Re: Help me; I'm choking on a dick

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presumably these kids will enter the workforce at some point and so it makes sense that they learn the lesson about "anonymous" feedback sooner rather than later.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:57 AM
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Hah. I was just thinking the same thing. The college acted wrongly, but the kid learned a valuable life lesson.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:58 AM
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Ugh. I hadn't read Volokh in a year and you go and link and I make the mistake of reading the comments.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:59 AM
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Oh no, I didn't read that far down. To bring us closer together I must share your pain. If I'm not back in an hour, I got depressed and shot myself.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:00 AM
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2: but the kid learned a valuable life lesson.

Yes, that gays are vindictive.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:01 AM
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Yowsers, those are some sweet commenters.

The thing about comments like these on evaluations is that they really do invalidate any substantive criticisms, at least for a fairminded reader. No P&T committee will say, "yes, but *after* that part about hating fags, there were some troubling complaints about exam format."


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:03 AM
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Don't write titles your posts can't cash, FL. I was ready for Friday AM pr0n blogging and I get nothing.

As to the situation itself, I am really, really bothered by the college deciding to track down the author short of a direct threat. Really, really, really incredibly bothered. Yes, he probably did learn a valuable life lesson but I am still really^n bothered. I think a part of my reacting that way is that I feel, as a member of the queer community, that this was done on my behalf - in such an incredibly distant, anonymous, completely unrelated to the situation way that to think of it in those terms is ludicrous, yes - and that makes me uncomfortable.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:05 AM
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Labs you're far to good at finding the silver lining in student evaluations.

"Sweet, a death threat! Tenure committe'll have to chuck this one."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:07 AM
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The punishment methods here seem more like how children are punished rather than putative adults.

Like most kids, when Caroline or Joey gets out of time out, they has to say what they did wrong and apologize. The former reinforces the idea that punishment is given for a reason, not arbitrarily, and the latter at least develops the habit of apologizing.

Putative adults should be able to understand what they did wrong already, and either have developed their basic moral habits or they haven't.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:07 AM
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And it also seems that the kid submitted multiple evaluations. The fact that UGA has a policy that students are only permitted to submit one evaluation should be a hint that "anonymous" doesn't mean "untraceable."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:08 AM
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I think this is quite similar to any sensible blog comments policy - that anonymous comments are permitted, but people who abuse that privilege in order to post abusive shite can't assume that their anonymity will be respected in turn.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:08 AM
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Also, the essay is on the wrong topic. Rather than writing on tolerating LGTBQRSTUV persons, he should write on the uselessness of trolling.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:09 AM
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Bite me, DD.


Posted by: George Washington | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:10 AM
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Robust, I'll just email you the jpgs directly. I don't think the world is ready.

Sifu, the sad thing is that's how I think about evaluations all the time. Thank God students don't often think strategically when writing these things.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:10 AM
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Blog comment policy is a totally invalid comparison. There is much more at stake for the teacher than the blog writer in getting substantive and honest feedback and there is much more at stake for the student than the commenter in having her identity known.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:11 AM
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#13: here's ten cents kid, buy some proper obscenities.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:12 AM
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7: thanks for ending privacy, gay Nazi!

Yeah, though, what they did really is shitty.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:13 AM
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Don't you imagine that the instructor already knew who the commenter was anyway? That his total Fuck you attitude had been apparent in other ways? I don't know what good that would haven't done exactly since he likely didn't see the evals until after the class was over.

There's no good solution here. The university acted poorly, and the punishment surely increases the homophobe's sense of being put upon by a nauseatingly liberal academic culture.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:17 AM
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The state bar sends out judicial evaluations. But, if you do not evaluate the particular judge within a certain amount of time, you get a form back saying, "These evaluations are anonymous, but we know that you didnt send it back. Please respond with your anonymous evaluation immediately."


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:19 AM
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There is much more at stake for the teacher than the blog writer in getting substantive and honest feedback and there is much more at stake for the student than the commenter in having her identity known.

All the more reason to step, hard, on people who abuse the system. This isn't attorney/client privilege or anything.

(I also disagree that there is anything particular at stake in "getting substantive and honest feedback" - student evaluations of teachers seem to me to be every bit as worthless and counterproductive as blog comments. I've read dozens of blog comments that had something useful and intelligent to say that changed my mind on an important issue - how many student evaluations can one say the same about?)


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:20 AM
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There is much more at stake for the teacher than the blog writer in getting substantive and honest feedback and there is much more at stake for the student than the commenter in having her identity known.

All the more reason to step, hard, on people who abuse the system. This isn't attorney/client privilege or anything.

(I also disagree that there is anything particular at stake in "getting substantive and honest feedback" - student evaluations of teachers seem to me to be every bit as worthless and counterproductive as blog comments. I've read dozens of blog comments that had something useful and intelligent to say that changed my mind on an important issue - how many student evaluations can one say the same about?)


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:20 AM
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I was thinking more about the impact of student evals on things like tenure and fellowships and job appointments, but I do, in fact, make adjustments in my pedagogy when I get a series of substantive comments that share similar themes.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:22 AM
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i'm against all kinds of inquisition


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:22 AM
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I've read dozens of blog comments that had something useful and intelligent to say

It doesn't count as more useful comments if you just post the same ones repeatedly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:25 AM
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My college used to publish a compendium of course evaluation results for every undergraduate course. You could look up the average ratings and a synopsis of the feedback in a Zagat's style review.

At the back of the book, there was customarily a compendium of the most clever, funny, or entertaining verbatim comments. After a while, they stopped publishing the verbatims because it became apparent that students were deliberately writing provocative, over-the-top comments in order to score a place on the back cover.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:27 AM
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Yeah, I find the evaluations can be useful, though it's hard to decode them. A lot of times I've found an equal number of people asserting p as -p. But there are lots of things I do differently as a result of the feedback.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:27 AM
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I find I tend to obsess over mine. I can have 95% glowingly positive evals and the 5% that don't like me will keep me up for weeks.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:29 AM
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By 20 and 21 it is made obvious that double-d is abusing the one-comment-per-comment policy. Please stand by while the committee considers an essay topic to be assigned.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:30 AM
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I've never seen any. I don't even know if any students of mine have filled one out [I assume they have but they've never been forwarded to me]. I'm not sure if there's any formal process going on except at the local 'college' level. That may have changed in the last year [which was the last time I taught].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:31 AM
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Weeks? You're a model of level-headedness.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:31 AM
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I actually stopped reading them as a result, on the grounds that they were likely to make me insane.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:32 AM
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I just want to say that I always gave my professors awesome evaluations. Even the lame old boring ones.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:32 AM
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30,31: see, the entire system would work better if the students knew that they were under threat of revenge.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:34 AM
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I still kind of feel bad about one really bad evaluation I gave at U of C -- the instructor just ran the most annoying class, with a fair amount of straightforward misinformation and endless amounts of boring drivel. Hopefully I discredited myself by including the sentence "Would eat bees before taking another class from [X]."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:35 AM
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I set aside an afternoon for the freakout. It's usually fine or at least I can be talked down by nightfall.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:35 AM
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And when I checked "fair" or "needs improvement"? I dotted the "i's" with hearts and smiley faces to make it nicer.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:35 AM
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Bees are delicious, LB.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:36 AM
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And are one of the primary components of either hippies or bears, I can't remember which.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:37 AM
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AND FASCISTS.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:37 AM
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Dumb behavior all around.

Not just violating anonymity unjustifiably, but assigning the kid to reeducation workcamp. It just sums up everything that's wrong about changing attitudes and beliefs in the way that we've institutionally tried to do so for forty years. Wrong pragmatically: this is going to produce a useful result how, exactly? Wrong pedagogically: it's the opposite of what we do in classrooms most of the time. Wrong ethically.

The kid is a tool and an asshole and left alone it would only be a matter of time before he either stepped over a line in a situation where there were permanent consequences (like getting fired) or he'd find his natural level and wallow in some human pigpen somewhere, at which point society's main job is just making sure that fence is strong so that the piggies don't get mud all over the furniture.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:38 AM
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i'm against all kinds of inquisition

Why?



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:39 AM
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Come on, Burke, "re-education workcamp"? He has to write an essay.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:43 AM
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i didn't say i'm against gay


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:44 AM
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I still kind of feel bad about one really bad evaluation I gave at U of C

Why? I mean, if it was an honest evaluation, why should you feel any more guilty about it than a professor would feel giving a student an honest D?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:46 AM
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42: liberal fascist!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:46 AM
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I'm like Cala. I get so depressed over a single negative evaluation that it makes me put reading any evaluations for as long as possible.

Note, I've been reading evaluations for much longer than Cala, and I still have not grown a skin.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:48 AM
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elbee "I'd rather eat bees" is really cute.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:48 AM
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I figure honest evaluations help everybody. Except Professors I don't like, but fuck those ney York motherfuckers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:50 AM
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I gave lots of bad evaluations, but only where deserved. I had lots of bad professors. I gave good evaluations too. The only one I felt a little bad about was the young assistant prof. of whom I wrote something like "has absolutely no business teaching this course, as evidenced by [egregious concrete examples A, B and C]; probably should be fired as soon as possible". But in retrospect, it was totally true.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:50 AM
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44: Oh, he probably wasn't as helplessly stupid as I thought he was as a pissy teenager, and my Olympian scorn was undeserved. Not that I think I did him any harm, I'm just embarrassed in retrospect about having been a jerk.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:51 AM
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Yeah, seriously, LB, if someone wrote this on my eval I'd laugh about it for weeks.

I love how pissed Burke is, but I share the basic sentiment.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:51 AM
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LB is weak. I not only wrote a bad review for my really terrible prof at the same school, I also indulged in a bit of shadenfreude when he "decided not to apply for renewal" as an adjunct. But I really did feel that his sloppy teaching and complete lack of research was bringing the entire department down. Especially since, as an adjunct who didn't seem to do research, he was teaching a considerable portion of the intro classes for a couple years.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:52 AM
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51: There's an interesting question in here about in loco parentis, appropriate speech on campuses, and public universities.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:54 AM
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The rest of us love LB for her sentimental humanity. Please try not to kill it, bastards.

Also, whoever ultimately decided to broach anonymity should be set on fire. Unreal.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:54 AM
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"Would eat bees before taking another class from [X]."

This is the sort of thing that was happening in the situation I recounted in 25, only the comments were much more over the top. LB wouldn't have remotedly qualified for the back cover with that kind of tame vilification.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:55 AM
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You can't really get AIDS from choking on a dick, can you?


Posted by: ed bowlinger | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:56 AM
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56: Depends if there is contaminated saliva on it or not.


Posted by: Bill Frist, M.D. | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:57 AM
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so i recalled a tv program i watched back in japan, they were following one day of the immigration's officer, a woman, so her job was to go to the people's houses to evaluate whether people really live in marriage, the people have being evaluated were immigrants married the native, so they suspect it's fictional and against their law
and that woman officer goes to the bathroom and checks the small container for ladies, whether it is there or not, absence of it interpreted like the marriage is not for real something
and they praised it like a professional excellence of the woman officer
so disgusting, degrading


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:58 AM
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58: It really is degrading. In the U.S., at least, it's relatively rare.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:59 AM
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Nobody checking anyone's small container here, boy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:03 AM
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I get evaluations every day.

Why just today a judge told me, "I am more persuaded by the other lawyer's argument than I am your argument."

Fortunately, I get to give feedback immediately to the judge. "Please note my objection that your honor's ruling is completely lacking in a basis in law or fact and that you totally ignored the evidence."


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:04 AM
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cobblers to this:

It just sums up everything that's wrong about changing attitudes and beliefs in the way that we've institutionally tried to do so for forty years. Wrong pragmatically: this is going to produce a useful result how, exactly? Wrong pedagogically: it's the opposite of what we do in classrooms most of the time. Wrong ethically.

Pragmatically, it lets the gay teacher know that the admin is on his side and won't let nasty little fratboy bullies get away with abusing the assessment system to sling homophobic insults. It also lets other potential offenders know that this one won't fly.

"Pedagogically", most of the time you are not offering courses on "How To Not Put Homophobic Insults On Feedback Forms 101" (if you are, or equivalent, then have a free hug) so I don't see why there's an analogy. If this bloke was an adult and did that in a workplace assessment, he would almost certainly have been fired, without the option of an apology, so fuck him.

"Ethically", I don't see what the problem is. He decided not to play by the rules of the game, so why should he expect that he would still be allowed to hide behind the anonymity part of those rules. He's in the position of someone expecting the courts to enforce an illegal contract.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:06 AM
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but people who abuse that privilege in order to post abusive shite can't assume that their anonymity will be respected in turn.

I am basically with dsquared on this one. Harsh comments keep anonymity. Abusive ones do not. Students should know that.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:10 AM
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In the U.S., at least, it's relatively rare.

In the U.S. they have a far more insidious technique. The INS interviews the purported husband and wife in isolation from one another, and asks them how often they have sex. If they both claim to have sex more than once a month, the interrogator knows that they're not really married.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:11 AM
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Pragmatically, it lets the gay teacher know that the admin is on his side and won't let nasty little fratboy bullies get away with abusing the assessment system to sling homophobic insults.

Hear, hear. Let freedom ring. Once a sememster, near the end of every course.

He decided not to play by the rules of the game, so why should he expect that he would still be allowed to hide behind the anonymity part of those rules.

Well, sure, if you decide ahead of time what the rules are, and how they're prioritized, the answer drops out. Imagine if he'd used blue ink when they specifically said to use black ink.

It's fine if it has been made clear beforehand that such will be the university's response. As I understand it, that's not true here.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:11 AM
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50, 52: It was often pretty easy to tell who wrote those anonymous evaluations at that school. Students had to indicate their year and their major. That would often make it obvious -- throw in handwriting and you might as well have signed the things.

I'm like Cala and Robert. Throw me a mean evaluation and I am drinking Nyquil to sleep at night. The term my father died, I got an incredibly cruel one ("oudemia needs treatmet for her psychological problems so she won't take them out on students!" was the least of it) from a student who already knew she had failed the course for plagiarism.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:11 AM
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i recalled the story in connection with the Ethicist's post only
these english verb forms, so difficult to change


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:12 AM
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On a more constructive note, the appropriate forum for obliquely expressing repressed homosexual desire for your strict college instructor is the missed connections m4m section of craigslist.


Posted by: ed bowlinger | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:17 AM
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Well, sure, if you decide ahead of time what the rules are, and how they're prioritized, the answer drops out. Imagine if he'd used blue ink when they specifically said to use black ink.

well no. anyone who has reached adulthood ought to know about the rule "don't make personal insults" and since the college almost certainly didn't say "it's ok to make personal insults on this form", why did he assume that was what they meant?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:19 AM
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OT

What do PC users here use to edit movies -- as in 1) convert AVI to MPEG or other formats and 2) edit out the boring parts.

We now return you to dsquared's support for NSA wiretapping.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:22 AM
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66b: That's pretty incomprehensibly harsh. I'm not sure why anyone feels the need to get so personal on those forms. Small chance to be vindictive toward no productive purpose, and a reasonable chance it'll end up biting you in the ass one way or another. Even for those blinded by hatred, it just seems like a bad move.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:22 AM
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In general, the problem with student evaluations like this is that every student's opinion is weighted equally, the bright ones and the dullards, the industrious ones and the slackers. From a prof's perspective, it might be nice to know how one was perceived by the students who upheld their end of the implicit bargain. But of course from a university administrator's perspective, the perception of the broad middle is more important.

Today I filled out a survey from an airline, and they had a few questions in it designed to categorize me by how profitable a customer I am (status level in the frequent flyer program, number of round trips taken in the previous month, fare class paid). This cause me to think that the universities should similarly weight the feedback scores by how profitable the student is. Parents pay full tuition? We'll tailor the instruction to your specifications! Poor scholarship lad? Beggars can't be choosers, you ingrate!


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:24 AM
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well no. anyone who has reached adulthood ought to know about the rule "don't make personal insults" and since the college almost certainly didn't say "it's ok to make personal insults on this form", why did he assume that was what they meant?

The "no personal insults" argument might be more convincing coming from a different Timberite. Maybe M. Farrell or Weatherson. In any case, not buying it at the moment as sufficient to violate an expectation of anonymity in the absence of a specific warning that the same might happen. I'm fine with that sort of cabined anonymity.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:30 AM
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71: I should make it clear that no Maroon wrote such a thing. That was out here next to the salt water.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:33 AM
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I don't think I've ever made an insulting remark that I didn't stand behind - I even de-anonymised my pseudonym on "Aaronovitch Watch" when it became clear that was turning into something more than a joke blog. There isn't an "expectation of anonymity" on those forms if you're not going to use them for the purpose intended. As I say, in "the real world", anyone pulling that crap on a 360 degree assessment form would face the consequences.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:33 AM
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75: My strong suspicion is that if CT had an abusive troll problem, it would first announce that it was going to violate the anonymity of any future abusive troll prior to doing so. Perhaps I'm wrong about that.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:36 AM
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My university has official evaluations, but also a somewhat underground, student-run, online evaluation site---similiar to that Rate my Professor site, but pre-dating it. Anyway, I had one student call me a "psychofemisocialist" and, in the same review, she insulted my homemade cookies. And, oh yes, I know precisely who it was.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:42 AM
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well no. anyone who has reached adulthood ought to know about the rule "don't make personal insults"

Really? There's a "rule" like this? Because I hear personal insults slung around all the time, to people's faces and behind their backs. Sometimes that earns the insulter some scorn for being an asshole, sometimes it earns the insulter a few good laughs from a like-minded crowd.

I'm not endorsing the crap that kid said, and I'd probably have a hard time with it if I were the teacher, but the age-old addage of "sticks and stones" seems apt here. The evaluation is nasty and doesn't offer useful feedback -- so pitch it and move on.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:43 AM
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my homemade cookies.

That's a euphemism, right?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:45 AM
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Why does Becks hate Joe Disponzio so much?

BTW, a Crooked Timber poster outed me by name in a public comment after I made an overly sharp (but hardly abusive) comment about his political beliefs. With no warning. To his credit, he took the comment down after I complained. But there is at least one pretty sensitive poster over there. (No, it wasn't DD).


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:46 AM
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the age-old addage of "sticks and stones" seems apt here

We've got first-hand testimony from three people on this thread who say that they've (at the very least) lost sleep because of abusive comments on assessment forms so I don't think it does.

Sometimes that earns the insulter some scorn for being an asshole, sometimes it earns the insulter a few good laughs from a like-minded crowd.

And sometimes, they get the insulter sacked from their job. Particularly if the insulter is abusing a system provided in order to give useful feedback, and if they're failing to show respect for the standards of a hierarchy that they've willingly joined.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:46 AM
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re: 78

Well, everyone knows the 'don't chuck insults around if you aren't prepared to take the consequences' rule. It's not 'never chuck insults around, ever'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:47 AM
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We've got first-hand testimony from three people on this thread who say that they've (at the very least) lost sleep because of abusive comments on assessment forms so I don't think it does.

This might be the problem. You seem to be counting that as an "Against" and I'm counting that as a "For."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:49 AM
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What do you mean? How can it possibly be an advantage to a university to allow its staff to be harassed by morons with no countervailing benefit at all?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:50 AM
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oh yes, I know precisely who it was

Have you ever had a student like that take another class of yours? (Maybe they couldn't avoid it to fulfill a requirement.) If so, are you able to keep your feelings from creeping in, either by being moderately vindictive or bending over backwards to make sure you're not being vindictive?

(I don't mean that you'd fail the kid without cause, but maybe challenge them more in class, have a slightly tougher standard in grading, that sort of thing.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:53 AM
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I lost sleep over abusive comments! Count me in!

79.---No, I baked cookies for the last day of class. Unfortunately, I followed the Joy of Cooking's recipe, which results in a somewhat drier cookie than is now fashionable. In later teaching years, I just decided to roll with the abuse and switched to making Nainamo Bars.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:54 AM
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I'm with Robust and Tim. This is appalling behavior by the college, the kind that reinforces prejudices about hypercontrolling, intolerant liberal academia. It's stupid, counterproductive, and unethical.

Contrary to dsquared's assertions, the solution to someone who is breaking trust with you is not to break trust with them. (Absent a direct and legitimate threat of harm.)

Otherwise, I said my bit on course evaluations in this thread.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:54 AM
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85.---No, but then I wasn't teaching those sort of classes. I do know, however, that she is now a grad student, so I have every hope that she now teaches students who are mean to her.

(This episode was from my first year teaching, and so I was much more thin-skinned and nervy about everything.)


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:57 AM
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allow its staff to be harassed

Dsquared is trolling. Harassment?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:59 AM
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84: By preserving the promise of anonymity so that other non-abusive students will feel free to offer appropriately harsh critiques without fear of retaliation. If an explicit disclaimer is offered in advance -- "these are anonymous, but if we find abusive sexist/racist/homophobic comments, we will hunt you down" -- then fine. But when anonymity has been promised w/out caveats, then that's what's been promised.

And the fact is, this kid probably thought he was offering useful feedback. He almost certainly feels that the professor's homosexuality interfered with his learning and wanted the administration to know that. I actually prefer that his evaluation be so blatantly shite -- he could have written a scathing evaluation motivated by his prejudice but making no reference thereto, and it would have been taken seriously. This one obviously wasn't.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:59 AM
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As it happens, I'm on the committee to redesign my University's student evaluation forms. It may be a bit late in the process to chuck the whole thing and start over, but I'd nevertheless love to hear suggestions about what a useful form should look like.

We're leaning toward the following:
A) Only one multiple-choice question per broad course component (lecture, section, etc.). "Please rate the overall quality of the ___s"
B) An accompanying free-response box for each course component, with prompts meant to remind students to talk about readings, syllabus organization, etc.
C) A couple of questions meant to get students to assess how engaged they have been in the class.

The motivation for A is that the quantitative uses of these evaluations for promotion & tenure seem to rely solely on the bottom-line evaluation, and so there isn't much point in having lots of other multiple choice questions that are never really used. (We formerly had lots of questions that seemed to be getting at the same things. I pushed to replace these with questions aimed at different domains -- readings vs. lectures -- because I find that information useful, but I was outvoted in favor of fewer questions.)

The motivation for (C) seems to be Knecht's from #72, above: People want to know which evaluations to discount. I'm a bit skeptical that this will be sufficient, but it might help.

Any other suggestions?


Posted by: Uncreative | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:00 AM
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And the fact is, this kid probably thought he was offering useful feedback.

Sincerely doubt it.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:05 AM
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84: Joke.

This is a battle of intuitions that's influenced by various assumptions on other matters. I think the university experience should be different from the job experience. I want a higher standard for forcing a student to withdraw than for terminating at will employment, I expect my employer to rifle through e-mail and internet caches in ways that I do not want my university to do, etc.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:05 AM
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A real "psychofemisocialist" wouldn't do something as stereotypically feminine as bake cookies would she?

Really, I'm just appalled that anyone could be that ungrateful....none of my teachers ever baked cookies for us!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:05 AM
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91: It's probably not practical at all, but back when I taught I would have loved to be able to get feedback from my students a year or two later. During class, the bitched and moaned about how much more work they had to do for me than their friends who took the course from other instructors. I felt confident that (a) I walked them through the steps enough that the lengthier final paper wasn't actually a greater burden and (b) that they walked away with stronger writing and analytical skills than they would have if I let them get away with a shorter research paper. I'd love to know if I was actually right that I was making their lives easier down the line.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:07 AM
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No, I baked cookies for the last day of class.

This was so much better in my mind before.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:07 AM
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This cause me to think that the universities should similarly weight the feedback scores by how profitable the student is. Parents pay full tuition? We'll tailor the instruction to your specifications!

Y'know, now that you mention it, it wouldn't surprise me too much at (ahem) certain schools. They probably even have a system that links your name with the alumni relatives you named on the application and their post-graduation contributions, in order to better assess your lifetime profitability.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:07 AM
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Look, it's not like college expelled the student, or flunked him in the class or something. He got a fairly mild slap on the wrist for being an abusive dick on his evaluations. Let's not make this kid into some kind of first amendment martyr because wooooo, he hasta write an essay about how sorry he is! Hike up the jackboots and raise the blutfahne, mein liberals, because first they came for the vicious assholes and I did not speak out.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:10 AM
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People want to know which evaluations to discount.

I'm revealing my ignorance here, but what does this mean? Years ago I had a political science professor who inappropriately injected her beliefs on gun control into class. I didn't mention that at all in my course evaluation -- I made substantive comments on pace of work, selection of materials, guest speakers, etc.

It sounds like from what you're saying that these course evaluations are supposed to be more personal than that (that is, they are judging the teacher more than the usefulness of the course design) and less personal (they are not supposed to include judgments by the student, and the reviewers feel free to entirely dismiss any evaluation that appears to veer into personal judgments).

I'm not sure how to elicit that. Those goals seem somewhat at cross-purposes.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:10 AM
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Years ago I had a political science professor who inappropriately injected her beliefs on gun control into class. I didn't mention that at all in my course evaluation -- I made substantive comments on pace of work, selection of materials, guest speakers, etc.

Were your comments on those issues influenced by your feelings about her gun control comments?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:16 AM
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99: No, I don't mean that people want to discount evaluations from students who disagree with the professor. Rather, they don't want to take very seriously the opinions about the lectures of a student who never came to class, or opinions about the readings from someone who didn't do any. I'm not sure a prompt to the effect of "Please assess your level of engagement in the course" will elicit that information, but that seems to be what people have in mind.

As for what we want to elicit in the rest of the form: We definitely want judgments by the student about the pace of work, materials, speakers, etc., as well as about both the course design and the professor's effectiveness in lectures, office hours, and so on. The main sense in which we don't want "personal" judgments is when they cross the line to inappropriate comments about dress, looks, sexual orientation, etc. But that's not what the "engagement" question is meant to elicit in any case.


Posted by: Uncreative | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:16 AM
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Dsquared is trolling. Harassment?

I have just checked the Staff Handbook and Harassment Policy and yes, telling someone "I hope you eat a dick, get AIDS and die" is harassment. I am pretty sure that there's not an employment tribunal in the land that wouldn't agree with me.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:17 AM
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From Witt's link in 87:

Good God, this is exactly what I hated about those forms. The idea that an evaluation could possibly be "positive" or "negative" -- we're not in second grade, people! This is not a likeability contest!

Probably half of all life is a likeability contest. Second grade can be very realistic.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:17 AM
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102 is right.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:18 AM
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91: From a student perspective, that sounds pretty good, actually. One common problem with evaluations is that they're too long and have too many questions asking the same damn thing.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:18 AM
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For the record, I agree with D^2 here. He'd be fired if he were at work. You're not allowed to create a hostile environment for someone else.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:18 AM
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By preserving the promise of anonymity so that other non-abusive students will feel free to offer appropriately harsh critiques without fear of retaliation. If an explicit disclaimer is offered in advance -- "these are anonymous, but if we find abusive sexist/racist/homophobic comments, we will hunt you down" -- then fine. But when anonymity has been promised w/out caveats, then that's what's been promised

No, I don't think that this sort of anonymity has been implicitly or explicitly promised. If someone reads "this is anonymous" and thinks "whoopee! I can say 'choke on a dick and die!' with no repercussions!", then they're being silly.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:19 AM
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91 sounds pretty good to me. The multiple-choice section of my current school's evaluation form is pretty short, and I think the two best questions it asks are along the lines of "Do you think the professor did a good job of making the material understandable?" and "Would you recommend this course to others?". Since this is business school, the "Did this course provide you with useful new tools or applications?" is understandable, and sometimes very helpful.

Actually, this whole thread came at a really useful time. A prof of mine decided to try out a new syllabus on a standard course (it's one of 3-4 options for fulfilling one of our management course requirements), making it more quantitative and theoretical and less case-based. As he put it, "making it more of a Chicago course, less of a HBS course." He knows the material cold, and I really liked the new directions he was taking the course, but it seems that enough students complained about the homework load (this course has historically been pretty low on work) that he's ditching a lot of the new ideas for the rest of this term. I was just going to talk with him about my support for the new direction, but this reminds me to write everything down on the evaluation form and at least provide something written for the department heads.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:21 AM
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He'd be fired if he were at work.

I think there are plenty of workplaces where that isn't true. Clear sexual harassment (by which I mean physical contact, direct quid pro, etc.) doesn't even always result in firings.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:23 AM
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Probably half of all life is a likeability contest. Second grade can be very realistic.

You're just saying that because you get all the gold stars.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:23 AM
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102: but he's a student, not a fellow employee or a superior - doesn't that make a difference?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:23 AM
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Clear sexual harassment (by which I mean physical contact, direct quid pro, etc.) doesn't even always result in firings.

Should, though.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:23 AM
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re: 109

Generally, if it were the UK, he'd be fucked. No questions asked. Out the door. Do not pass GO.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:24 AM
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Here's a hypothetical for you: say there's a class which is taught, Economics 101. And every year, five or six of the football team take that class. And the football team has a tradition of competing with one another to make the nastiest, most personal remarks that they can on the assessment forms. It's an anonymous system and the college has decided that they are going to follow the hard line on anonymity that some people are taking on this thread, so there are literally no repercussions, year after year, for this tradition.

Now, as the administrator in charge of the Economics 101 course, you know that putting a woman, a black person or a gay person in to teach Economics 101, means subjecting that teacher to at least six instances of sexist, racist and/or homophobic harassment. Can you tolerate this situation? Either you make sure that this course is only ever taught by white males who are down with the jocks' sense of humour, or you allow someone to be harassed for doing their job. Neither is acceptable, either ethically or under employment law as it is currently (and correctly) written.

Doesn't this show that the absolute right of anonymity presupposed here can't be meant to cover abusive behaviour?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:24 AM
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but he's a student, not a fellow employee or a superior - doesn't that make a difference?

No: harassment is wrong when perpetrated by an employee or superior because it's against the law; it's wrong when perpetrated by a student because (in this case, at least) it was against the University Code of Conduct.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:25 AM
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I think there are plenty of workplaces where that isn't true. Clear sexual harassment (by which I mean physical contact, direct quid pro, etc.) doesn't even always result in firings.

True, but it's okay for a university to model itself on a workplace that would condemn abusive evaluations.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:25 AM
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re: 111

Well, if I were being abused by a student, I'd hope there'd be consequences. I don't see why being a student counts for much.

Certain kinds of harassment are less egregious because the student isn't in a position of power over the teacher, but other than that, why should their status make much difference?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:26 AM
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102: but he's a student, not a fellow employee or a superior - doesn't that make a difference?

not as much as you think, in the relevant way. Employers have a duty to not let their staff get harassed by customers as well as fellow employers - for example, if I ran a pub and refused to bar a customer who constantly groped the waitresses, they would definitely have a case against me.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:26 AM
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91: This might be too tiny a problem, but we ancient languages folks (and there were a lot of us at my institution, which taught pretty much every dead language deciphered and some that weren't) always had problems on our evaluations because there were several questions pertaining to whether or not the students had the opportunity to use the language outside of class and whether secondary materials such as films and tv shows were used in class. More often than not, rather than skipping these questions, the students would give the lowest possible rating. Certainly the administration knew to discount such things, but it still annoyed.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:28 AM
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What about those classes taught by World Historical figures that might deserve vituperation?

Dr Kissinger has the blood of thousands on his hands and has debased the American form of government. Also, I found the balance of discussion and lecture appropriate.


Posted by: ixnaythemetier | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:32 AM
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It seems that the obvious solution is simply not to promise absolute anonymity in the first place. I mean, you can say "well, obviously the promise of anonymity implicitly meant 'unless...'" But when you rely on implicit rather than explicit boundaries, you risk people holding back things that might otherwise have been useful because they guessed wrong about where the boundaries lay or weren't willing to risk guessing incorrectly.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:32 AM
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Were your comments on those issues influenced by your feelings about her gun control comments?

I would like to think not, but then of course I would, wouldn't I? It was 15 years ago, so I don't remember the details. I believe it was along the lines of saying that I thought it was helpful to have a guest speaker from a government agency to provide real-world perspective, that some of the readings were more valuable than others (I would probably have named them and said why), and so forth. I distinctly remember deciding that I couldn't comment on the gun control stuff because it would be unkind (since my point would have been that she was immature and showed poor judgment). I also remember wondering who else in class found it offensive.

103: We are no more obliged to respect "likability" as a reputable criterion than sex, skin color, or height.

And to 102, I guess my response is colored by my experience of overreaction to certain kinds of threats and underreaction to others. If we're going to decide that a vicious, gratuitously personal and nasty remark on a course evaluation constitutes "harassment" sufficient to merit this level of institutional response, what does that say about everything else the institution routinely ignores?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:33 AM
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Of course you're trolling, dsquared. The entire premise of this blog is anonymous cock-related commentary. Criticizing that is like going over to redstate.com and disrespecting Reagan.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:35 AM
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But when you rely on implicit rather than explicit boundaries, you risk people holding back things that might otherwise have been useful because

balance of risks, though? How many really useful comments do we really think might get choked off because the author sincerely believed they might get mistaken for abuse? We need to be aware that (as I read FL, Cala et al) the baseline here appears to be at least two or three abuses of the system to harass lecturers a year.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:35 AM
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It's an anonymous system and the college has decided that they are going to follow the hard line on anonymity that some people are taking on this thread, so there are literally no repercussions, year after year, for this tradition.

Um, so you say, "No more pure anonymity." And then punish the people who violate the policy. How hard is that?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:36 AM
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If I got an evaluation that said, "The professor is a fat moron liberal, go back to california", I would laugh and laugh.

If I got one that said, "I have some serious problems with the pedagogical approaches he took in his lectures, particularly the way he chose to describe kinship slavery in West Africa. Also, I really don't know why he assigned Lovejoy's work; Manning's seems more appropriate" I would probably collapse into a fetal ball for hours.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:38 AM
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114 was answered in part by Di upthread:

If an explicit disclaimer is offered in advance -- "these are anonymous, but if we find abusive sexist/racist/homophobic comments, we will hunt you down" -- then fine.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:41 AM
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(1) The eval was harassing, the decision to respond administratively therefore defensible;
(2) The assigned essay is stupid -- it will be insincere and useless. Washing his mouth out with soap probably now counts as assault, so how about
(a) Scrub departmental floors daily for a week;
(b) Launder the professor's clothes for a month

Now, as long as we're kludging blogging and teaching together,

(3) I too fixate on the one, usually criminally irresponsible evaluation that invariably shows up just as
(4) I freak out over the fact that if you go out into the Internets as yourself you will probably get someone posting bizarre sexual fantasies about you for the whole world to read

so

(5) Getting a thicker skin is probably a good idea, too.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:42 AM
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If I got one that said, "I have some serious problems with the pedagogical approaches he took in his lectures, particularly the way he chose to describe kinship slavery in West Africa. Also, I really don't know why he assigned Lovejoy's work; Manning's seems more appropriate" I would probably collapse into a fetal ball for hours.

Now that you've announced this, if you don't get this exact comment, I'll cry for the broken spirit of the American student.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:42 AM
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I believe it was along the lines of saying that I thought it was helpful to have a guest speaker from a government agency to provide real-world perspective, that some of the readings were more valuable than others (I would probably have named them and said why), and so forth.

This is exactly the sort of thing that evaluations are meant to elicit, of course.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:42 AM
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98 is my favorite thing that stras has ever written here.

And I think that D^2 is pretty much right. While I'm reflexively repulsed (too strong) by the anonymity-stripping, I'm also not fond of the little asshole getting away with this kind of bullshit. It's not as if the university is giving him a chip on his shoulder; it's obviously already there.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:42 AM
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If I got one that said, "I have some serious problems with the pedagogical approaches he took in his lectures, particularly the way he chose to describe kinship slavery in West Africa. Also, I really don't know why he assigned Lovejoy's work; Manning's seems more appropriate" I would probably collapse into a fetal ball for hours.

With good reason! (Timothy Burke, as we all know, teaches organic chemistry.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:42 AM
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I freak out over the fact that if you go out into the Internets as yourself you will probably get someone posting bizarre sexual fantasies about you for the whole world to read

I think slol's feeling unappreciated. Surely the Mineshaft can step up with some bizarre sexual fantasies?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:44 AM
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I freak out over the fact that if you go out into the Internets as yourself you will probably get someone posting bizarre sexual fantasies about you for the whole world to read

Once burned twice shy, eh?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:44 AM
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"(b) Launder the professor's clothes for a month" s/b "give the professor a tongue bath"


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:45 AM
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I think slol's feeling unappreciated. Surely the Mineshaft can step up with some bizarre sexual fantasies?

Right, well, I should have specified that the bizarre sexual fantasies that have shown up are not the ones I would like. I'm sure you can come up with some nicer ones.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:46 AM
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And 119 is hilariously absurd. I hate evaluation/feedback forms with irrelevant sections. When I upgrade my CAD software, it asks me where I learned about the program. Umm, some magazine in 1997? Presumably, if I'm upgrading, I'm already familiar with it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:46 AM
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I think the university behaved commendably.

The student learned a valuable life lesson at very little cost. No doubt he won't appreciate it now, but if in future years he remembers the time he thought he could get away with anything and discovered that he couldn't, and refrains accordingly from sending anonymous abuse to people he hates, the world will be, in a tiny way, a nicer place.

Seriously: if he'd done that kind of crap at work about a senior manager, he might not have been fired *for that*, but the management would have found some means of firing him quite legally in short order.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:46 AM
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136 to 135


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:47 AM
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bizarre sexual fantasies [...] (5) Getting a thicker skin

Huh, I just had a completely new bizarre sexual fantasy. Thanks, slol!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:47 AM
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it's okay for a university to model itself on a workplace that would condemn abusive evaluations

Agreed, absolutely. Just wanted to provide a reality check.

FWIW, I'm with those who say the response should have been to publicly announce that the student's comments are unacceptable and in future instances anonymity will be broken.

Student to professor harassment really is different from that by a co-worker or supervisor, I think. It's by definition a temporary relationship and an individual student has no disciplinary power over the prof.

If the college has a hate speech policy (I did read the whole thread, but missed it if someone said it did), then there's a much stronger case for identifying the student.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:47 AM
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The terrorists have clearly won.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:50 AM
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I think my daily reality is closer to what Sir Kraab is describing than Jesurgislac's picture. I don't think it's a UK/US split, though.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:52 AM
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114: I see I was multiply pwned while composing and that there is a code of conduct.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:54 AM
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I'm sure you can come up with some nicer ones.

Most people are just so closed-minded about the more creative uses of pineapple and mohair.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:56 AM
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Fortunately, universities are bastions of maturity. I just got an e-mail saying that we are changing our admissions procedure. Previously we interpreted SAT scores by taking the highest combined score. Now, if a student takes the SAT several times, we will combine their highest verbal and highest math, possibly from two different occasions. We feel this is important because now we can publish marginally higher SAT scores for our entering class. (The e-mail explicitly said this was the reason. I did appreciate their honesty, though. I'd be doubly annoyed if they tried to snowball some "it's for their own good" bullshit.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:58 AM
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I'm sitting on the fence about the violation of anonymity -- I can see the arguments for both sides -- but I disagree with 18, 40 and other comments saying that the punishment will backfire. Given that the school was going to break anonymity and figure out the identity of the student at all, I think they handled it ideally.

the punishment surely increases the homophobe's sense of being put upon by a nauseatingly liberal academic culture.

But that sense of being imposed on was pretty obviously already there, and strong. The ideas that gays should be closeted and right-wingers are persecuted in any meaningful way is based not on a view of life but on stories or a quasi-religious belief or something. "It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into." -- Jonathan Swift. There was a slight chance that the kid's mind would have been changed for the better by the requirement for an apology -- although it probably wasn't, if he got the punishment and wrote the 1,200-word apology on the same day -- but there was absolutely no risk of his opinion of gays, liberals or education getting any worse.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 10:59 AM
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Help me; I'm choking on a dick

You should have gotten that tracheotomy when I offered it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:02 AM
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If we were to concede that some punishment was called for, I do wonder what (if anything) would truly be effective. I disagree that the forced essay and apology is going to deter this kid from being an abusive jerk in the future. The essay aims to shame and IMHO shaming is hardly effective in changing abusive behavior. But I'm not sure what is effective.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:03 AM
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But I'm not sure what is effective.

Put him in life threatening danger and have a gay person save his life. Duh.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:04 AM
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Put him in life threatening danger and have a gay person save his life.

Right ho, Jeeves.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:06 AM
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This whole thread is making me feel guilty that I've never offered any actual feedback on course evaluation forms. I've always just filled in the little circles and left as quickly as possible.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:06 AM
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Put him in life threatening danger and have a gay person refuse to save his life. Duh.

It would put an end to the abusive conduct, anyway.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:07 AM
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Put him in life threatening danger and have a gay person save his life.

"Is it alright to come out now, mister gay man, sir?" "I'll do anything you say. Anything."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:07 AM
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152: I always did that too, but I don't feel guilty.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:08 AM
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"Oh my god, we're on a ship in the middle of the ocean and this man has a life-threatening colon blockage! IS THERE A GAY MAN ON THIS SHIP?"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:10 AM
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152: Whereas I'm looking back and feeling guilty about the detailed and horrifically arrogant comments I used to leave. ("The course was OK, but the textbook should have been X instead of Y for its better treatment of topics A, B, and C. The instructor should emphasized topic D more because of its relation to current research on E....")


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:13 AM
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126: If I got an evaluation that said, "The professor is a fat moron liberal, go back to california", I would laugh and laugh.

If the evaluation said "I hope the professor dies horribly because he is a fat moron liberal, go back to california," you might not personally feel threatened, but I don't think it would be unreasonable if you did, especially if we lived in a world where fat liberals have a pretty well-documented history of being assaulted.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:14 AM
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Now, if a student takes the SAT several times, we will combine their highest verbal and highest math, possibly from two different occasions. We feel this is important because now we can publish marginally higher SAT scores for our entering class.

Also this should help you attract people who can afford to take the SAT over and over again.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:16 AM
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"The course was OK, but the textbook should have been X instead of Y for its better treatment of topics A, B, and C. The instructor should emphasized topic D more because of its relation to current research on E...."

You feel bad about leaving *that* kind of comment? That's a perfectly good one. It is very specific, so the recommendations can either be accepted or one can present a justification for not following them.

You're right that it sounds arrogant. "What, this kid thinks I don't know about textbook X and current research on E?!" But an attempt to address course content on that kind of knowledgeable level is so much more useful than "the material was stupid and I didn't understand it."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:19 AM
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Also this should help you attract people who can afford to take the SAT over and over again

Not to mention people cynical enough to sureptitiously spend all the time allotted for the verbal section on math, and then the next time vice versa.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:20 AM
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154: I don't really like John Waters in general (I also don't have any basis for holding that opinion, since I like Serial Mom and haven't seen any of his other films in full), but he's awesome in that.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:20 AM
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Actually, the one time I got a comment really close to essears was when I included some early Evelyn Fox Keller essays on the syllabus. The student complained that their Freudian approach was outdated. And you know what, he was right.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:21 AM
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especially if we lived in a world where fat liberals have a pretty well-documented history of being assaulted

Gawd, if only. If you think someone was threatening the professor, kick him out. If you think the problem is one of reinforcing hostile associations with a disfavored group, then (a) have the administration come out strongly and stand behind the teacher, and (b) advise students that such language (and similar) will result in stripped anonymity in the future.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:22 AM
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164 gets it right. The comment wasn't threatening violence.

As a person on the student side of these exchanges, I would be disturbed to ever be told that the anonymity was being breached for this unimportant of a reason. What about in situations where the professor himself is an asshole and wants revenge? How hard and how unacceptable would it be for him to break the anonymity?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:30 AM
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I think 98 is the proper response to 164 and 165.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:36 AM
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At the extended story Volokh linked to, there's a quote from Prof. Disponzio: "Evaluations are a big deal at Georgia. I went through my exams, and I actually thought it was somebody else early on. I really could not make a determination, though."

There's something troubling about that to me. I don't think professors should be playing amateur sleuth with their course evaluations - particularly since there's no guarantee they're going to get it right. In a sense, it's better that the administration ended up stepping in, because I think it would otherwise be hard for the professor to deal objectively with someone he suspected (erroneously) of making such hateful remarks. As has been mentioned upthread, typed evaluations should be what's provided to the professor.


Posted by: Holly | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:37 AM
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166: No, the point is the breaking of the anonymity, not the punishment. The chilling effect will definitely extend to non-fag-bashing students.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:40 AM
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I think 98 is the proper response to 164 and 165.

I think 98 is dismissive and a little silly. "So they violated Miranda. It's not like they beat the confession out of him. And he was guilty anyway." Nobody is feeling especially sorry for this particular kid, I don't think.

(On preview, ditto what Ned said in 168.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:46 AM
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D^2 is certainly right that a person stupid enough to write homophobic insults on an anonymous workplace evaluation would be fired. This guy got away with practically no consequences, except that now lots of people know that he's a creepy homophobic troll. Too bad.

But polite attempts at reeducation are useless. My employer had a required diversity training program, and the two people I know for sure are assholes on the subject complained going in, sat passively through the program, and grumbled going out.

In a tactless moment during the break I asked one of them why, if diversity was a non-issue, his department (a web design group) consisted entirely of white males, and he said he just couldn't find any qualified female or minority applicants. Strange, since the main IT group seems to be around 50% south asian, and another 10% Japanese. Maybe he meant the female and minority applicants were over-qualified.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:46 AM
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151 is perfect and made me laugh.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:54 AM
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The best evaluation that I can imagine would consist of the crayon-and-blood-scrawled lyrics to Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:57 AM
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172: I got one that answered every question with "oudemia is HOT!"

(CA got one where every answer was either "SUCKS" or "SUCKED." But he also had a woman draw a comic book all about him. It was actually well done and rather sweet.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:00 PM
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I met an American guy in China who'd been caught somewhere foreigners weren't supposed to go (this was in the 80s, when the country was just opening up to tourism), and he said the authorities had checked his documents and then made him write an apology. He cribbed most of it from picture-postcard captions ("I was cycling along, seeing peasant farmers toiling in the fields of picturesque X province...)


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:01 PM
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I'm coming late to this, but I find it helpful to jokingly remind them (before they do their informal written course eval just for me) that I will honestly try not to think about who they come from, but they should remember that, as a student of paleography, I am hyperaware of penmanship differences, so I might be tempted to figure out who wrote that I should die in a hole. They laugh, we laugh, but also, I think it helps deal with some of their temptations to use the official eval forms as a site for hilarious jokes rather than constructive criticism. I have seen some doozies in my day. They know I can take a lot of negative comments without withering, and I still get plenty, but they also need to know that anything handwritten cannot but be identified by someone who's been reading your damn handwritten in-class writings every day for an entire semester.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:03 PM
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Also, at my school, they throw out evals that fill in all 5's or all 1's for the bubble portion. I think I have the right to tell them that, so if they want their blistering criticism or wild accolades to count statistically, they have to temper them with a few 2's or 4's. They deserve to know how the system works.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:06 PM
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The chilling effect will definitely extend to non-fag-bashing students.

If anonymity were to be broken for non-fag-bashing offenses, I'd be opposed to it. I don't think that's a big enough concern to stop a university from cracking down on this kind of thing.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:09 PM
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Rather than calling in a handwriting expert, they should make the whole class come back in, explain the situation, and make them all sit through some tedious sensitivity training, and hope that the non-guilty students track down the person who made the comment and beat him for ruining their Saturday.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:11 PM
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The problem with the chilling effect isn't how good the reason was for breaking anonymity, it's the reminder that breaking anonymity is trivially easy. While anyone who isn't an idiot is going to assume that going in, the system would work better if people were (with respect to their appropriate criticisms) idiots, and did think their anonymity was secure.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:13 PM
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What anonymity is there in evaluations? Don't you know who wrote them? Maybe it's because my students do so much in-class writing, but I know their handwriting like I know my own. I can sort their exams without looking at the names. I think the only way you'd ever get truly anonymous evals would be if it were all bubbles or if the administration typed them all (which I have seen done, but God, what an annoying job that would be).


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:14 PM
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the authorities had checked his documents and then made him write an apology

That seems to be a pattern with those people.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:15 PM
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I think the only way you'd ever get truly anonymous evals would be if it were all bubbles or if the administration typed them all

THe latter is the way they were handled at every school I attended.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:17 PM
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During my senior year my school began to transition to online evaluations, which are more anonymous and don't waste class time. Getting people to actually do them is the hard part, of course.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:19 PM
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(And at the school at which I taught.)

I can't beileve that anyone doesn't do it that way. Tedious, sure, but at least it preserves some of the anonymity.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:19 PM
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And as far as a chilling effect goes, my evals are still really critical, quite often. They post their truly cruel comments at RMP.com, but on the evals they say, "Professor lectured too much, favored students who raised their hands. Readings were boring. Would not take a class from this prof again." Online it's "AWB comes across as something less than a college instructor. It's not that she's too young or that she's a grad student; it's that she's stupid."

And the difference is an important one. The latter comment is not going to be productive on an official eval. There's stuff in the former that I can be aware of and that might be helpful to me. In the latter, I learn nothing other than that some people think I'm stupid.

The promise of absolute anonymity is not actually very helpful for stimulating useful feedback. Something in the middle ground is much better, because it challenges them to frame their comments as problems with the class, rather than personal attacks.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:20 PM
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As it happens I am just about to go pick up last semester's evaluations from my mailbox. I'll liveblog reading them.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:20 PM
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The kid is undoubtedly a worthless little waste of water and trace elements. I don't feel sorry for him. I find it a weird sort of validation of the progress of equality in our society that I think the most responsible, adult reaction would have been to read the evaluation and then say, "Well, well, isn't that classy? Let's just show this to Mr. Shredder and see what he has to say."


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:21 PM
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There's something particularly humiliating and absurd about the coerced apology,* and about the coerced mea culpa essay

Yes, there is. It could only be better if the student were also forced to kneel in a corner of the men's room with his mouth open holding a sheet of paper on which he had written "Please choke me with your AIDS-infected cock!"

Sheesh. Look, again: the notion that anyone can say what they like and no-one will ever find out is false. Had the student not realised this until he reached the working world, he'd have learned this by getting fired - unless he was smart enough by then only to pass on his "anonymous" verbal abuse to people not in a position to complain about him. He's a bully and an asshole, and the college did exactly the right thing. Good for them.

PS: I don't actually think he should have been made to kneel in the corner of the men's room with his sign. The Queer Studies class would have done fine.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:23 PM
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I am just about to go pick up last semester's evaluations from my mailbox

He reads student evaluations, he wears pants to class.... Once again, Gonerill amazes with his residual commitment to responsible conduct in spite of already being tenured.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:24 PM
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Gonerill is just waiting for his full professorship or possibly his named chair before throwing in the towel completely.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:27 PM
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190: "before throwing in the towel completely" s/b "before taking off the towel completely"


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:31 PM
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Gonerill wears a towel to blog?


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:32 PM
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The kid is undoubtedly a worthless little waste of water and trace elements. I don't feel sorry for him.

That really isnt the point, is it?

You do not evaluate a system based on whether the system can fairly treat likable people.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:34 PM
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The first one out of the envelope reads "Excellent instructor with a brilliant mind." I shit you not. I think I'll stop the liveblogging now as it can only get worse.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:35 PM
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Well, it's not so much being unlikable, as having committed specific sorts of misconduct. At which point I think it's a reasonable way to evaluate the system.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:36 PM
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194: You do have to tell us if they still think you look like Harry Potter.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:38 PM
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will, where can I find your email address? I was going to send you something.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:38 PM
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You can, however, evaluate a system based on whether the system can fairly treat people who play by the rules.

The point is: the evaluation forms weren't supplied so that the students could get their jollies writing bigoted abuse about the lecturers. The student didn't follow instructions: the student was abusive: the student was stupid enough to think he'd get away with it because it was labelled "anonymous".


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:38 PM
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My senior year of high school, my English teacher (a teacher I liked a lot prior to this incident: ooh, foreshadowing!) had us write evaluations on her class. I liked the teacher and the class, so I thought hard about which parts were the best and which parts needed improvement, and wrote what I thought was balanced and constructive criticism. The teacher was angry and upset (I think she expected a lot of "dear teacher your so cool and your class is fun and intrustine thanks") and a few days later pulled me out of class to sit on the stairs and talk. She showed me my evaluation form and told me she had compared the handwriting on it to samples from everyone in all of her classes. She had narrowed the options down to me and one other student, who had denied authorship. Did I write it?

I said yes, feeling trapped and kind of betrayed, and she proceeded to tell me why I was wrong about everything I said and that not everyone could live up to my academic standards and I really needed to think more carefully about my criticism of others in the future. I remember being really hurt and offended, partly that she seemed to have missed my point, but mostly because she had gone on and on about privacy and anonymity and honesty and then really couldn't handle any non-glowing reviews.

I have a hard time saying much on evaluations now; I'm always super tempted to disguise my handwriting or something.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:39 PM
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Burke in 40: Wrong pedagogically: it's the opposite of what we do in classrooms most of the time. I don't understand what you're saying here. Could you please spell this out?

Somewhat unrelated, does anyone have any tips for how to do "anonymous" evaluations of one's superiors at work. I had to do this at WF. I didn't worry so much about the evaluations of store leadership, since those were all typed up, and the sample size was large enough that it would be hard to identify any one individual. And the first time I did it I had a totally reasonable person who probably tried to improve on areas where there was constructive feedback.

Then I had to do one for S. This was before *our* relationship had deteriorated, but I think she'd gotten soem bad evals in the past. Before we had to fill them out, S. actually posted something in our stockroom saying that if any of us had strong feelings about anything, she hoped that we would vent to her before filling out the form.

One of my coworkers--a woman with years of experience at another company who had held higher management level positions, but wanted to chill down--later said that there were some things she wished that she'd said a few weeks later, but of course, she wasn't going to go to management in a non-anonymous way.

I think I said that S. was very intense, and that this was a strength, because it demonstrated her passion to drive sales, but that her very intensity sometimes got in the way, though I really tried to softpedal the negative stuff. There were only 6 people in the department, so I figured that they weren't all that anonymous. I'm not sure what the point of the whole thing was. Maybe it would be possible for management to use them in a way that didn't lead her to try to exact revenge on us, but I doubt it. If our evaluations could get her fired, then it might have been useful to tell the truth, but since they weren't, it probably wasn't good for us to have her know what we thought of her.

How do you all approach these things?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:40 PM
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Well, it's not so much being unlikable, as having committed specific sorts of misconduct. At which point I think it's a reasonable way to evaluate the system.

But this approach would effectively kill Miranda, the Fourth Amendment, probably the Sixth as well. Hell, with Miranda challenges, by definition you've got somebody who's confessed to committing specific sorts of misconduct. Search and seizure? You don't litigate if they didn't find some evidence of specific bad conduct. "If you don't do anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about," is really not the kind of reasoning I expect to see in these here parts. Am I misunderstanding the argument?!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:42 PM
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Right. The protection of anonymity is to help a student who felt disappointed or alienated by the course communicate dissatisfaction to improve instruction. This student could have written, "I felt silenced by the assumption of pro-gay politics in the classroom," or a thousand other comments that could help the instructor to improve rhetorical strategy.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:42 PM
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Look, again: the notion that anyone can say what they like and no-one will ever find out is false.

That comment seems off-point. The notion that anyone can say whatever they want in any circumstance and they'll always get away with it is of course false. The notion that it's always the case that the authorities will find out who made some particular comment is equally false, and neither of them tell us what the school should have done here.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:43 PM
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Uh, 202 to above.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:43 PM
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I think that a lot of this is really missing the point. When they say course evaluations are "anonymous" it's just shorthand for "they won't affect your grade, so don't pull your punches or kiss up." At least, I've never seen any other explanation for this anonymity. And even in this case where a student said something that ended up getting him in trouble, it didn't affect his performance in the class, so I think there's a case to be made that the promise of anonymity -was- respected. At least, this is what I make of my gut feeling that the assigned punishment is defensible while a failing grade in the class would not have been. Unless he failed it by himself.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:44 PM
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I suspect that this has been said, but the anonymity system should be explained clearly.

With attorney/client confidences, I explain the exceptions. For example, "I'm going to commit a crime" doesn't stay confidential.

Harsh statements like "this professor was really stupid and lazy" stay confidential.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:44 PM
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oudemia:

wilsontuck2001@yahoo.com


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:45 PM
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178: and beat him for ruining their Saturday

They were thirty-five total strangers, with nothing in common aside from being in the same class, meeting for the first thirty-seventh time: brains, beauties, jocks, criminals, and a basketcase an asshole. Before the day was over, they broke the rules, bared their souls, and touched each other in a way they never dreamed possible.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:46 PM
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199 is shitty. I like criticism because it can be really helpful, and I get very little from the "I loved this class!!!" evals. Breaching anonymity and humiliating a student for being honest and constructive undermines the whole purpose of evals.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:46 PM
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201: My take is that the safeguards appropriate to criminal law and government power aren't appropriate or necessary for an educational institution mildly disciplining a student for harassing speech.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:48 PM
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You can, however, evaluate a system based on whether the system can fairly treat people who play by the rules.

The point is: the evaluation forms weren't supplied so that the students could get their jollies writing bigoted abuse about the lecturers. The student didn't follow instructions: the student was abusive: the student was stupid enough to think he'd get away with it because it was labelled "anonymous".

Right, and the right to privacy enshrined in the Fourth Amendment wasn't provided so that drug dealers could safely stash heroin in the back bedroom. Maybe the dealer is stupid to think he can get away with it because it's carefully hidden in his home, but we don't just say tough cookies when the police conduct a warrantless search without probable cause just because it turns out the guys was guilty.

(Oh, who am I kidding? That's exactly what we say. But we shouldn't.)

(And, yes, I know the evaluation thing is a bit short of a dramatic civil liberties question. But it's not that far short.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:49 PM
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I am kind of curious what would have happened had the student maintained his innocence. I mean the teacher guessed wrong about who it was and I don't think handwriting examination is held as being 100% reliable so it seems like the correct position for the student would have been deny everything.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:51 PM
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The student didn't follow instructions:

Jesurgislac, I do not think this is clearly the case.

I agree that this student crossed the line, but it wasn't by much.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:52 PM
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As a student, I was clueless about evaluations and basically did as zadfrack described, not offering any actual feedback. Worse, when a professor nudged me to write up a potential hire, I failed to understand that he was saying, "As one of two majors in this department, you can keep this incompetent buffoon off the faculty." Oops.

In my limited experience as a teacher, I am in the helpy-chalk/oudemia camp. Out of my last stack of evals from a class at Downtown U., most were positive, a few were middling and one was scathing, mean and dishonest. The last is the only one I remember well, and it still upsets me a little.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:52 PM
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The one part that confuses me is that the article talks about moving to a Web-based form that allows for better anonymity. How can it both be a good thing to expose a student for an inappropriate review, and to move to a system that will make it impossible to expose future students for their inappropriate reviews?


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:54 PM
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...and touched each other in a way they never dreamed possible....

Leading to an additional weekend spent suffering through a seminar on gender roles and homophobia.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:55 PM
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a) I learned about this post from a cryptic note clutched in the dead man's hand.

b) It would have been helpful if more of the comments were written in Linear A

c) This thread provided me with many useful tools for trolling, which nicely complement those I learned in Trolling for Tools

d) The practicum on kinship systems in Samoa was interesting, but Mead is no substitute for Kava.

e) shouldn't this questionaire have the mark indicating it was approved by the IRB for use on human subjects?


Posted by: anonymous | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:55 PM
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One of the main problems here is that instructors rarely explain what evaluations are for, and they don't model the kind of evaluative behavior that gets results. About 2/3 of the way through the semester, I like to ask them to write a quick eval of how they think I'm doing as their teacher, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and also how they think they're doing as my students, what their strengths and weaknesses are. Is there anything they want to tell me to make the rest of the semester more doable for them? Is there anything they want to communicate about their own efforts to keep up with the material? Usually, it's a big wake-up call to all of us to stop running on auto-pilot and that's when I see a huge increase both in their efforts to keep up with the reading schedule as well as in my efforts to keep up with the grading (which I'm awful about).


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:56 PM
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I hope he chokes on a dick, gets AIDS and dies. To hell with all gay teachers who are terrible with their jobs and try to fail students!"

Ok, maybe it was further across the line than I thought.
A statement like, "he made the class about homosexuality too much and is advocating a lifestyle that will kill him. Have at it!" Does that cross the line?

But, I still think that the school should be clear about what will not remain secret.

I expect a college or university to strive for clarity and fairness.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:56 PM
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Question: If a client is charged with threatening his attorney with death, can he get the evidence thrown out on the grounds of privilege? Seriously.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:00 PM
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216: Leading to an additional weekend spent suffering through a seminar on gender roles and homophobia in Key West.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:01 PM
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220:
no. Not privileged.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:01 PM
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Nobody is feeling especially sorry for this particular kid, I don't think.

I think the effect of Tim's comments is to object to how this one specific kid was treated. Here's what Tim recommends the school do:

so you say, "No more pure anonymity." And then punish the people who violate the policy.

The only difference between what Tim proposes and what the school actually did is that the one asshole kid gets busted.

I know that's oversimple - what Tim objects to is the university going against its own rules. But of course, the school has a code of conduct, which is also a rule and which the guy seems to have violated.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:04 PM
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Is Downtown U. my alma mater, Last Chance U.? The "urban university".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:05 PM
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224 to Jesus in 214.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:06 PM
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I've stayed out the debate thus far, but I will take sides and say that I agree with Di and Cryptic Ned. I would state my position even more strongly: a university ought never take disciplinary action against a student for speech that would be protected, outside the university, by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:07 PM
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224: Yes.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:07 PM
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My take is that the safeguards appropriate to criminal law and government power aren't appropriate or necessary for an educational institution mildly disciplining a student for harassing speech.

Well, that's a question of pedagogical philosophy, and one on which I will have to respectfully disagree. It's not really a question, for me, about how harsh or mild the discipline might be as much as creating a model for how standard are established and enforced. I don't like getting young people used to the idea that authority can change the ground rules whenever and however they like if they think a bad enough person/behavior is involved.

In this particular case, it really is simple enough to just change the promise of anonymity prospectively by telling the student body, "We got this nasty, vitriolic piece of crap which we will not tolerate. Although we want students to feel comfortable offering honest evaluations, evaluations that meet this set of criteria will be subject to investigation."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:10 PM
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Tim objects to is the university going against its own rules. But of course, the school has a code of conduct, which is also a rule and which the guy seems to have violated.

The view that rule-violators don't get the protection of rules which are designed to constrain what the authorities can do to rule-breakers is an interesting one, but it's been discussed above.

Also, since the professor was originally wrong about which wrote the comment, it's at least possible that some other students had their anonymity stripped in the course of the investigation.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:10 PM
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229: a lot hinges on the subtle distinction between a rule-violator and a rule-breaker.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:12 PM
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Would the response to the student have been the same if he had written an equally nasty evaluation which didn't cross any hate-speech lines? I.e., purely personal attacks not involving any specific hate-speech categories?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:13 PM
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200: I lie, honestly. About teaching (somewhat, mostly by omission) and about anything work-related. You should always tell HR what they want to hear if you want to keep your job. It's just not worth it to take those risks unless you've got a union or some other strong body to protect you.

Nothing in the world would persuade me to commit a negative comment about a supervisor to paper, anonymously or otherwise, unless I felt that I had legal standing to sue.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:21 PM
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231: If the second course "evaluation" had been the only one this student wrote ("Joe Disponzio needs help with his issues dealing with homosexuality. Fags are not cool and neither are ney [sic] yorkers.") I would say it would have been over-reacting for the university to identify the student: a stupid comment by a homophobic bigot to be disregarded from the serious evaluations.

It was the violence of the first eval comment ("I hope he chokes on a dick, gets AIDS and dies. To hell with all gay teachers who are terrible with their jobs and try to fail students!") that I think justifies the student being identified. The second could be a rather flailing attempt to "evaluate": the first is a violent personal attack.

Also, the fact that this wasn't just one abusive response, but clear that this is how the student thinks, since the abuse repeated - even if it was not so violent the second time - meant that I don't think the university should have just left it alone.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:23 PM
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a university ought never take disciplinary action against a student for speech that would be protected, outside the university, by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The First Amendment, quite correctly, doesn't apply in a lot of situations. As many have noted, employers don't have to abide by it - nor should they have to.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:26 PM
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232: Thanks Frowner. But do you make sure to say nice things. Do you leave the column "What are X's weaknesses?" blank? Likewise, can you get away with saying nothing in the opposite column. I would be so tempted to say that I didn't feel safe answering the question, but that would be equally dangerous.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:27 PM
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233: What should we make of the fact that the later evaluation is less objectionable and that the more offensive, more violent toned first eval didn't trigger an investigation?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:30 PM
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Had the student not realised this until he reached the working world, he'd have learned this by getting fired

Cripes, why does anybody think this is a reasonable basis from which to start? Remember that awful e-mail that someone sent out in re: the Duke alleged rape? (I think LB linked it.) That would, I think, certainly get you fired if a recipient complained about it at work, or if someone happened to see it somehow, and maybe just if they'd set their filters up in certain ways. Do I think college students should be disciplined for sending e-mails with nasty content to friends? Mmm, no.

Obviously, opinions about that are going to differ. I think instincts about different types of harm are driving position here.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:30 PM
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The First Amendment, quite correctly, doesn't apply in a lot of situations. As many have noted, employers don't have to abide by it - nor should they have to.

N.B. I'm not making a legal argument that it applies, or even should apply in a legal sense. I'm saying it's a pretty good bright line test to define the boundaries of free speech in a community that prizes free inquiry. That this jackass's tirade can hardly be described as inquiry is an unfortunate byproduct of a deliberately liberal rule; it's the "let 10 guilty go free rule sooner than imprison one innocent" rule.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:33 PM
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what Tim objects to is the university going against its own rules. But of course, the school has a code of conduct, which is also a rule and which the guy seems to have violated.

Tim think the lack of clarity about the scope of anonymity ought to be resolved with an eye toward protecting the ethic of anonymity, even if the explicit understanding of the scope of it is immediately modified.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:34 PM
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Do I think that someone who expresses with gloating glee their intention of skinning another human being alive, and shares this intention with their friends, ought to be disciplined even if the person who sent it is a college student?

Yeah, I do. "Free speech" doesn't mean "I get to threaten you with obscene violence, and I can't be touched because I have the right to express myself in any way I please."


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:48 PM
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That would, I think, certainly get you fired if a recipient complained about it at work, or if someone happened to see it somehow, and maybe just if they'd set their filters up in certain ways.

I know for a fact that the person described here has not been fired.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:48 PM
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Yeah, I do. "Free speech" doesn't mean "I get to threaten you with obscene violence, and I can't be touched because I have the right to express myself in any way I please."

Damn right.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:48 PM
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236: That a one-off never looks as serious as a repeated offense.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 1:51 PM
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240: Sounds like a straw man to me -- I don't hear anyone saying anonymity couldn't/shouldn't be breached in the face of a direct threat.

243: Okay, but if (as you suggest) the second can be read as a flailing attempt to "evaluate," it's not exactly a "second offense.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:04 PM
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Please, no one let Jesurgislac anywhere near (a) the archives, or (b) any archives of IP addresses.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:05 PM
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"Free speech" doesn't mean "I get to threaten you with obscene violence"

Where was there a direct threat of violence in either of these cases?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:05 PM
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240, 242: Take a long walk off a short pier. I'm pretty sure this constitutes an obscene threat of violence.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:09 PM
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"Free speech" doesn't mean "I get to threaten you with obscene violence, and I can't be touched because I have the right to express myself in any way I please."

I agree with Di on this one. Where was there the threat of violence or the intention to commit violence?

"That basejumper is an a-hole and I hope his kite doesnt open." = not a threat or an intention

I also tend agree with Tim that a lack of clarity about anonymous is the school's fault and we should thus err and protect anonymity until the rule is clear.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:10 PM
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Take a long walk off a short pier. I'm pretty sure this constitutes an obscene threat of violence.

Where?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:11 PM
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Take a long walk off a short pier. I'm pretty sure this constitutes an obscene threat of violence.

Or an invitation to go swimming!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:12 PM
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And I am confident W/will will back me on the interpretation in 250. If only Ogged were still around, we could transform this into a swimming thread yet!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:15 PM
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Where?

Oh, according to the standards expressed in this thread in which expressing hopes for someone's death is an obscene threat of violence, of course.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:17 PM
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237 argued that a student who writes "I plan on killing the bitches as soon as the(y) walk in and proceeding to cut their skin off" shouldn't be subject to any repercussions because of their First Amendment rights, or something: I think that was a threat of obscene violence, and it was that I was referring to in 240, as I thought was clear from the internal context.

I think that saying "I hope he chokes on a dick, gets AIDS and dies. To hell with all gay teachers who are terrible with their jobs and try to fail students!" has a violent threat implicit in it, though it's certainly not as obscene and direct as the Duke student's desire to kill and skin black women.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:19 PM
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I think that was a threat of obscene violence

Or a bad joke. I don't remember, but I thought the guy who sent the email had little if anything to do with whatever events occurred.

I guess we could start by rounding up various hip-hop folk.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:22 PM
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expressing hopes for someone's death is an obscene threat of violence, of course.

I simply do not agree with that.

Jesurgislac:

a violent threat implicit? Where? I am not seeing it. I think that is a really bad standard to set.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:24 PM
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I think I miscommunicated my intent to be sarcastic with 247. I didn't really mean that Matt McG and Jesurgislac should take long walks off short piers.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:28 PM
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Or a bad joke.

Or an indication that the person is psychotic.

As the boy's parents are wealthy and influential and white, we'll probably never know. How many victims did Jeffrey Dahmer manage to get through before he was caught?


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:29 PM
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257: But being psychotic is not itself a crime. Alas.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:33 PM
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Will, have you ever felt seriously and realistically afraid that you were going to be raped and/or beaten up and/or killed? Put yourself into that frame of mind. Many gay men have been there more than once, confronted by homophobic bigots who express themselves in just that kind of language. Would you be okay with a male student writing on a female lecturer's evaluation form "Disponzio is a complete cunt. I hope she chokes on a dick, gets AIDS, and dies. To hell with all cunt lecturers who are terrible with their jobs and try to fail students!"

I'd see the same implicit threat. Rape, violence, possible murder. Not explicit enough perhaps to bring the cops in, but over the line and not ignorable.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:35 PM
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258: Didn't say it was. Just making the point that a threat to kill and skin two women can be dismissed as only a bad joke, if you're very, very fond of the boy who made the threat. (Not just a random "joke" about the kind of thing real men do to prostitutes: but specifically made about two identifiable women.)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:37 PM
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over the line and not ignorable.

But, you know, they did basically ignore this one. If I understood correctly, the evaluations applied to a two course sequence and the violent comments were in the evaluation of the first course -- so they ignored it for a full semester. The second evaluation confirms that the student has some continuing issues with homosexuality, to say the least, but it does not confirm a continuing violent impulse.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:45 PM
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I cast my lot with dsquared and ttaM. Free life lesson dude, so take heed.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 3:02 PM
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261 "Not taking action until the second time it happens" is not the same as ignoring it the first time, Di K. It just meant that if the first time was the only time, the university wouldn't have done anything.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 3:05 PM
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256: I swim very well. I just don't talk about it all the time, unlike some people we know.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 3:08 PM
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Doesn't your name suggest that?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 3:54 PM
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No, my name suggests I spend a lot of time lying in ponds distributing swords to people, which is a perfectly good basis for a system of government, whatever Dennis says.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:09 PM
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||

Christ, Jonah Goldberg really is an idiot, isn't he? I just had to go pick up a police report and the records office had a TV tuned to Fox News showing a segment with him talking about how McCain's doing okay in Florida because it's full of old people like him, but the New York Times endorsement could still hurt him.

|>


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:19 PM
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The Republican hatred for McCain really boggles me. They may end up crazying themselves to death, which is fine with me. McCain is a hard core winger, but occasionally he wanders off the script, and those guys can't stand that.

Everything I know tells me that he's the most formidable candidate by far. Giuliani has some crossover appeal as a "moderate", but that evaporates once people know something about him.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:27 PM
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We've got first-hand testimony from three people on this thread who say that they've (at the very least) lost sleep because of abusive comments on assessment forms so I don't think it does.

Not abusive. Just not effusive!

I wonder if what tipped off the prof was the similarity in handwriting, rather than the similarity in content.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:29 PM
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To be fair, Jonah did admit that McCain would probably be the strongest Republican in the general.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:35 PM
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It was just weird because he was appearing as a "news analyst" on what is purportedly a "news channel" but the stuff he was saying was just completely trivial and content-free. I probably wouldn't have been as surprised if I ever read the Corner, but I don't. I guess this is what his book is like too.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:40 PM
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I'll repeat my theory for the millionth time: Goldberg was hired as a representative of an influential point of view. He doesn't have to be smart.

The reason why he doesn't have to be smart is that the people behind him want someone of reliable loyalty and orthodoxy, a freemarketer who will also follow the party line. Smart freemarketers might deviate.

I think that the nepotism you see (Podhoretz, Goldberg, Kristol) ,and the cronyism, comes when loyalty to the team becomes more important than ideology. The Republicans have dumped a lot of conservative principles, and they need team players


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:49 PM
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I still cringe at a fairly savage course evaluation I wrote in law school. The professor really was kind of insufferable and the class wasn't what it could have been, but he wasn't a horrible teacher or a horrible person. It took me a while to realize that a reasonably well-written evisceration from a student who'd done well in the class could really hurt, even if it had no other impact (the victim was a full professor and generally well-regarded).


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:53 PM
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Well, it's not like Fox News really needs more representatives of that point of view. The anchors were basically feeding him lines. I agree with your larger point, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:54 PM
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Oh man. I've left lengthy, detailed, scathing evaluations of professors and I don't regret a single one of them. Those fuckers WASTED MY TIME, my parents' money and the state's subsidy of my tuition. (I've left great evaluations, too. And constructive criticism.) I hope they lost sleep.

I ran into one lecturer at a party later and felt a twinge that I'd written that "tripping about in tight little yoga pants doesn't compensate for not having a lesson plan", but she didn't react, so I guess she hadn't connected that to me.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:00 PM
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I love your frankness, Megan, but it's not a viable life plan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:09 PM
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Emerson, I count my frankness as a huge handicap that my large breasts any other talents I possess struggle to compensate for. I make no predictions about which force will win out.

But I can't control the frankness. It just comes and I have to clean up the aftermath. Believe it or not, I do fight to contain it.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:14 PM
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Count it as "costly signalling", sort of like the peacock's tail. You can afford to be frank, because you're special!

Don't tell people that, though. Just think it quietly to yourself.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:19 PM
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I'M SPECIAL EVERYONE!!!!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:19 PM
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I guess frankness is not a virtue people can keep quiet about.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:21 PM
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275, and all other commenters with the same view - how would you feel if someone left an equally personal comment on your blog? (bearing in mind that blog comments are not usually seen by your employer and do not form part of the assessment which determines your salary). There seems to be a real problem of give-it-out/take-it ratios here, which I do not think is being helped by the asymmetric anonymity.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:21 PM
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Eh, Megan didn't make the prof lose any sleep. Female profs always have students leaving snippy comments about their clothes. It makes it easy to discount whatever else they might say.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:31 PM
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Probably wouldn't like it, but then, no one pays me to blog, and I'd presume that they had some other reason for hating me than my tight yoga pants. Which translated to me, would be "gomer with a beergut" or something.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:33 PM
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A professor I really liked commented that the most useful evaluation he'd ever received read, in its entirety, "wears white socks."


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:35 PM
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What should we make of the fact that the later evaluation is less objectionable and that the more offensive, more violent toned first eval didn't trigger an investigation?

Easy, a pattern of offenses is vastly more disturbing than a one-off temper tantrum from a failing student. It has a sense of implied intimidation, it really seems to me that the student thinks he's getting the professor in trouble. As dd pointed out, the ritual essay conveys a powerful message of "Calling the professor a fag only gets you in trouble. Get the picture?" which one might even go so far as to argue is a useful lesson for the boy's future.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:39 PM
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dsquared - they do all the time, usually with an implicit rape threat*. (By all the time, I guess I mean a couple dozen times a year. More if I count other people's comment sections.) It sucks and I feel bruised afterward for several days.

But I have not breached a duty to my readers. I don't owe them content the way my professors owe me content. I have little enough way to influence my professors, and detailed as they were, I kept them on-topic. I wrote that about the lecturer, because to my eyes, she did use her appearance to compensate for not preparing. Fuck that. I wanted to know about the topic.


*I have a sense you don't read my blog much, dsquared (and I have also gotten the sense that you have funny notions of me which I never protested because strangers far away can think whatever they like about constructs of me**), but if you do, you might point to my comment policy as a way to refute my willingness to be criticized. My 'affirmative kindness' comment policy for a long time explicitly excluded me; as the host and the person with the most voice on the blog, I thought I should be willing to take what people dished.

I amended my policy to include me because people said it sucked watching one more woman get bashed on her site; because I couldn't keep my commenters from defending me and that dragged the thread down; and because I really do believe the things I say about civil discussion and there isn't a strong reason they shouldn't apply to the host.

**Your complaint about me the last time I noticed was also hypocrisy. I have lots of flaws, dude, but I work really hard against personal hypocrisy.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:42 PM
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Still thinking about the frequency of extremely hostile and personal comments about me. A couple dozen a year, in clusters every three or four months. Not like every two weeks or anything.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:45 PM
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281: You would need a nanofuckometer to measure how much of a fuck I gave about student evaluations that strayed into the personal.

That sort of thing didn't happen often back then (I take it that it's more common now) but really, why should I have cared unless some tsunami of negative comment hit. For sure the administration didn't care.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:05 PM
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You would need a nanofuckometer to measure how much of a fuck I gave about student evaluations that strayed into the personal.

I'd score pretty high on the nanofuckometer. I feel pretty vulnerable standing up in front of everyone and running a class, day in and day out. For the most part, the kids are on my side, which makes it a pleasure. Or they don't like me but skip class all the time, which is also fine. But the one or two that sit and glare can really rattle me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:11 PM
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One or two glaring students even is okay. But there's a critical mass of glares that's unbearable.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:12 PM
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If math teachers carried guns, there'd be a lot fewer glaring students.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:13 PM
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I've got gun-esque biceps. I just flex and the students all grow wide-eyed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:16 PM
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wait--are you Megan McArdle? Or taekwando/engineer Megan?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:26 PM
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You can tell by whether her name links to Megan McArdle's blog or the other Megan's blog. Try it and see!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:28 PM
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I'm heebie, mcmc. Heeeeeee-beeeeeeee.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:28 PM
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Gun is a girl's name in Sweden you know. But Heebie's not Swedish.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:33 PM
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I do like Swedish fish though. Go figure.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:34 PM
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296: Emerson, I just cut my knuckle open chopping some bok choy.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:35 PM
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Gün is also a girl's name in Turkey.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:38 PM
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See? Those are liberated societies.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:42 PM
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And polite societies.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:45 PM
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275:

I ran into one lecturer at a party later and felt a twinge that I'd written that "tripping about in tight little yoga pants doesn't compensate for not having a lesson plan", but she didn't react, so I guess she hadn't connected that to me.

Possibly because the way the comment is phrased sounds merely bitchy. Something more measured, like "It seemed to me that the prof. was trading on inappropriate classroom dress to compensate for lack of a substantial lesson plan" might have garnered more notice, if that was the goal.

It's still a comment I'd never make in an evaluation, despite the fact that I've thought it -- once -- with respect to a lecturer. Student judgments about a professor's dress are, sorry, not relevant. As oudemia, I think, more or less suggested upthread.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:45 PM
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"How could anyone learn anything from someone wearing shoes like that?"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:47 PM
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"Like I could really be expected to focus on the lectures when he was wearing the same 3 pairs of pants week after week."


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:53 PM
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"socks did not match pants"


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:02 PM
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291: I left the discreet "Yaqui Slide" for the .45 on my belt. Maybe that had something to do with the lack of crap I got hit with.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:06 PM
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I've got gun-esque biceps.

No doubt. I only tease her from far away bc she might hurt me if she were close. Plus, Jammies has a mowhawk!


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:14 PM
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You can tell by whether her name links to Megan McArdle's blog or the other Megan's blog. Try it and see!

If it was McArdle, I didn't want to give her the hit. Also I forgot the pretty blue letters are magic.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:20 PM
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I'd see the same implicit threat. Rape, violence, possible murder. Not explicit enough perhaps to bring the cops in, but over the line and not ignorable.

I still do not see an implicit threat. As far as your perspective comment, the proper standard should be an ordinary person, not the eggshell victim, so to speak. I prefer to stick with the regular definitions of words. A threat means an expression of the intent to do something, not wishing bad things to happen to people. We treat those two things differently for important reasons.

Change the policy to say abusive, nonconstructive comments are not anonymous. Problem solved.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:24 PM
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mcmc, why no link anymore???


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:25 PM
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I once mentioned repeatedly in an otherwise totally positive course evaluation that the professor was absolutely the hottest woman I'd even seen in person. And that despite the course and her teaching being great, what really got me to class every day was the chance to stare at her for an hour. All of which was completely true, but in retrospect I realize it wasn't at all helpful, probably got my otherwise positive evaluation thrown in the garbage, and was actually a bit creepy. But Jesus she was gorgeous.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:30 PM
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mcmc, why no link anymore???

I think I took it out some time ago when I was posting presidentially and just forgot to put it back. I can never remember the url--I get there via bookmark.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:32 PM
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Also, is this a political thread now? I was just told by my mother-in-law that she's not supporting Clinton in the election because Clinton "reminds [her] too much of George W. Bush." Which would almost be on the borderline of non-crazy if she were instead supporting, say, Obama, but no: she's supporting McCain. Argh.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:33 PM
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311: Have you taken Latin at a large Midwestern university, Brock, honey?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:34 PM
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No. Have you gotten a similar course eval? Now that I think about it, that probably happens to female profs all the time. Stupid fucking adolescent males.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:36 PM
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I'm proud to say that in my one class with an attractive female professor, I didn't mention it on the course evaluation. I thought about writing "Professor's hair is vibrant and fluffy with great volume" among the other positive attributes of the class, but it didn't fit in with the rest of the analysis.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:39 PM
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Stupid fucking adolescent males.

Just delete the adolescent part. My assistant is very attractive and very sweet. The combination is deadly. Her mistakes simply never seem that bad to me or anyone else. She is mostly good, but we get so smitten by attractiveness in look and personality.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:41 PM
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I heard it on good authority that oudemia wears tight yoga pants when she lectures.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:42 PM
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The yoga pants that oudemia owns -- but certainly never wears to class -- aren't even tight.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:45 PM
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How about your hair, is it fluffy? Has that ever been mentioned?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:45 PM
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oudemia, I just clicked through to your blog. It's fantastic, don't get me wrong, but has anyone ever mentioned that the posting is a little sparse?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:48 PM
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oudemia:

Yea, you are more of a high waisted pants woman anyway, right?

I forgot to add that we get the Hugger Mugger catelog in the thread on magazines. Those pants look so comfortable.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:48 PM
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321: It's not a blog. WHAT IS IT?! But it's not a blog.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:49 PM
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Brock:

I am taking a survey.

Did it scare you? Doesnt oudemia look like a badass?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:49 PM
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Labs, what was your gripe about Juno? Because I just saw it and it's totally awesome, you sexist pig.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:54 PM
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There was someone else who thought she was oudemia! This is actually a word, folks, in Greek, it means "no woman." So I ran around claiming it. Because I am oudemia, dammit! But you know, if you click over to the vox "blog" there are some really good punk rock songs.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:57 PM
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I don't think Labs is here now, B. Maybe you should email him.

will, her NOT BLOG did not scare me.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:57 PM
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Here's a variety of rants about Juno. See which one you think Flabs is most likely to concur with.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:58 PM
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Oh and, my high-waisted jeans were in 1991, thankyouverymuch. And they weren't even that high! It's just that jeans now -- or for the past few years, because this is changing -- require a bikini wax.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:58 PM
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This is actually a word, folks, in Greek, it means "no woman."

So what's it like to blind a cyclops?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:02 PM
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OUDEMIA REVEALS HERSELF AS POSSESSING IMMENSE QUANTITIES OF PUBIC HAIR

YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:04 PM
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SORRY, THAT IS MEAN

EVERYONE ELSE SHOULD BE ASHAMED TOO


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:06 PM
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331: Granny needs to read my other posts for further illumination on this topic. Hint: rrrrrrip!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:07 PM
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333: Granny didn't say the immense quantities of pubic hair you possess were still attached to your body.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:09 PM
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334: I have been knitting a sweater . . .


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:10 PM
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334: you think she holds on to them as keepsakes? I can't imagine her possessing any public hairs that are not currently attached to her body, but hey, to each his own I guess.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:11 PM
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Oh, I see that she knits. Didn't know that--336 retacted.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:12 PM
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Brock, we all want our public hairs to show us at our best.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:12 PM
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Oh, I see that she knits. Didn't know that--336 retracted.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:12 PM
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Oops, 334 was me. Damn remember info.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:13 PM
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335: I have been knitting a sweater . . .

From College Terms at collegestories.com.

Knitting pubes: To be having vigorous intercourse. Sometimes called "Knitting a Pubic Hair Sweater"

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:35 PM
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Hair shirts made of pubes were highly prized by the cutting-edge, top-drawer ascetics of the Middle Ages.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:40 PM
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275: Megan, unless you are psychic and can read the lecturer's mind, you can't know that she is "tripping about in tight little yoga pants [to] compensate for not having a lesson plan."

Would you write an evaluation of someone's work at your job in the same language??

Luckily, your entire evaluation will almost definitely be discarded by anyone who is using them to evaluate her performance.

I'm really surprised. I like your blog and would never have guessed you would write something like that on a real live human being's evaluation.


Posted by: mrmf | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 8:45 PM
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I can't read her mind, but I trusted my impression of her enough to write it. I still trust that impression of her.

I don't care in the least whether the evaluation is discarded by someone else evaluating her performance. (Although, I am specific enough about stuff like information organization, boardwork, logistics of the course they they might hesitate over discarding it. I am obviously not just pulling crazytalk out of the air.) I mean those as a message to a professor who cheated me out of the material in a course. The opportunity costs of a course are high and they failed their employer and me. They should know exactly how.

Would I do that on the job... not if I catch myself in time. But that would be venal self-preservation, not 'cause I've been convinced it is wrong.

I tell y'all all the time that the blog is crafted and you only see the good parts. If I'm articulate, self-righteous and vehement about the cheerful stuff I don't know why I'd be different about calling something crappy.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:12 PM
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Shorter 309: "the proper standard to judge by is how I feel about it, and as I don't feel threatened, it's obviously not a problem."

244, the point others were making is that if you wanted anyone at all to pay attention to your useful comment that the lecturer didn't seem to have a lesson plan, you needed to have left out your pointlessly bitchy comments about what she was wearing. As you failed to restrain your nasty opinion about what she was wearing, you got anything else you said fed to the shredder.

Wouldn't it have been better if you'd learned that valuable life lesson back in college? Then, instead of wasting your time and your employer's time in providing useless feedback that no one will listen to, you could have written a to-the-point evaluation that might have got things changed!


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:28 PM
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344. Not 244. :-(


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 11:29 PM
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Shorter 309: "the proper standard to judge by is how I feel about it, and as I don't feel threatened, it's obviously not a problem."

How do you get that from my statement that it needs to be an objective standard about what is a threat?

Plus, I never suggested that his language wasnt offensive. But, there is a difference between offensive language and threatening language. This person's language was simply not a violent threat.


If it was a violent, implicit threat, then the professor should be able to get a protective order against the stdent, right?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 7:15 AM
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But, there is a difference between offensive language and threatening language. This person's language was simply not a violent threat.

But "creating a hostile environment" lies somewhere in the middle. (Unless you're be-gunned, as am I.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:18 AM
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Give up, Heebie, you're never going to convince will that you've got big'uns.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:24 AM
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Then, instead of wasting your time and your employer's time in providing useless feedback that no one will listen to, you could have written a to-the-point evaluation that might have got things changed!

Very little actual time was wasted. Cursing the darkness is its own reward.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:29 AM
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350: And it's possible that Megan's intuitions were correct and shared by others already, in which case her low evaluation might have been informally tallied.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:30 AM
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Give up, Heebie, you're never going to convince will that you've got big'uns.

Well, they're pretty normal actually. Unless someone makes me angry, then I be-gun and be-green and be-ferocious.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:34 AM
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In the context of people who are physically at the same place or who can find one another, fantasies of violent death are more specific threatening than abstract fantasies about famous people far away. For example, Lileks' wish that Michael Moore would have a heart attack and die in a pool of his vomit (or something like that) would have been more threatening if Lileks had lived on the same street as Moore.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:34 AM
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Breasts are never normal, Heebie. They're female things. Only male things are normal. Feminism has obviously ravaged your psyche.

They're more normal on ladies than on guys, for example. The quarterback of my HS football team was a plump guy with manboobs already at age 17, but he turned out to be gay, proving my point.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:37 AM
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Breasts are never normal, Heebie.

Free your mind, Emerson. My breasts drink coffee and comment on Unfogged, just like you and me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:42 AM
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It's true, we do.


Posted by: Hokey Pokey and Hawaiian Punch | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:43 AM
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354: The quarterback of my high school football team was handsome like movie star and also the salutatorian! And gay!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:50 AM
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The quarterback of my high school football team was named Bubba. Really.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:52 AM
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Oh, hey, Hokster and HP! Do you gals have an opinion on whether a person's likeability is innate and unchanging? Heard any good cock jokes?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:52 AM
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359: Patience, oudemia. I imagine they type pretty slowly.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 8:57 AM
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I feel that while one's likeability may start out pert and superficially pleasing, it is also dense and hard to spot lumps. Over time, one wisely droops and fans out, thus becoming a source of wisdom.


Posted by: Hokey Pokey | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:06 AM
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Why did the rubber chicken cross the road?

She wanted to stretch her legs.


Posted by: Hawaiian Punch | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:07 AM
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We do type slowly. We hunt and peck.


Posted by: Hokey Pokey and Hawaiian Punch | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:07 AM
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Does Hokey Pokey help Hawaiian Punch type? And vice versa?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:11 AM
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Yes; usually we're a collaborative venture. We're actually Siamese Breasts, like a sports bra, so cooperation is key.


Posted by: Hokey Pokey and Hawaiian Punch | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:16 AM
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Further to 364...
HP and HP, stop me if this gets too personal, but I couldn't help wondering, do y'all need to use, say, an ice cube or something to be able to hit one key at a time?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:18 AM
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Frankly, that sounds rather uncomfortable, Knecht. No, we've got one of those keyboards for the vision-impaired, with the giant keys.


Posted by: Hokey Pokey and Hawaiian Punch | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:23 AM
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Oudemia was obviously thinking of Sh-d- B-rtsch.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:38 AM
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Heh. She gave me more than one cast off. No joke.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:42 AM
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I assumed Heebie's geebies used voice recognition software.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:42 AM
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Ms. B-rtsch might just be a Swedish Lur! We should set her up with ogged or Emerson.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:42 AM
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But I always thought Martha the better dressed.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:43 AM
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371: That's true! Iranian on her mother's side. Don't know about dad. She looks like an anime girl. Remarried (third time's the charm!) now I think.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:46 AM
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The only Martha (nut-tree) who might be affiliated with the classics dept of whom I'm aware is not a strong candidate for filling Brock's position, IIRC, though I do now recall an extremely pretentious friend of mine declaring his love for her after attending a lecture.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:46 AM
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On personal comments about clothes: In law school, I had a professor, who, while otherwise doing a reasonable job (I did have some substantive gripes about him, but not terrible) strongly favored a particular dull-green shirt or group of shirts -- like, he wore it every week and twice some weeks. And it exactly matched the blackboard he was standing in front of, to the point where being lectured by a disembodied floating head was really distracting. I brought it up on his evaluation, because I thought it was bona-fide constructive criticism. But I may have been wrong about that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:51 AM
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Well, in relation to Brock, I was thinking of meeeeeeeeee. (But at NU.)
Martha is extremely seductive when she turns her attentions to you.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:51 AM
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374: I love her. I find her wonderfully unpretentious.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:54 AM
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Could someone please post a decoder ring? Not on the Standpipe site eaither.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:54 AM
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John, you know a little German, yes? Look at Ben's 374. Her name is right there.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:57 AM
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And on Megan's evaluation: Count me in as kind of surprised at you too, with allowances for being in college or at least younger. The thing is, putting it like that makes the tight little yoga pants sound like an offense in themselves, which is an injury to the next whip-smart and well-prepared instructor also swanning around in tight little yoga pants.

Assuming the pants are objectively fairly work-appropriate, what the instructor means by them is none of your business. Anyone whose substantive evaluation of her is improved by the cuteness of the pants is a fuckup, but you really don't know whether her intent was to take advantage of that sort of fuckup, or whether she was just an incompetent who also liked dressing cutely.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:58 AM
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I was thinking of 368.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 9:58 AM
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I direct you to this list of classicists at my alma mater.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:00 AM
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Oh. Go here.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:01 AM
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Oh, the Butt/enweiser professor. Of course.

She's cute. How does she respond to Butt/enweiser jokes?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:04 AM
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One of the nice things about being on hiatus is that I can read over a thread after the fact, which lets me see patterns I might have missed had I been yelling at you all in real time. Which is to say that Megan's yoga pants comment seems totally fine to me, but that's because I disagree with the following beliefs, which we've argued about twenty times in twenty ways:

1) Human motivations are unknowable, or, we should at least act as if they are, unless we have overwhelming intersubjectively verifiable evidence for them.

2) Retribution is bad.

Which is to say that I think that Megan was perfectly capable of determining whether the instructor was using her looks to get by, and furthermore, Megan was totally right to try to hurt her a bit for wasting Megan's time.

Anyway, I'm not going to stick around to argue, but maybe at some point we'll head off arguments even before they start by noting that beliefs previously established as contentious x, y, and z will be implicated (suck it, w-lfs-n).


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:31 AM
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One of the best teachers I ever had was cute, youngish, and stylish, and she received a lot of comment before class about her shoes. ("Which pair will she be wearing today?") But it was all favorable.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:43 AM
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You're wrong because of (3) an error you've made before -- something I'll call the "Althouse's triceps" error.

Deserved retribution or not, it's wrong to attack someone through conduct or qualities of theirs that are not wrongful in themselves, but are societally likely to attract undeserved attack. For women, that includes being unattractive (Althouse's saggy arms), or attractive (Megan's teacher's cute little pants) -- whether or not the particular target deserves to be attacked, doing it like that reinforces the common tendency to attack undeserving targets wrongfully.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:44 AM
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Ogged!

Ogged is right about (1) we can know human motivations. If you have a good eye, you can also determine whether a teacher has a lesson plan or is just winging it, without reading her mind.

Ogged is wrong about (2). Although (2) is something he would say.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:46 AM
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The Lur are vengeful, but so am I. Good for Megan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:48 AM
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For the record, I think it's a little inappropriate for a TA to run section in cute little yoga pants. You're not that much older than the students, and you're at work. Flattering clothes are fine, and I'm not particularly prudish, but I think yoga pants would seem overtly sexy when you're standing in front of a bunch of college kids.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:49 AM
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"Knowing human motivations" is sometimes possible in general, sure. I doubt specifically that anyone can accurately tell, on the basis of taking a class, whether the instructor's motivation for dressing cutely was an intentional attempt to distract the class from her failure to prepare, or just that she likes looking cute.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:49 AM
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it's wrong to attack someone through conduct or qualities of theirs that are not wrongful in themselves, but are societally likely to attract undeserved attack.

I think you have to weight the positive interest in making the person very unhappy against the negative interest to which you point.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:51 AM
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Heebie:

I am not denying that the comments were offensive enough to create a hostile environment. (perhaps not in the labor law sense, but in the common sense way.)

I also think it is acceptable for a school to establish rules that prohibit the statements that he made.

But, if the school wants it not to be anonymous, then they should state what the exceptions are.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:52 AM
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390: Really? I mean, they're just stretchy pants. I can see overly informal, but they're not crazy sexy unless the person wearing them is, at which point blaming the pants seems over the top.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:52 AM
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Forget yoga pants. Let's talk partner yoga. Sounds too sweaty and intimate to me.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:54 AM
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392: Oh, sure. Everyone decent agrees with me if the method of attack is racial epithets, most people disagree if the method of attack is a truthful statement that "you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny," because the harms from the two approaches are wildly different.

But Megan's review is at least close to, and I'd think over, where I draw the line.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:55 AM
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Female TAs should also not be allowed to show cleavage.

True story:

TA lived in apartment above me. One day, she came down and brought me a strawberry pie that she had made. She was only wearing a bikini. Hostile?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:56 AM
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Ooops. Forget the &


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:56 AM
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394: I think you definitely have to take the shape of the person into account. One woman wears a stretchy top and she flies under everyone's radar, the next woman wears a similar top and it's totally Beep-beep! Ah-ooOOOGA!!

Since Megan found the cute yoga pants memorable, I'm guessing the girl wearing them was sexy enough that it was an inappropriate choice.

Also keep in mind what a classroom is like. When I was in college, I scrutinized professors' and TAs' bodies, because you're bored and you're supposed to sit there and stare at them, day after day. You watch their butts when they write at the board. You watch their fronts when they talk at you.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:58 AM
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Early in my relationship with Buck, some Oklahoma oil heiress being supported by her parents while she had an internship at some magazine moved into the apartment next door to him, and attempted to make friends by bringing over a pie. Hostile. Or at least I was.

And the pie sucked, too.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:58 AM
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Yoga pants. I had to look it up.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 10:58 AM
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I'd feel funny showing up to work in these.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:00 AM
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Yoga pants also come in varying thickness of fabric. The thicker the fabric, the less likely to be innappropriate. Thin fabrics are super revealing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:01 AM
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I think my position might change as I learned more about how reviews are handled at specific institutions. I've always assumed that they were a bit like recycling is reputed to be in some places I lived: the system isn't actually live yet and all the trash gets dumped in the same place, but we're training people for when the system will work. Similarly, I assume "yoga pants" makes the teacher feel bad but everyone else just rolls their eyes and moves on.

But I'm fine with the decency line on these things being drawn wherever.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:02 AM
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399: Yeah, I hate that. There shouldn't be a different dress code for pretty people. (There also shouldn't be a different dress code for ugly people.) "She can wear whatever she likes, within the bounds of reasonableness, because she's sort of ordinary looking. You, on the other hand, wear something loose, because you can't expect anyone to work with tits like those on display, and you throw a tarp over yourself or something, because no one wants to look at you. " I hate that.

If something's acceptable for anyone (and, you know, fits normally and all that) it should be acceptable for everyone.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:02 AM
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TA lived in apartment above me. One day, she came down and brought me a strawberry pie that she had made. She was only wearing a bikini. Hostile?

During the semester or after the semester had ended?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:02 AM
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People not part of pie culture often misunderstand pie-signalling behavior. If only Fafnir were still around!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:03 AM
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When I was in college, I scrutinized professors' and TAs' bodies, because you're bored and you're supposed to sit there and stare at them, day after day

At first I was concerned by this statement of heebie's, but then I recalled that all students I've ever interacted with are extremely engaged with the material and my sections are wonderfully well run, so they're probably never bored, ever.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:03 AM
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"super revealing".

Smirk.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:05 AM
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misunderstand pie-signalling behavior.

Oh, the message of this pie was perfectly clear.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:05 AM
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If something's acceptable for anyone (and, you know, fits normally and all that) it should be acceptable for everyone.

Fashion is subtle. It's not as easy as "pretty people have stricter ranges, ugly people have wider ranges". It's the cut of the particular piece of clothing on the particular person. Every person looks overly sexual in the right outfit, and frumpy in the wrong outfit.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:05 AM
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within the bounds of reasonableness

I think reasonableness probably, in real life, takes body types into account. Some people can get away with more than others.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:06 AM
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Oh, the message of this pie was perfectly clear.

I make bad pies?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:06 AM
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I was totally infatuated with one English TA. I got to make out with him one night after the semester ended, too. Until he asked me how old I was and I didn't think fast enough to lie.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:07 AM
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413: That was the subtext, along with "There's a difference between CoolWhip and whipped cream? Who knew?" Amateur.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:07 AM
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411, 412: Eh, I'm being overly dogmatic. There's not nothing to this, I just get cross about taking it too far.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:09 AM
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405: I'm not going to argue that Megan's comment was the height of propriety, but I disagree with you here. I have a fairly curvy figure such that if I wear a perfectly ordinary tank top with wide straps, I have pretty impressive cleavage. The perfectly ordinary tank top is not really teaching appropriate attire for me.* It would be for some of my colleagues.

It doesn't make a comment about it ("stop trying to use your boobs as a substitute for prep") any more polite, but yeah, body type is something that can affect how sexy/professional/etc your clothes look.



Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:09 AM
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I have pretty impressive cleavage.

If they'd like to comment, this is the right thread.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:11 AM
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419

Impressive, but not terribly dexterous.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:12 AM
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420

Every person looks overly sexual in the right outfit

Discuss.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:13 AM
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Yeah, I backed off some. Yoga pants, particularly, I don't think are a good example of appropriate for some and not for others, because it's not like anything different shows depending on how you're built. If they're reasonably work appropriate -- neither crazy tight or crazy flimsy -- they're going to look ordinary on someone ordinary, and super hot on someone with an attractive ass, but they don't look like a different kind of thing depending on the ass, the same way a sleeveless blouse looks totally different depending on whether or not you're built.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:13 AM
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419: Others have voiced similar problems. See 363 and 367.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:15 AM
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Mostly, I'm just avoiding work. Someone remind me that if I stop commenting and do this goddam complaint, I can go home eventually?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:16 AM
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424

*

Well?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:16 AM
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425

They're called pasties, Emerson.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:18 AM
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You sure about that, heebie?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:19 AM
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421: Yeah. And believe me, I'm not a big fan of the the school of thought that says I should wear tarps for the rest of my life. I just trust Megan's judgment enough from reading her blog that she wouldn't be standing behind her statement now if the TA didn't seem like she were hoping to skate through her lack of preparation on her looks (which does happen.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:19 AM
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*424: Not that I don't sometimes wear tank tops anyway, on the grounds that I come off more frumpy than sexy even with the cleavage. But I'm prepared!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:20 AM
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425: Is that how you make them be quiet?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:21 AM
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Every person looks overly sexual in the right outfit

Discuss.

Big guys in Speedos?


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:24 AM
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426: Now picture Emerson rolling around lasciviously on that plate. You're not aroused?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:24 AM
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427: Yeah, I'm still going to stay cranky about that one. "Don't wear that to class, this isn't a nightclub" might be a valid complaint depending on the outfit, and Megan's reasonable, so the pants were clearly at least intentionally cute, and the instructor was clearly genuinely incompetent. But drawing the connection between the fashion and the incompetence annoys me. If the fashion isn't extreme enough to be unprofessional in itself (which I don't think Megan said it was), then assuming that it's an attempt to cover incompetence, rather than just how she dresses, seems illegitimate. Smart, competent pretty people dress to show themselves off, stupid, incompetent pretty people do the same -- I don't like using it as a weapon against them unless it's offensive in itself.

But I'm arguing mostly to keep from working. Jesus, I hate my job and the slower-than-molasses-in-January hiring process in the place I'm applying.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:27 AM
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433

Well, it is, after all, January. But only for a few more days.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:42 AM
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434

Does molasses move faster in February?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:44 AM
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If the groundhog is sticky, only two more weeks of slow molasses.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:46 AM
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You know, I was never actually sure what the alternative was to 'six more weeks of winter.' That goes to the middle of March, which is about when I'd expect the cold weather to end anyway -- does the groundhog not seeing his shadow mean that winter ends sooner, or later, than that?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:49 AM
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436: it means that whenever winter ends, it would have ended six weeks sooner or later if the groundhog had not or had seen his shadow, respectively.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:51 AM
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The trouble with yoga pants or on tank tops on professors is that they attract the scrutiny of Senators.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:56 AM
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on


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:57 AM
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on


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 11:57 AM
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scrutiny of


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:00 PM
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442

how do you know
if the groundhog had not or had seen his shadow
would he tell or sign somehow?
according to the Tibetan calendar the spring will begin on February 8th this year


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:03 PM
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443

i forgot to exclaim
Ogged!


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:04 PM
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442: I think the idea is that if it's sunny, there's a shadow there to be seen, and if it's cloudy, there's no shadow. There's a big deal event where the people in Punxatawney (I'm not sure of the spelling) PA observe a particular groundhog, but it's not really all that much about the groundhog.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:06 PM
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43 is my lucky number, i'm glad to hit it
the 443 th!


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:07 PM
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444: My dad went to the Groundhog Day thing in Punxatawney (I'm not looking up the spelling, either) and said that they had a groundhog in a box on the side of the hill, and the whole setup was rigged to open at a certain time with the press there, but the groundhog froze.

And a family joke used to say "If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter, and if he doesn't, there'll be a month & a half."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:13 PM
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Punxsutawney. In 2007 results varied. My favorite is General Beauregard Lee, PhD.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:16 PM
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thanks
speaking of scrutinizing bodies of profs and TAs, just everyday ordinary people's bodies are so uninteresting subjects, what to scrutinize?
common anatomy and all
i'll understand if the profs were like hollywood stars or aliens :)
i remember once i saw a girl with the beatifulest ankles at the disco, very thin and straight and the tendons run so high
never seen quite similar ankles ever since


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:17 PM
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449

'd


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:19 PM
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may be have seen,
well, off to shopping me some grocery
my friend will come to visit me, the classmate from the secondary school, she'll stay until the February
going to talk, talk, talk, great!


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:23 PM
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Richardson has fallen below Kucinich (TPM EC poll). Is he even in the race?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:24 PM
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speaking of scrutinizing bodies of profs and TAs, just everyday ordinary people's bodies are so uninteresting subjects, what to scrutinize?

I'm not that interested in scrutinizing people's bodies either way. But being in a classroom for a whole semester, staring at the same person day after day, I'd end up scrutinizing every little thing about them. Not judgementally, just noticing their waist bends like so or their pants don't quite match their vest or whatever.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:26 PM
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Or that their tight, flimsy yoga pants are very revealing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 12:48 PM
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LB - hee. No allowances for being younger and in college. I would totally write the same thing now. Don't know if it changes anything for you, but the comment about the yoga pants wasn't the whole evaluation. It was one comment among many critiquing her teaching.

but you really don't know whether her intent was to take advantage of that

I don't KNOW, but I thought so enough that I'd say it out loud. I thought the incompetence and clothing choices were linked, which is why I explicitly mentioned them both. I didn't randomly choose something I didn't like to critique in addition to the real problem.

I noticed this the time I watched LB and Ogged argue over this. Seemed to me that Ogged was saying - yep, I can tell things about people, even after I discount the ways my observations might be wrong, and I have faith in my conclusions about the person. LB was listing ways observation can go wrong (especially through a mediated presentation of the person) and Ogged was saying 'even so'.

Since I don't find out I'm wrong very often, I also trust my conclusions. I think I'm slow to come to judgment, and I try to know the reasons I think things, but once I decide things, I'm solid on them.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:00 PM
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Huh. I don't mean to beat you up over this (I do, obviously, mean to beat Ogged up over this, out of a settled and unjust antipathy), but my sense is that: (1) if you really can judge people that accurately on that kind of data, you're unusual. I'm not saying you can't -- you seem to be an unusual person a lot of ways -- but being that good at figuring out why people you have limited contact with do what they do is an extraordinary skill. And (2) Everyone thinks they can do it, and most of them are wrong. Even if you're that good, I don't like encouraging everyone who looks at the evaluation to think that it's a perfectly conventionally reliable sort of judgment to make.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:13 PM
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345 - Part of what is funny about this is that you guys think I care about the yoga pants. I lived in a naked co-op. My friends are hippies or flamboyant SF burning man types. My boundaries for acceptable clothing are very broad, if I notice at all.

I don't care about yoga pants or funny clothes or wearing the same thing. I never notice. I noticed this because I thought she was using them to skate and she owes me a semester of knowledge.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:15 PM
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Was her butt cuter than yours? Cuter than heebie's?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:17 PM
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I don't think that's clear; let me try it again.

It would be wrong and unreliable for me to make that sort of comment -- if I said that, I'd just be being spiteful about the instructor being a slutty dresser, because I wanted to get to her about her incompetence. My chances of being right about that sort of thing, on someone I don't know personally all that well, are poor.

While you can probably make these judgments reliably, I think more people are like me than are like you. If I'm right about that, a reader of your evaluation is likely to be encouraged in holding one of two misconceptions: either than those sorts of judgