My website is my home. It doesn't "post information to the net"

    Again the important consideration is how many people could see it. If your web-site is on a machine which is connected to a publically accessible network, then it is like nailing it to your front fence. You would be trespassing on the property the victim has in their own reputation.

    What you're talking about is thought control.

    Nope, 'mind control' would be 1) or 3). You can think what you like, it's only when you come trespassing on my good name, by affecting the contents of the minds of third parties, that I'll hunt you down and skin you (legally speaking).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Stroustrup?!?! For learning? You've got to be kidding. Stroustrup is a good authority to go to when you have a very specific question about C++. It's TERRIBLE as a tutorial or learning guide. (Don't get me wrong--you NEED to buy Stroustrup. But you won't use it often.)

    Try Thinking in C++ by Bruce Eckel (which comes out in a new edition very soon) in combination with The C++ Standard Library by Josuttis.

  • on Polk street. That's just plain ludicrist. Everyone knows the best place to find male hustlers is on Main street!!
  • Is it in ***any*** way illegal for me to (1) in my own mind decree you to be a child molestor? (2) To put up signs in my own house saying you are a child molestor? (3) To think this when I see you in public? You see, I'm king of my own little world. I rule, absolutely, and unquestionably, with an iron fist. My website is my home. It doesn't "post information to the net" nor "send information to the net". It's not broadcasting. What you're talking about is thought control. And that's wrong.

    For example, if I burn a cross at a black church to express my free speech, I can be busted for a hate crime, and trespassing, and vandalism, etc. If I, living across the street from a black churck, burn a cross on my own lawn, to express my free speech, courts would be hard pressed to find a basis from which to prosecute me (save for fire code violations) any more than they could prosecute someone for having a KKK bumpersticker or a rebel plate on their car.

  • It struck me as a much better book than the one they used here for the intro classes, (written at least partially by Perry--don't take her class, I'm not even going to speculate about little boys on Hillsborough St. ;) but that isn't saying much.

    Whatever happened to the K&R book? Oh wait, that's C. Mommy, why aren't they writing in C?

    But to be fair, I was really interested in what Stroustrup had to say about programming in C++ with the STL. I'm amazed that it's such a well-written class library that it can be more efficient than flat-out C code for simple things...
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].

  • I have a question.

    If someone drew a graffiti on the wall of one of my building, and the graffiti contains remarks slandering one particularly person, am I, the onwer of the building, be responsible for the slandering?

    I can understand that if I am the "artist" who drew the graffiti, then I may be sued for slander.

    But if I am just the owner of the building its walls are painted with tons and tons of graffiti, with one of them sladering one particular person, why should I be charged?

    It's the same thing as the case where that professor sues the website owner - the owner of the website is NOT the writer of the message, and if the professor has REAL GUTS, he should go after the writers of those slandering message himself.

    Methinks the professor has neither the guts nor the wits to know that the problem doesn't stem from the messages but himself.

    If he is a GOOD professor (I've had several), people (at least most of them) will not do such a thing to him. Even if that happens, there will be others who will come to his aid.

    I mean, if I see one of my favorite professors being slandered, I will defend his honor, as good professors are hard to come by.

  • "Can you imagine the professor sitting in class while the webmaster's lawyer calls student after student who says the class is a waste of time?"
    I can more easily imagine him sitting in court as they probably wouldn't try the case without him present.
  • Henceforth he will be know as Professor Cyber-Brown.
  • I'll try to stop thinking "Curzon-Dax" long enough to say this--
    I know you can be sued in civil court for slander and libel, but whether it's done on line, in the newspaper, or on the side of a bus, is it really a *crime*?
  • How accurate (considering accuracy is pretty subjective here) are sites like this? I can't imagine going to one of these sites and giving it much weight at all

    Disclaimer : My opinion may be a bit biased, because several of my friends operate [] along with the defendant [] in this case. I'm also marginally involved with the site. (ObPushyComment - it's not affiliated with any school, and it's got reviews for schools all over the world -- see if your school is there and see how your profs rate)

    That being said, I give sites like this quite a lot of weight. I avoided the worst profs at UMD [] whenever possible thanks to a good site (now defunct). I also wasn't able to avoid some of the bad professors (scheduling) -- and believe me, the reviews tend to be accurate. Yes, some people have a chip on their shoulders -- but once you have 3 or 4 independent reviews, you generally have a decent base to form an opinion on. And the best professors, while sometimes controversial, get some extremely positive reviews.

    I personally feel that the aforementioned site helped me get a better college experience -- I was able to focus in on the best teachers and get the most for my (parents) money.

  • "It's a cybercrime. It's cyberevil," Curzon-Brown told CyberCrime correspondent Jennifer London.
    Is it just me, or is the word cyber used waaay too much these days?

    I think this Curzon-Brown person is just some crappy professor who thinks he can make himself some hefty cyber-cash by cyber-whining about some cyber-comments in cyber-space.

    Get over it. Criticism usually happens for a reason. Take it as advice and change!

  • I set up something like this once for my school. As soon as it went up, it was flooded with extremely vulgar comments on a particular professor. The comments were not true, and were also not constructive. We decided to start approving posts before they went up, and now the message board is clean and useful, and although some professors are slammed on the page, no one can complain about libel.

    If the volume on this site is prohibitive, or people would object on a free speech basis, then perhaps a slashdot-style moderation system would help cut down on the useless vulgarity. GPA could reflect a weighted average of comments by moderation.

    Remember: free speech is important, but comments wrongly (or otherwise) commenting on the lifesyle choice of a professor, or ways in which students would like to maim said professor, is not going to help students choose classes, and will only serve to make the forum look bad.

  • And since the bad teachers don't care about the opinions of their students anyway, why bother giving those grades ?

    You can have the department / faculty tie perks/promotions to the grades received from students. This will make them start to "care" about the opinions of the students pretty quickly. I don't believe the website is very helpful because web polls are notoriously biased and suffer from all sorts of ballot stuffing and representative-sample issues -- and this one is certainly no exception. On the other hand, student evaluations can often work quite well.

  • What's the big deal about posting teacher reviews online?

    Nothing. In fact this is already done -- some schools offer teaching evaluations online. The big deal is that the content is allegedly false and defamatory. On the other hand , underground reviews and summaries of student evaluations are not typically peppered with illiteracy, defamatory remarks, and foul language.

    It appears to me that the professor does have a case, though he has the rather difficult task of demonstrating that he was hurt by the material , to get a damages award. Getting a court order to have the comments removed is probably easier, though ironically, he's drawing more attention to those comments in the process !

  • This is not "good for education". Why ?

    • Unless the department monitor the survey and reward teachers who are considered good, the teacher's incentive to improve is somewhat limited.
    • Internet polls tend only to attract "extremists", not "moderates". So the majority remains silent.
    • Internet polls also suffer from ballot-stuffing problems.
    • Comments posted to internet polls are often not very constructive.
    • If the poll is totally open ended, that's also a problem, because good polling requires well-chosen questions.
    • When you fill out those course reviews on your prof before you get your grade you are never sure if that prof will recognize your handwriting and grade you down.

      I teach. The reviews aren't available to instructors until after the course is over. IMO, traditional evaluations are much better ( for the students, the prof and the university ) than this online junk.

      BTW, you got the other part right -- we're not stupid, and if you have distinctive handwriting, there's a good chance we can tell who you are. We get so many students that we don't take the opinions of individual students terribly personally though.

  • So we just illegalize all information sharing due to possible differing opinions on quality of a teacher?

    IF you think this is my point, you've misunderstood me. No, I don't believe the laws need to be changed. I don't believe this case requires special treatment -- it should be judged by the existing criteria for defamation.

    een some of your other posts on this forum regarding gatekeepers on such information, and you seem to be making a value judgement that the usefulness of collaborative discourse is negated by the ability of some to spread false information

    Actually, I don't know what "collaborative discourse" you are talking about. The comments cited in the article didn't sound like "collaborative discourse" to me. If you want "freedom of information", and "accountability", the standard student questionaires are superior to this web forum.

    Free speech is a good thing and all that, but spreading misinformation is not a right. I believe the website should be accountable for its content, especially if they choose to avail authors of accountability by allowing anonymous postings.

  • Thanks for explaining your point of view. Actually, I think you make a lot of sense ( inspite of your attrocious spelling ;-)

  • People become corrupt when they think they're operating in secret, just because they can. Expose the secrets to keep the system fair and on its toes at all times.

    There are no "secrets".Students fill out evaluation forms every semester, and those forms are given varying degrees of disclosure -- either the faculty/school sees it or in some cases, it's made public.

    It's misleading to say that professors can "secretly" do a bad job. If a professor is doing a bad job, it doesn't stay secret for very long.

  • Your entire post seems to be based on the false premise that professors see the evaluations before they submit their grades. As a TA, my experience has been that this is not the case. After the evaluations are completed, a student collects them and hands them into the department/University, and they are not released until early next semester.

    In summary, the premise of your argument is completely false.

    Another point I should make -- profs rarely let their preconceptions about a student influence their grading. When I'm doing the grading, my primary goal is to get the work done as quickly as possible without being unfair. I have a given quiz graded before I see the name on it -- reading the name is a waste of time. The point is that you can't spend too much time daydreaming about all your students when you have 150 test papers on your desk. 5 minutes per test is already 12.5 hours worth of work. IOW, it's not because the profs are all really ethical and scrupulous -- it's that they don't have the time or inclination to meditate on every single student when there's a pile of ungraded papers on their desk.

  • It also provides a service to people, who, on a VERY slim chance find their future teacher on that site, to be informed about what is coming up...

    IMO, this is the wrong way to go about it. If there is no disclosure policy on student evaluations, there should be. This would be more appropriate, and more meaningful/helpful than one of these internet things.

    I'd question whether he's "over-reacting". It certainly looks like he's been defamed.

  • why reduce yourself to the level of the homophobic clowns who posted that trash ? It's unprofessional. I don't think much of the review website either. I don't think the prof is helping himself much by suing though -- if my teaching was that bad, I would shut up about my teaching.

  • If I was the one defamed, I would just post a rebuttal seriously questioning the integrity of the poster based on his elements in composition and interpretation of trut

    The prof doesn't have that much time to run around after students. If a student wants to defame a prof full-time ( for example, by flooding the message board ), you can't really fight them.

  • While a grade is not supposed to represent a professor's opinion of a student's manner, it often does. It's very hard for most people to separate opinions of a person, and that person's work

    This is wrong, and I'm speaking as someone who gives out grades. I know a lot of students share your thoughts ( this is the students point of view to some degree ) but they are simply wrong, because they don't try to see it from the prof's point of view. You can't improve your grades by brown-nosing. The profs will smile at the students who brown nose, then flunk them the next day ( if appropriate ) without a second thought. The truth is, that the prof wants to grade as quickly as possible without being unfair, and daydreaming about your preconceptions about a student simply wastes time. The prof hands out a grade based on the quality of the workj under his nose. Thinking about the student, the students prior record, etc slows down the process. Grading a big stack of papers takes a long time unless you're really efficient. I don't even look at the names on the papers while I'm grading -- I simply don't have time. If you'd ever tried dealing with a stack of 150 papers, you would understand this.

    The obvious problem, however, is that his personality is overbearing and haughty. That IS something to take into consideration when signing up for a professor's class.

    Odd though it may seem, being a "nice guy" doesn't help your evaluations much, if at all -- again, speaking from experience. The most important thing is to be fair in your grading. The second most important is to be realistic in your expectations ( ie don't flunk half the class ). Next on the list is probably giving good lectures. It's important to be respectful towards the students ( ie not outright rude or condescending ) but there are other issues which have more impact on ones grades.

  • Do you think directors and actors should be able to sue the IMDB is somebody put a bad review there? No, of course not. And this is the same thing. The site operator should not be responsible.
  • If someone drew a graffiti on the wall of one of my building, and the graffiti contains remarks slandering one particularly person, am I, the onwer of the building, be responsible for the slandering?

    Not as such, no. However, imagine this situation. You are a good building owner and you dislike graffiti. So once a month you go out and wash it all off or paint it over. After a while, you start to like some of the graffiti. You continue painting over most of them, but the few gems you find you leave as they are. (I think!) You were a "common carrier" before and not responsible for any of the content, but once you started to pick and choose, you became responsible for the whole thing. This is why you can't sue the postal service for delivering a letter bomb (though I bet somebody will try one of these days) but you can sue a newspaper for what they print.
  • Damn... my ears are red :D

    I hadn't read the posters other comments and assumed he was earnest in making his statements. I have to admit, it is a clever trolling device.
  • Oh wow... how brainwashed can a person get?
    I think some member of this admirable forum needs to analyze the dogmas he holds so dear. Just because something was made with the intent to earn money doesn't make it a superior product. In my personal experience, IE is a pathetically flaky product, especially considering the fact that it was written by the same people who wrote the operating system it runs on.
    I know objectivism is fun, but don't get dogmatic like that, or you won't be any better off than the people you deride.
  • Lemme you are saying that this teacher sucks because her class assignments actually count for something, because she expects her students to be responsible enough to turn their assignments in on time, and because the subject matter was over your head? Dude, it's people exactly like you that changed my mind about becoming a teacher. Everybody bemoans the fact that there aren't enough good teachers in the world, and yet when a teacher tries to hold her students to a higher standard look how she gets treated. College should not be like high school, where students get to pass just so they can "feel good about themselves" or some crap like that. If you can't understand the material in a classroom, how the fsck do you expect to handle it in the real world? If your boss fires you because you blow a project, are you going to bitch that he's "unfairly" making every project count for too much?

    Although I wouldn't be so cruel as to suggest lethal injection, a stiff slap upside the head might do you a bit of good.
  • When a Webmaster puts up a web site which invites public opinion liability is always on conscern. If the Webmaster decides to get involved in moderating what get's posted then they open themselves up to becoming liable for it's content.

    This doesn't seem to be the case here. According to the Disclaimer submisions are added directly to the database without any intervention by the people running the site. It's also stated several times that the subject matter is the opinion of the individual and nothing more.

    Sites like ebay face the same issues. Once you start filtering some content you suddenly become responcible for all the content.

    Personally I prefer the "hands off" approach.

  • What's wrong with the D&D book? I'm taking Comp Sci II right now, and we're using the D&D book. I suppose I should know about the shortcomings of the book, but then again, I *am* jawad....
  • I see what you are saying. The comments posted on the site are of course vulgar and offensive. I don't think they're any more useful than rational, non-offensive comments. However (and it's a big however):

    You really shouldn't classify these kids as upper/middle class. You complain about homophobia and then you go pigeonhole them into one socioeconomic group without even a clue as to their real background. It seems to me you're pretty certain who you think these people are, based on nothing more than your stereotype of the typical spoiled college kid.

    You should be glad, because it seems like you escaped college without having a plain old crappy professor. I'm three years in and I've already had this experience a couple of times. It's different than just having a tough professor - that I can deal with. What pisses me off is an instructor who doesn't take the time to do things right. My software engineering class was a joke. Frequently the guy would show up to class just to say it was canceled, because his printer broke and he couldn't print out the lecture notes. Homework took over a month to grade at times. As the manager of our class project, he did a poor job of providing us direction and coordinating development. It's these types of situations that a review site helps for.

    I have no doubt that the guy who is suing is a bad instructor. Why would they post those comments otherwise? I don't accept the explanation that they're pissed off that they got bad grades. If everyone in the class got bad grades, well, there's your proof that he's a crappy teacher. If he was just a tough but good teacher, there would be a number of good reviews of him by people who enjoyed his class and got good grades. This doesn't seem to be the case.

  • The CDA was indeed ruled unconstitutional soon after it passed, due to a tremendous movement involving the EFF, ACLU, ALA, other groups, and netizens everywhere. It's very irresponsible of ZDTV to refer to the CDA as if it were still a law. They need to check their facts, too. The CDA didn't say that websites can't be held responsible for what other people write, as they claim. It just said the original writer could be held responsible for indecency.

    Just one more example in the large list of reasons why ZD really, really sucks. I actually get the ZDTV channel, half the time it's this weird animated Lara wannabe telling me the latest gadgets I should buy.

  • I find it hard to take notes and listen to lecture at the same time. I avoid this problem by not going to class.
  • Maybe I should sue Slashdot for every AC that's said something about the quality of my writing.

    I was under the impression you can't sue someone for stating the truth.
  • this has happened many times over the past while-through various mediums including the internet-one that got publicity a couple years ago was (looks like he didnt pay his internic fee) wherein a hs student made a page stating his opinions about his teacher and got kicked out of school-similar cases are outlined here if one is interested-found it while trying to find a backup for which after all the dust settled kept links to all the news articles about itself (a case that ended with an out of court settlement) but yah-heres the link for those who are interested:

  • well done, guys. Even if this man is bad in his job: the reactions of many of his students (and even more the reactions of those who never were his students) probably have pretty much destroyed his reputation in his job and his private life. May be even destroyed his life. The net gives people a huge audience. It doesn't make a difference between intelligent and stupid people, between thoughtful and cruel people. The language one can read on this website makes it hard to believe that those who are writing are really students.
    Sure: not court, but the internet community itself should control the net. But noone has the right to destroy another one's life.
    Hell, I don't come to any conclusion here...may be everyone should just take a moment to think twice about what to post on the net.
  • Ayn Rand wasn't brainwashed, She was a psychopath. Where do you think all these brainwashed idiots get there ideas? Mostly from her. Check out the link to and see her ideas your self

    The above poster is using her name for comic effect (and quite well, I might add).
  • JonKatz sues Slashdot for AC postings
    Posted by LocalH [mailto] on 07:50 AM March 27th, 2000
    from the why-the-hell-is-this-happening dept.

    Former geek icon-wannabe JonKatz [mailto] is suing Slashdot [] for allegedly defaming him through AC postings. When asked for comment, he replied simply, "I'll get those bastards...I'll get them good...". Several ACs were also asked for comment. Their response was one of the following:
    • "Natalie Portman naked and petrified!"
    • "First post!"
    • "Second post!"
    • "Pour hot grits down my pants!"
    • "Natalie Portman naked and petrified pouring hot grits down my pants while I'm getting first post!"
    (Moderators: mod this down if you really, really feel you must...)
    Scott Jones
    Newscast Director / ABC19 WKPT
    Commodore 64 Democoder
  • If i want to buy a Frob, I'll lookup Frobs on dejanews. Of course, comments will include "Frobs rulez d00dz" and "Frobs blow chinks" and "Whatzits are better than Frobs" and "My Frob broke in two minutes. Never buy a Frob" and "Frobs are great. I have 10"

    How does one learn anything from this. Simple. You read. You get a 'feel' for what the Truth is. The human brain has a fantastic enctended version of 'grep' in it, fully capable of discriminating the bogus from the real. So even though asking about frobs will collect all possible opinions, there's still a bell curve of truth you can zero in on. And you'll find your answer.

    I support I'm gonna review some of my profs right now!

  • Just about every university has someone who rates professors. Here at MSU we have Mark Grebner [] who, while I don't believe has ever been sued, I know has really annoyed some professors with his ratings.

    I think part of the reason he has never been sued is the sheer length of time he's been publishing them - he started in the mid 70's!
  • Considering the incredibly low opinion his students have of him, maybe he should listen before he opens his big mouth and digs himself into a deeper hole.

    But does he listen? No, he whines. Well, I guess his critics were right, then.

    And he must have paid extra to that boy on Polk St., not to tell... ;)

    Oops, I defamed him in a public forum! Ban Slashdot and the Internet! It's evil! People can express their opinions without censorship! BURN ALL TEXT!!!
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].
  • By saying that racism, sexism, etc. are all the same kind of proves the point.

    What point? You don't seem to have put any points forth for that statement to prove.

    So a black man's experience is the same as a white woman's? Huh? Have you gone and talked to any?

    You have no idea how many I've talked to. And you're right about one thing; in the particulars they're different. But see my next statement; the specifics vary, but when all is said and done they're about the same basic thing.

    But racism, sexism, and heterosexism are concepts built around the experience of not being white, male, or straight. Now it's pretty obvious to me that no amount of good intentions on your part is going to make your opinions on these matters a heck of a lot more insightful.

    You speak of the effects of these things. I speak of the things themselves. And as I said, while the particulars of the effects vary (in some cases greatly), can you argue that you cannot find the things I describes in all cases: inequity, injustice, and suffering? I don't think you can.

    If I got one thing from feminism, it was learning that it didn't help to have an opinion on everything, and knowing when to shut the fsck up and let somebody else have a say. Give it a try!

    I'm not sure what to make of that. Frankly I've never seen a brand of feminism that ever said that, except perhaps the the very few which advocate the eradication of all males. All of the feminists I've ever spoken to have encouraged open discussion on all issues. So I'm trying to figure out if by that post you mean "sit back and let others do the talking for you sometimes" or "shut up; don't have opinions, someone else will tell you what to think." If it's the former, you have a point, but it's not one I've ever encountered and I've encountered many brands of feminism (but that's getting into my personal life, so if you want to discuss that more we're taking it off of Slashdot). If it's the latter, I pity you; you've apparently been shouted down by people who are either hypocrites or psychos, and in this case I'm not sure which is worse.

    But either way, we're speaking on different wavelengths. I'm trying to talk about racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice. You speak of the more common targets thereof. We've both got some interesting ideas, but we're comparing apples and oranges (OK, probably more like oranges and lemons; they do have a relation but they're still different things).
  • A Republican? Being accused of Homophobia? Frankly, it's not surprising, given the history of the party, and the current practices of its presidential candidates. The fact is, you're a member of a group that *does* discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. That's your choice. No offense was intended by this post. I'm aware that not all Republicans are homophobes, but the party line is homophobic.

    So it's guilt by association, now? The sins of the father weighing on the son, to put it into a different perspective? But that's still no different from the homophobia you claim to see in Republicans.

    How many people here associate with a political party but don't really follow the party line perfectly? Probably not all that many. Most people don't fit party lines exactly. Party lines are too specific, whereas a group of people is still comprised of individuals (statistics are a real pain when your data subjects are sentient, you know?)

    There was something that I did find interesting, though. Studies of past elections have shown that more Repiblican voters are willing to break their party line than Democrats are. What I'm wondering is, why? Does this mean Republicans tend to see something wrong with their party, so they vote for others? Does it mean Democrats just don't tend to think about issues and vote blindly with their party? Does it mean Democrats are somehow morally superior to Republicans, and Republicans voting for Democrats are really just having conscience attacks? Or is it something else? I don't know, though I very much doubt it's the third.

    But now I'm getting completely offtopic, so I'll stop...
  • I'm not sure if it is even nessesary to prove that the offending statement is false, only that it was written with the intention to harm someone.
    You could maliciously ruin someone's reputation without telling blatant lies. Does that make it right? In some cases maybe, in other cases not. In this case a court of law will apparently be deciding if this was ok or not.
    Completely seperate from the question if the offended professor has a case or not, after reading some of the comments on that page, it's not surprising that he was offended, and that he will do whatever he can to have those posts removed. Politely asking the webmaster to moderate the posts apparently had no effect, so what else could he do? In a perfect world freedom of speech includes the freedom to violate every law of courtesy and decency. If you live by this principle in the real world however, you'll find you make no friends, and get beaten up regularly.
  • The link from the teacher review page [] to his home page is wrong - it should be []
  • Tell me exactly why teachers can grade students on their performance but students cant grade proffesors on theirs?
    Because the teacher is qualified to grade the student. It's his job. It's what he gets paid to do. And when he grades the student, he doesn't publish defamatory sexual allegations about them.
  • Sure, I'm not disagreeing with the concept of the teacherreview web site, I'm just answering bludstone's question. I think the web site operator is on dodgy ground, he's publishing potentially libellous material. It's not the same as slashdot, where the discussions are clearly contributor opinions only, he's recommending that people use the reviews on his site to decide which teacher to use. He should exercise editorial control if he's going to do that.
  • But professor reviews aren't posted for the (potential) next class to see BEFORE they enroll.

    There's a good reason for a nondisclosure period. The point is that the prof shouldn't be able to see the results until the grades are in. Note that unless it's the prof's first year on the job, the professor will have built up a track record one way or the other.

    Besides, who's going to disparage a bad professor on the official U reviews?

    As someone who's been reviewed, I can inform you that the students don't seem unwilling to speak their minds ( either way ) on those reviews.

    They'de collected before grades are entered

    Sure, because they need to be filled out when the class is still in session ( ie before its broken up and hence before grades are out ).

    However, the prof isn't allowed to see the reviews until the grades are in ( this is true at every school I've been at. I bet it's true with yours -- check !!! )

    Unless he's tenured, that is.

    WRONG. Tenured or not, the profs are still subject to the same evaluation process, and the fact that a prof is tenured does not imply that their evaluations are undisclosed.

  • ... and internet grading is not the right way. Student evaluations are more effective, especially if there's some kind of disclosure policy on the said evaluations, and faculty performance reviews. Lynching the profs on websites might give you a good feeling, but it doesn't help the prof improve their teaching and it doesn't help the students who'll have to deal with that teacher later on.

  • Your post makes a lot of sense. I've been teaching for some time, and I'm amazed as to how the students who are flunking don't even realise how much they don't understand the work ( ie they think they know it all ), while most of the good students are relatively humble. You're dead right, and there is psychological literature that also demonstrates your point -- people with no talent are confident inspite of their ignorance.

  • I ran across this tidbit in an interview [] with Daniel Curzon-Brown:

    Q. So does all this mean that you haven't mellowed in middle age?

    CURZON. Don't I sound mellow? I'm finally tenured. Once you're tenured you're supposed to turn into a mushmelon, right? Well, I haven't. But I don't think people should confuse my persona as a writer with my private demeanor. I'm a pussycat -- really. Of course when things piss them off even pussycats have claws. What pisses me off now? Oh, for one, the fact that I can never retire from teaching English. I don't have enough years in, because I was a part-time slave for twelve years -- despite getting a Ph.D. and publishing my butt off. Historical forces beyond my control crippled my career. For another, the fact that some younger gay people have never heard of my work. But then as a teacher I know lots of people have never heard of Gore Vidal or even Tennessee Williams either! Amazing! But don't get me started on who reads and who doesn't. I may get depressed and give up the world of literature once and for all and become Mother Teresa's press agent.

    I have to wonder, if he hates teaching English, why did he spend all those years getting a Ph.D, a teaching position and tenure?

  • I'm not sure whether I agree with this guy suing or not, cuz the site is slashdotted so I haven't read the comments about him. But the point of the defamation laws is to prevent abuse of the first amendment. Do you think it would be OK if I posted on my high-traffic website that you were a child molestor? The reason that this is tortious is becuase you have no chance to defend yourself. If I say something that is completely unfounded by the facts, and it irrevocably damages your character (what if you were denied a job becuase of this), you definitely have the right to sue.

  • After all, a bad grade represents a professor's bad opinion of the student.

    Turnabout is fair play, IMO.

  • Should we throw another human wave of structural engineers at stabilizing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or should we just let the damn thing fall over and build a tower that doesn't suck?
    -- Neal Stephenson comenting on why Linux kicks ass

    Actualy, the quote was talking about why BeOS Kicked ass, not linux. He does really like linux, but not for that reason.
  • of a professor (Laurence Godfrey) suing the UK 's largest ISP (Demon []) over something posted on USENET. In this case the ISP caved.

    Read the story [] on Wired [].

  • I'd be interested in forming a site for positive teacher reviews only. This would be to find the highest quality instructors and lecturers in the nation. This information could then be used to form video lecture series and course material for the free university project.

  • I guess I wasn't clear. I, like you and many others, studied throughout college. I did my work. The people who crammed did so because they didn't do their work.

    Big difference. The crammers didn't care about the courses they were taking. They cared about what their parents would think so that they would buy them a car. So they tried to put as much information in their heads the night and morning before the exam, knowing full well that they'll forget it upon leaving to go home (driving in their new car).

    I went to school for me, not my parents. I even kept my books and I still read/use them like I did in college. I'd rather have a good X86 architecture book than ~$50.

    What bugs me is when spoiled kids complain about getting low marks simply because they're used to getting what they want. (I grew up sorta poor so maybe I'm being unnecessarily bitter.)
  • Flamage can have value, IMHO. If his students are this worked up, I'll bet he really is a crappy teacher.

    This seems doubtful. I have seen many students get worked up over something stupid like a mild accent. Note: Undergraduates normally do not put in the time to mastere the fine art of lissening to crazy accents that graduate students must master, so I see undergrads bitching about a profs who really dose a good job once you get past the accent.

    The libel laws are pretty clear and the web site should win, but it would be nice to have a feature to prevent duplicate reviews AND maintain anonymity. I think you could do it with an online voting algorithm, i.e. you only get one vote, but the site can not tell which vote was yours.

  • In practice it is really a matter of how much the professor cares. I sat in on a film class a couple of years running without actually being enrolled. This was at a California State school which, though "public", does collect tuition. I was an alumni at the time, but I doubt that mattered. (A good friend was enrolled in the class first time around, the projectionist the second.)

    It is probably quite a bit different if the class is full, though.

  • Does anyone use these sites, trust them?

    How accurate (considering accuracy is pretty subjective here) are sites like this? I can't imagine going to one of these sites and giving it much weight at all. No doubt every teacher has had problems with some students and vice versa at one time or another. I would think students who are upset are more likely to post reviews.

    I would like to see students note what teaching styles they like and how they thought the teacher taught rather than just some "good/bad" reviews. I've had teachers who's classes I've taken and we did not get along at all, we just had different styles of research, we did not see eye to eye on anything, and I hated the class, but that's not necessarily that teachers fault.
    Personally I usually talk to people who have taken the class. I have some friends who would tell me "he/she sucks! they're terrible" and while I would take the info, I wouldn't weight it very high since I know them well enough to know they hate that subject to start. Other friends I would tell me "you would not like this class . .. " and because I know they know me, and I know how they like classes run, I would weight their opinion much more than another.

    I took a look at a number of professors from several schools and the posts were very "troll/flamebaitish." Very little explanation of why they felt the teacher "had no idea what they were talking about" or why they "blow gaots hard." Just allot of he/she sucks because he is a _____. It mostly was useless info from some students who couldn't spell check "goats" correctly before posting. There also was plenty of "he/she is great" with equal lack of explanation.
  • Please note, I am not posting this anonymously. I respect the need for Anonymous Coward posting, but there are times when there is also a need for people to post their thought and be willing to put a name behind them. This is such a case.

    Anyone sane is concerned about negative things being said about them. It is part of how we function as human beings and an important part of what make it possible for us to build large, complex societies. We fear being cast into the outer darkness. That phrase itself echoes back to the fear of being driven from the warmth and safety of the tribal campfire into the predator-filled night.

    For an individual, the lose of reputation can be devistating. Depending on the nature of the allegations, it can mean the loss of a career, a marriage, friends, a home. Yes, this web site has the potential to do that. And there is a fine line that it must walk to be effective. It must retain that power. Criticism, robbed of all power to harm has no teeth. On the other side, when it is wielded brutally, and manipulatively, it loses its credibility.

    This is no different from the delicated editorial balance maintained in other media. The variety of sources for the information has increased. The immediacy of both submission and access is much greater. But this is not much different from other methods of criticism running a full spectrum from reasoned debate between public figures who both have reputations to defend to graffiti spray-painted on bridge abutments.

    Without a means to criticize those elements of a society who have exceeded its limits in some way, we are forced to accept that those individuals will continue in their actions. We expand the scope of acceptible behaviour a little. Silencing dissent sanctions the behaviour it would criticize. Giving it free rein with no review allows it to be characterized as a personal vendetta without merit.

    As society moves online, there is a need for institutions that meet its needs to move with it. It is wonderful to be able to shop online. It is wonderful to be able to communicate with my friends, family and colleagues. But if we abandon the means by which we obtain reliable information about the reputations of other members of society, or worse still outlaw those means, we will have reduced the capacity of our society to hold itself together.
  • If this professor wins, imagine what it could do to VA/Andover/Rob... For all the (sometimes deserved) thrashings Signal 11 takes whenever he posts, the guy could be an instant millionaire!

  • Someone will surely correct me if I'm wrong about this, but I believe the word Cyber comes from the greek word kyber meaning mind, or to think. In that case, isnt it interesting that ZDNET has a section on thoughtcrime? And isnt it interesting that the government is strongly against thoughtcrime? Big brother is watching.

  • Ha! this is too easy :)
    Lets take a look at my favorite paragraph

    "He's not just a passive provider like America Online," Curzon-Brown told London.
    AOL? Passive? they are probably the least passive isp out there! Besides their intensive waste of cds at my expense, and how aol 5.0 "took over" a users computer, there is all the Spam. They sell email adresses to advertisers people.. how many isps do that?

    "He's actually pointing to certain teachers and saying, 'Don't take these teachers. Look at their grade point average.'
    Tell me exactly why teachers can grade students on their performance but students cant grade proffesors on theirs?

    And the horrible part of it is, those grade point averages are based on reviews by people who were never their students.
    Most of the reviewers mention if they are students.

    Or by the same angry students sending in multiple reviews, so your grade point average is a lie to begin with, and yet the webmaster is saying, 'Use this to choose your classes.' I don't know what to say. How can anyone defend this?"
    Watch me.
    Just read the reviews. I mean, there are B's and F's on this guy. This contradiction must mean something. And if the students feel a need explore that, they should have the ability.

  • The point of this web site is a forum for students to give criticism to schools and professors as anonomous cowards. When you fill out those course reviews on your prof before you get your grade you are never sure if that prof will recognize your handwriting and grade you down. Sites like this provide a truly anonymous way for the students to provide feedback to the professors. The professor just needs to learn how to read the reviews appropriately. It's like reading Slashdot, -1 troll, -1 offtopic, +5 insightful. Any student in the class can tell between these type of posts. The big problem as far as I see it, is that a few student activists can fusk everything up by posting hundred of trolls and generally the disgruntled students will be the ones posting. The only true solution would be to have one vote per student but this requires some method of identifying the students who post and thus prevents the free nature of the site.

    Any suggestion for improvement of such a review site?

  • If you aren't Christian, you ought to be unbiased enough to see that the sig is simply fact--nothing more. However, as someone who is familiar with Christianity, I believe that impeding moral progress is more a property of Christian institutions rather than of Christianity itself. Christ was a radical--we can't forget that. Most modern conservative "Christian" views are incompatible with Christ's actual ideas.

    I contend that all organized religions are enemies of moral progress because their stability depends on lack of change. In times of change people tend to think for themselves. This is bad for organized religion for obvious (to the non-brainwashed) reasons.

    Possibly any belief in the existance of a god or gods by itself is at odds with the concept of human morality. This is why. The theist system of morality goes like this:
    Group of people invents god -> god dictates moral code -> Group attempts to impose moral code on other, incompatible hunmans, resulting in mush suffering -> Repeat.

    The humanist system of morality, on the other hand, goes something like this:
    Humans with different ideas about morality sit down and work things out with minimal loss of life.
    See--much simpler, easier, and doesn't make irrational assumtions or encourage hate and prejudice.

    Moreover, Bertrand Russel is awesome and you should have a Bertrand Russel sig too.

    P.S. Thomas Jefferson said this:
    "The Christian god can easily be pictured as virtually the same god as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three-headed monster; cruel, vengeful, and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three-headed, beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites."

    So... Ha Ha! So much for those right-wing conservative bastards who say "let's get rid of this separation of church and state crap so we can get back to the REAL values this country was founded on: CHRISTIAN values, reflecting the CHRISTIAN ideas of our founding fathers, who were all CHRISTIAN." For the ignorant folks out there, this is crazy because the first six presidents of the U.S. were deists, and OUR COUNTRY WAS FOUNDED ON THE RADICAL NOTION OF FREEDOM FROM RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION, DAMMIT! THAT'S WHY WE CAME OVER HERE! We cannot have this freedom without the separation of church and state--it is one of the most "sacred" of our country's values, next to freedom of speech. (No, not the right to carry ridiculously powerful assault weapons. Yes, we know they're for "hunting" purposes only.)

    Excuse my rant.
  • But it is neither nor the people writing the graffiti that are getting sued. It is the college, for linking to, that is the target of the lawsuit.

    Where did you get this information? According to the article, it is quite clear that the target of the suit is, not the school:

    Daniel Curzon-Brown, a professor at San Francisco City College, is one of the teachers reviewed on the site. He has filed a lawsuit against the site's webmaster claiming defamation and emotional distress.

    Have you read something that tells a different story?

  • I think this is the same analogy the ACLU was using, but I disagree with it somewhat. I think a more prudent analogy would be: What if you were the owner of a wall with a sign on it that said, "Please spray-paint your opinions of [public figure] here." In both cases, and the graffiti, it is obvious that the proprietor is not responsible for the what other people say, except that he does invite people to say it by using a medium he provides. IMO, that means the guy does have to take some responsibility for the content of his site, but said content is obviously not libelous or slanderous (as I understand it.) IMO, the webmaster has done nothing wrong, though I think the guy who wrote the review is a putz; he hasn't even taken the class!
  • Yep, the two stories are completely different. It could be a seperate suit altogether (your link refers to a "group of instructors," or it might be the same guy suing both Ryan and the school. Go figure.
  • I've got my share of bad teachers during my school days (which aren't finished yet). Let's face it : there will always be good teachers, bad teachers and "bad and arrogant" teachers.
    This last category is the worst. I've seen teachers that didn't want to give the maximum grade because they considered that was destined only to them, thus lowering your GPA. I saw teachers that gave you an incomplete even if you did well on the exam just for the fun of having you retaking that exam and spend the summer learning. Some of them made sarcastic comments regarding a wrong answer from their students (like "if you can prove this to me I'll give you a PhD").

    At one point or another we all experienced this. It doesn't make it right, but this is the way it is.
    Does this mean we should simply ignore the problem ? Definitely no.
    Yet, I read some of the comments of the students, and I think they definitely deserve their teacher. Ok, he's a lousy teacher, but this doesn't give you any right to curse him like that. Besides, if one doesn't understand that cursing someone hardly make him one's friend, then he should avoid expressing himself in public.
    I suppose the reaction of the teacher is even understandable in this case. Although I can't see why he is sueing the web site. After all, they are a simple messenger. Destroying the site won't change the opinion of his students. On the contrary.

    Then again, from my experience I could also tell that although the goal of the site is meritory, it probably won't do too much good.
    The best professors I've had until now were very special human beings and during the years they earned my respect without being too concerned about this. And this includes my respect both as teachers and as persons.
    On the other hand, I found that the main characteristic of the bad teachers was that they never tried to meet the requirements of the students, they never tried to "teach". They were exposing the material and that was it. The students always were a "hurd" with whom they had to spend their precious time.

    And since the bad teachers don't care about the opinions of their students anyway, why bother giving those grades ?
  • What is really going on here?

    Let's say that there is a set standard for education in a particular field. For example, let's say that the English 1A class is standardized across all the Universities, so that when a student graduates from this class, no matter where he took it, he will have the same understanding and command of English as any other student who graduated from this class with the same grade.

    Let's say further that this standard is reasonable: it is neither too lenient (i.e., crediting students for comprehension they do not have or else failing to require a necessary level of comprhension), nor too strict (i.e., it does not demand of students an unnecessary or excessive level of comprehension).

    So we have a universal standard, and we agree that the standard is reasonable. This results in a curriculum that reflects this standard, and it results in a requirement that the teachers teach this curriculum. Any teacher who teaches to a lower standard does their students a grave disservice, especially if they then pass these students as having met the standard. Teachers who teach to a higher standard may not fail their students, if they raise their students to the standard (and possibly above it). Teachers that teach to a higher standard, and abandon the laggards in their classroom, and finally fail them, are as bad as those that teach too leniently. Finally, teachers that are just plain incompetent also fail their students--though arguably no more or less than teachers too strict or too lenient.

    But what about teachers who rigorously and competently teach the standard, but are burdened by unprepared students? There are a number of memes out there relating to the abysmal education our high-school students receive. This education supposedly prepares them to achieve the college-level standards, but may in fact fail to do so.

    Is it the good teacher's fault that so many of his students fail? Should he call his class English 1A, but actually teach a remedial course? Wouldn't this be the same sort of teaching that allegedly goes on at the high-school level, where students are passed, for whatever reason except the only reason that matters: because they have learned the material?

    Looking to the students who fail may provide some insight into the skill of the teacher, but disgruntlement should never be taken seriously in a vacuum.

    IMHO, the solution to apparent bad teaching is obvious: if a teacher is failing a disproportionate number of students, this is immediately and painfully obvious to anyone who might care--the University administration, for example. In theory, this should be enough to warrant a review of the standard, the curriculum, and the teaching methods of the instructor. The administration can interview, survey, and poll the students, and draw rational conclusions both from their own observations and the data collected.

    Websites like the one discussed here are almost completely beside the point.

  • "If permitted to proceed, this case would sound the death knell for any website or bulletin board allowing members of the public to exchange opinions."

    Frankly, I think they're missing the point. From the website in question :

    "Take better classes: R e a d t h e R e v i e w s Who's best to take and who should you avoid?"

    "Teacher Review was created to help foster communication among the City College of San Francisco student body and to be a useful tool for students to use in obtaining a more rewarding educational experience. ... we can discover instructors who are conducive to our learning style without ever setting foot in a classroom."

    Now I'm sure that there are plenty of "websites or bulliten boards" where students "exchange opinions". The difference is that they don't set themselves up as a media resource. I see this website as trying to do just that, and thus I hold them to some standards of accountability. Its the difference between sponsering a "vacation discussion group" and claiming to be "a resource for planning your vaction and avoiding tourist traps." Teacher review tried to have it both ways, and I don't have much sympathy for them. An accurate disclosure would read something like this:

    No attempt has been made to verify the accuracy of statements made below. "Reviews" are submitted by volunteers, rather than solicited from a fair representation of students, do not require accountability, and are sometimes submitted based on heresay by students who have never taken classes by the professor in question. As a result, this website may or may not have any value whatsoever for a student looking for a challenging but instuctive course.

    Now you could do a good job of teacher reviews by forbidding annonymous postings, asking what class they took and what grade they recieved and then soliciting opinions from other students who aren't self selecting by bile before giving a ranking, but that would be work. Work, however, it what is needed to bill yourself as a resource worth listening to. Otherwise, you should just be honest and call yourself a discussion forum with no claims to be providing information that would allow a student to safely dismiss or pick an instructor "without setting foot in the classroom."

    -Kahuna Burger

  • Three words - UofT Faith Fich. - This woman has to be the worst possible professor that the University of Toronto hired in it entire history, and the worst prof I have ever had, and I have been through 3 different universities. UofT never posts her evaluations in the calendar since they are mostly swearing. Seriously, I remember after she flanked over 80% of the students in CSC238 (Discrete Math and automatons) people would actually say "Fucking Bitch" in her course evalutions, and trust me they had the right to do this, imagine being flanked because you brought your homework 2 minutes too late! - Seriously, 5 or 6 students ran into the class 2 minutes after she collected the homework, they got 0 - and flanked the course simply because every single mark in that course really really counts. She is the only prof I have seen that has profanities written after herself at the UofT washrooms and still the department would never fire her, simply because she is a single woman professor in CS and also she does some pretty serious research work. This prof can not explain anything at all in her classrooms, it's like you are listening to English but all you can hear is Greek! The only students that get decent marks in her courses are PhD candidates. No one takes another course with her.

    So, please, don't tell me there are no such bad teachers because life is a bitch and the Murphy's laws always work out as prescribed. I don't know this particular prof., so I wouldn't talk about him but trust me, there are such FUCKING MOTHER FUCKERS out there in the universities with such FUCKING attitudes that those MOTHER FUCKING FUCKERS simply must be put to sleep through lethal injections.

  • Here's a random quote from one of the reviewers, regarding the performance of a CS instructor:

    He is one of the worst instructor that I'd have. programing since I was 14 year old and I would love to challenge this guy to program anytime. His knowledges in computer science is very limited and I doubt this guy was major in computer science in his undergraduated program. DO NOT TAKE HIS CLASS because you will better off reading the dietel book than taking this guy class.

    Well, if the syntax in this guys programs is anything like the syntax in his English, he should not be so critical. I was ROTFL.

    You should re-post this story with the "It's funny. Laugh." logo.

  • Personally, I'd have to say that the professor has overreacted. Of course students will defame professors, it is inevitable. I can't imagine that a tenured professor will be able to prove damages were caused by a student bad-mouthing him on the internet. And if he can't do that, he won't have much of a case for libel.

    This story is most interesting because it's representative of academia's new watchfulness of the internet. I'm a student at columbia university, and we have a controversy surrounding a service called []. Basically, versity pays people to take notes in the larger lecture courses. These notes get posted on the internet and students can join versity (i believe for free) and see the notes. The professors here are concerned about the intellectual property of their lectures. My history professor told the class that some people in the university structure were considering suing One of my friends takes notes for versity, and his teacher made him stand up in a huge lecture hall, and chewed him out for the above reason, and for undermining the "academic integrity" of the school.

    Interesting, no? Although we generally think of higher education as at least one stronghold of the net, and of free speech, it seems like this isn't quite as true as we imagined. Especially not in the non-science disciplines.


  • I thought he was trying to be funny.

    What the Supreme Court says is whatever the person who interprets it says it means. I had one lawyer say that the ADA is dead due to the rulings last year. I disgree, it's just ill.

    I see the case he cited, not as a libel case but more towards a "hate speech" type of issue.

    IANAL, I just play one in my lawsuit with Mattel.

  • Hey, I didn't get a 12 "Super Informative" rating on my post, who do I sue?

  • Defamation (Slander or Libel) is a civil tort. It is brought by an individual or corporation. It is punished by paying money.

    A crime is brought by the government (the people, the state, the commonwealth, etc). It is punished by locking the wrongdoer in prison (sometimes just a fine). Defamation is not a crime in the United States. Maybe in other countries.

  • To sue (and win) you have to not only prove that the statement is false, but also that it was known (or should have known) to be false.

    Opinions cannot be libelous, unless they imply libelous facts. In other words you can't have a wrong opinion. Or at least legally.

    You can always win nominal damages ($1), if you prove that it is libel.

  • You are misinterpreting the case.

    This case is regarding a class of citizens, not an individual (or company). This is like saying that all blacks are child molesters. This is not saying Joe Smith is a child molester.

    But does criminal libel exists (and more importantly enforced) now or within the last 20 years?

  • I read about it on the ACLU website.

    Of couse the ACLU won on that, otherwise it would not have been mentioned on their website.

  • If the site started exercising editrorial control, then they will subject themselfs to libel action.

  • But that's just the point, if you posted on your high traffic website that I was a child molestor and it was untrue (don't we hope) and you had nothing to back it up, then that's you yourself trying to defame me in the eyes of others. Proving that this action actually harmed me in some way may be tougher, but that would be my problem.

    In this situation you have a bunch of anonymous yahoos from a school who didn't like said professor posting their views in a public forum. If I want to go out in the street and scream that Slashdot sucks, I can do it, and Slashdot can sue me if their readership suddenly drops due to my crusade (yeah, right!) but they certainly can't sue the city for having a street there for me to scream in.

    I do think that the proprietor of the website should work on a better filtering system, surely the content of the class has no relation to childish reviews that simply try to insult the teacher.

    All I can say is thank God that we still have the first amendment right to say that any professor who is suing the website over the words of others must suck. You suck professor!

    (Now prove that I've just libeled you in a court of law) (Didn't think so)

    --Mad Dreamer
  • I've had some profs bust my balls and I loved every minute of it. They would somehow show that the work was not only important for finding a grading scale but also for our own tangible good. There are hard profs and there are hard profs that INSPIRE.

    I'll also say that some profs are more inspiring to different people. For example, I have a physics prof that I like a lot but has been seriously disliked by everyone else I know. I think the reason is because 1) I'm not going for the grade cause "C-" (D = not pass) is fine with me, 2) I like how he derives stuff instead of wasting time on showing examples.

    As for students that complain 1) if the prof really sucks drop the class, 2) if its cause you're not working hard enough then enjoy the grade you get -- you earned it. I get low grades in some of my classes but I don't care, if I didn't care about the class why should I care about the grade -- in nowise go whining about it.

    I personally think I was graded unfairly once, but its a wierd situation where I didn't work to my full potential but niether did the rest of my it turns out I think the prof realized I was like one out of 3 people that actually cared about the class (and thus the grade as a reflection of my effort), expected more out of me, and graded me unfairly low (compared to other students, but not low compared to absolute standards) to add a little fire in my belly. It worked -- I don't totally respect him for it but I don't hate him for it (at least not after talking with him about it).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 26, 2000 @10:10PM (#1169093)
    I run the site PHS Sucks [], which I set up to criticize the administration at my high school. I put up some posters in the school, and the result has been that the administration is trying to hunt me down. I have heard from students who have heard from teachers, and one with direct knowledge of the administration, that I am a high priority.

    I have been able to remain anonymous thus far, and while some have criticized me for doing so, I think it's the only safe thing for now.

    The school administration should not be able to punish students for using their free speech to criticize the school. But they do, and while the student may be able to win in court eventually, that is something no one wants to go through.

    Anyway, to any other high school students out there contemplating setting up a website, I say go for it. You may want to remain anonymous for safety though. In any case, I would highly recommend making it abundantly clear that if the administration tries to retaliate in any way, you will also. The last thing the principal wants is your URL on the front page of your local paper, or on huge signs around the town. If they know you won't give up, they may think twice before giving you some Draconian punishment.
  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Monday March 27, 2000 @01:40AM (#1169094)
    The other aspects of your post are dealt with in other replies, so I'll leave them there. Besides, I tried responding and ended up with a five-page rant on the differences between a teacher who is simply hard and a teacher who is both hard and good, since you obviously don't understand that. Yes, a good teacher is demanding, but it takes much more than high standards to make a good teacher. Take it from someone who's known some of the best of the best, and some of the worst of the worst. But I'm ranting again...

    No, I'm going to talk about the "homophobia" bit. Frankly, looking over the reviews, I don't see a shred of it. Not a single reviewer gave any indication of having a problem with the fact that the professor was gay. Plenty of them had problems with the fact that the professor was a jerk about being gay. I don't blame them; I also have problems with people who are jerks about being gay. Just as I have problems with people who are jerks about being straight, bi, celibate, or whatever. Does that make me homophobic? I don't particularly think so; just someone who doesn't like jerks.

    For that matter, there's another thing I don't like. And it has some bearing on your post. Some people reading this might have seen this rant some time ago, but I think it applies again here. I'll put it to you straight: I'm white, male, Republican, straight, and Christian. Because of those factors, I find that every single thing I say and do is scrutinized quite intensely by people who don't even know me, looking for the slightest trace of racism, sexism, reactionism, homophobia, and lunatic zealotry. Why? Simply put, because of several coincidences involving my birth and subsequent upbringing, they assume I'm at least some combination of racist/misogynist/reactionary/homophobic/overzealo us, and probably all five. In other words, a total bastard. Blinded by their own prejudices, they can't possibly conceive of the possibility that I just might have a human heart. And while I do derive a bit of perverse pleasure from proving them wrong every single time, I still don't see why I or anyone else should have to do that.

    You are no different from them. You took the words of people you don't even know. Not finding anything immediately offensive to support your own prejudice, you read something completely inappropriate from the posts with absolutely no evidence to support your claims. And then you waltzed into Slashdot accusing them of homophobia.

    Racism, sexism, homophobia, hypersensitivity (be it racial, religious, political, or whatever in origin); they're all the same thing. They come from the same sources: paranoia and disrespect. They end in the same thing: hate. And they cause the same things: inequity, injustice, and suffering. The differences between them are trivial at best; they are basically all the same. And you exhibited one of these in your post. Think about that for a while.
  • After all, a bad grade represents a professor's bad opinion of the student

    No it doesn't. It represents the professors appraisal of the student's work. Such an appraisal should be objective and should NOT by any means make false/unfounded attacks on the students character ( that would be grounds for disciplinary action against the prof and/or a law suit ). Likewise, there are bounds of acceptability regarding a student grading a prof.

  • by delmoi ( 26744 ) on Monday March 27, 2000 @12:08AM (#1169096) Homepage
    Read more carefully.

    Actually, the review in question was from someone who had never taken his class, and therefore could not have gotten a bad grade. He simply stated that his current English teacher warned him not to curzon-brown's class.

    While I'm sure you enjoyed bitching about all the people who were better then you in high school, but who actually turned out not to be anywhere near as smart as you is nether relevant to the discussion or at all.
  • by Fender21 ( 44071 ) on Sunday March 26, 2000 @07:23PM (#1169097)
    I have been working as well on a site much like I think that Ryan's (Creator of Teacher Review) site is laid out in such a way that it gives somewhat of fairness to teacher's and students. Students reporting on Teachers is a valid resource and one that is truely needed in this day and age.

    When I choose what classes I want, I make damn sure that I ask around and find out what other students think of other teachers. Anyone that has been in any public collge can relate to some of the nightmares students have had with certain teachers. I look at this site as bringing word of mouth reviews to the web and I know it would be a great resource for my school. I think in all fairness that students should have a say in who to take because it is THEIR education and they are PAYING for this. We have a choice as students and more power to Ryan &

    I think this shines the light on Great Teachers and helps students find those great teachers. Pending this lawsuit's outcome, I will deploy my site for my school.

    Good luck Ryan, TeacherReview and thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union for helping him out in this time of need. The outcome of this case might very well shape the future of the Internet!

    If anyone knows of anything I can do to help Ryan & his site out please let me know.

    Also thanks to the Great Teachers that are out there.

  • by spyderbyte23 ( 96108 ) on Sunday March 26, 2000 @07:22PM (#1169098) Homepage
    From the article, the professor in question says:
    Or by the same angry students sending in multiple reviews, so your grade point average is a lie to begin with, and yet the webmaster is saying, 'Use this to choose your classes.' I don't know what to say. How can anyone defend this?

    Well, in fact, the webmaster states [] that he has been removing multiple reviews from the same person, where he can spot them. So you're probably actually getting a fair representation of how much people dislike this guy.

    Flamage can have value, IMHO. If his students are this worked up, I'll bet he really is a crappy teacher.

    If I were him, I'd think twice about suing. As Oscar Wilde said,"Never sue. They might prove it." Sure, he went on to ignore his own advice, but the point still stands. Can you imagine the professor sitting in class while the webmaster's lawyer calls student after student who says the class is a waste of time?

  • by jaed ( 99912 ) <> on Sunday March 26, 2000 @10:47PM (#1169099)

    I thought the CDA got repealed in '96 or '97.

    Two provisions in the CDA that imposed censorship on electronic communications were found to be unconstitutional (and therefore cannot legally be enforced). That didn't affect the rest of the CDA, including the provision limiting liability of a service provider.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday March 26, 2000 @11:15PM (#1169100) Homepage
    No way could the professor prevail on the merits. This case was brought for intimidation purposes. And that backfires in California, because California has an anti-SLAPP law. Read the ACLU's brief. []

    One interesting point here is that the Communications Decency Act, of all things, provides an absolute bar against such suits. A service provider cannot be held responsible for material posted by a user, and Lathouwers is a "service provider". He's offering an automated service which allows others to comment on teacher quality. Even if he does some manual editing, he doesn't lose that immunity. That was clearly established in a case involving AOL. So the case will probably be dismissed on Wednesday.

  • by ( 142825 ) on Sunday March 26, 2000 @10:37PM (#1169101) Homepage
    IANAL (but have learned because of Mattel []). You left out what proceeded "sometimes Brown sneakily changes his name", which was "My teacher also pointed out". Now if he lists "Brown" at one point, and at another point "Curzon-Brown" that could be considered sneaky.

    If Brown can show this professor did not feel that this was sneaky, then he may have a case.

    As for reasonable care, it's an automated process. The site points out that these are the opinions of the authors. This is not a newspaper that takes something that was sent in and via manual process inserts it into the galley sheets.

    It has been decided in a case with AOL (ZERAN v AMERICA ONLINE INC) that 230 (from the CDA) immunizes computer service providers. In Zeran, it was being argued that AOL did not remove the defamatory information quick enough. Even if this did not provide protection, Brown would have to show that they had notice of this. It does not look like he is making this argument.

    As to the public figure, there is also limited public figure. That is if it is an issue of public concern. The quality of teaching could be considered public concern.

    It is clearly marked that the information is opinion. Though you can't say in my opinion, X is a child molester and claim that it's only opinion and not actionable. The statements must be taken in context. Pritsker v. Brudnoy 452 N.E.2d 227 (1983), Cole v. Westinghouse 386 Mass 303 (1982).

    I have my summary judgment motion regarding my case [] available for you to read.

  • by J-Tempte ( 152754 ) on Sunday March 26, 2000 @10:23PM (#1169102)
    I attend Clemson University in South Carolina and my freshman year, a friend of mine created a page which does the exact same thing. The site, [] is located on the Phi Sigma Pi web site. A national Honors fraternity.

    I believe it was a Dr. Li in the Math department (MTHSC) who threatened for several months to sue the web-site creator and the fraternity for libel. The school paper [] picked up the story and there was a big stink for a couple of months.

    Now the lawsuit's basis was that the former web master (it is now automated via Perl) was attempting to remove profanity and total flamage from some of the posts. Dr. Li threatened to sue because of the fact that the former webmaster edited some of the submissions... just not enough b/c there was still profanity and the like. In the web masters defense, there were way too many submission for only one person and he had a hard time keeping up w/ both the site and his classes.

    The KICKER here is that I was with this former web master when the idea presented itself. The presenter was another college professor who was meeting with students from the Honors College. He/she was one of the best professors I have had to date so its obvious why he/she pushed this concept. As a matter of fact, he/she remains one of the top ranked teachers on the site.

    He/she was also a wonderful connection to have because any conversations between the faculty were forwarded to the former web master and friends and eventually to the web master's lawyer.

    So, after several months of B.S., the buffon finally got over the whole liberal thing and the web site was transformed into an automated message board w/ a little math functionality to compute rankings. Go BigBlue!!!
  • by Hrunting ( 2191 ) on Sunday March 26, 2000 @07:42PM (#1169103) Homepage
    How come no one ever reads the Bible anymore? If Judaism taught us one thing, it's 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.' This guy needs to quit his bawling and setup a student review web site. I can only imagine what professors must say about their students behind closed doors. Well, get some of that out into the open and make these kids eat their words. Let's get this brawl started, baby!

    I can only imagine what they'd say about me:
    This little bastard came in and told me how to do my job. The little prick. I made one stinkin' mistake on the blackboard and he had to point it out in a 'it is obvious that you made a mistake but I'll let you find it' question. That's right after waking up from a 45-minute nap which he pulled off in the front row! Pray to God you never get this kid.

    I bet he has fun with little boys down on Polk Street.

    Sheesh, honestly folks, if people are going to act childish, well, make sure they do it right, dammit.
  • by Anarkhia ( 2342 ) <> on Sunday March 26, 2000 @07:39PM (#1169104)
    Check out this [] slashdot story from a long time ago.

    The ACLU sued a school for suspending a student when he posted criticism of teachers on his web site.

    Does anyone know how this turned out?

  • by b1ng0 ( 7449 ) on Sunday March 26, 2000 @09:24PM (#1169105)
    ACLU Defends Student Website in Case that Threatens Free Expression on the Internet

    Monday, January 31, 2000

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- In a case with important implications for free speech on the Internet, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern
    California has asked a Superior Court to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at shutting down a website that provides student reviews of the teachers at San
    Francisco City College.

    The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court City College by professor Daniel Curzon Brown, who objects to what students had to say about his

    The ACLU, on behalf of Ryan Lathouwers, the creator of the Teacher Review website, says that the speech is protected under the First Amendment.
    Other defendants in the suit, the San Francisco Community College District, which is the governing body of City College, and the Associated Students of
    City College, agree.

    "The Teacher Review website is a perfect example of how the Internet functions as a unique and valuable information source," said ACLU of Northern
    California staff attorney Ann Brick. "If permitted to proceed, this case would sound the death knell for any website or bulletin board allowing members of
    the public to exchange opinions."

    A City College student himself at the time he created Teacher Review, Lathouwers said he wanted to provide an online resource for students trying to
    decide which teachers and courses to select. At the time, there was no systematic way for students to find out just what other students who had taken a
    class from any particular instructor had to say about the experience.

    The website, with its student-authored reviews, was launched in September 1997. Since that time, more than 5,000 individual reviews of nearly 600 City
    College instructors have been posted. The site, which has proved very popular with students, has been visited over 100,000 times.

    Curzon Brown, a tenured English professor, was rated on the website as one of the ten worst teachers at City College. Student reviews of Curzon Brown
    include comments like "pompous," "the most egotistical extremist there is" and "the worst teacher I have ever had the opportunity of knowing."

    "Imagine a liberal arts professor unable to tolerate his students expressing their own opinions, and unwilling to allow students to draw their own
    conclusions from what others have to say," said Bernard Burk of Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin, who is representing Lathouwers as
    a cooperating attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. "Fortunately, the First Amendment prevents people like Professor Curzon Brown from
    using lawsuits to silence their critics."

    Last October, Curzon Brown filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and all other City College employees "who have been or will be defamed by
    the content of Teacher Review." His suit seeks monetary damages, and an injunction prohibiting the posting of "defamatory" reviews on the website and
    prohibiting either City College or the Associated Students from linking to Teacher Review.

    A hearing is scheduled for March 29th in San Francisco Superior Court.

    The case is Curzon-Brown v. San Francisco Community College District. In addition to Burk and Brick, the case is being litigated by Celia P. Van Gorder
    and Sean A. Pager of Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin, and ACLU of Northern California attorney Margaret Crosby. A copy of the
    ACLU's motion is available online at
  • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Sunday March 26, 2000 @08:42PM (#1169106) Homepage
    Sounds a Dr Lan whos class I walked out of a
    few times...

    On his test in C/Unix the question was:
    What is the shell in unix called?

    The "correct" answer was csh.
    The wrong answers include:
    /bin/sh sh shell ksh tcsh ...

    When I posted part of his test to usenet, I was amazing how no one seemed to know the "correct" answers.

    When I appealed the grade (he claimed to have given me a C to be nice but siad I deserved a D) I had included printouts of posts from comp.lang.c. When he asked who these people were, I handed him a white book with a blue C on the front and said "one of them wrote this". His comment was they hadn't reviewd the book and would not consider it to help my case.

    The professor used to loose my assignments that were emailed to him. Funny, the sendmail logs showed it getting to his server. Why did he only loose stuff from EE/CE students and not CS students...hmmm.

    I think I'll write a letter to UMC asking for my money back. Maybe I should get a lawyer to write it :-)
  • by ( 142825 ) on Sunday March 26, 2000 @07:34PM (#1169107) Homepage
    The webmaster has immunity from the libel action in this case.

    The libel laws are clear. If this person is giving opinion, then it can't be libel. If it is stated as fact, then it may be.

    The statment

    Hopefully one semester not one single person will sign up for his class. What will he do then? Pick up boys on Polk Street to listen to his inanity?
    is clearly not libelous.

    Publications on the web should be held to be the same standard as the newspapers.

    Inflamatory opions are not libel. Wrong opinios are not libel.

    What some companies, such as Mattel [] , are using the libel laws as a way to quiet dissent or negative publicity.

    This guy appears to be trying to do the same.

    This is the review, I believe he is suing over.

    I have never had a class with this professor, but have heard so much hype about how heinous he is that I had to take a peek at his reviews. My current English 1A teacher (I won't name names) is who first tipped me off about him because I was trying to pick a 1B teacher (luckily I am taking advanced composition instead). In fact, my teacher--a usually gentle and forgiving person--warned our whole class against taking his class. My teacher also pointed out that sometimes Brown sneakily changes his name a little so people won't know that they are signing up for his class, so be careful! My teacher also told us that he/she re-routes his/her walking about campus specifically to not have to run into Brown!! That says a lot right there. I also wanted to add that yes, the A and B reviews are obviously fake as they are all written in exactly the same style (thinly disguised) and say basically the same thing. Thank god for teacher review, which I have heard Brown is trying to shut down. Hopefully one semester not one single person will sign up for his class. What will he do then? Pick up boys on Polk Street to listen to his inanity?

    It does not say that he is going to pick up male hustlers on Polk Street. And even if it did, it might be implying that he is picking up this hustlers to listen to his lecture, not to have sex.

    I just came back from the a software development conference. Most of the companies had offered free t-shirts (or some other junk) to listen to their lecture. I don't think it's a crime.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire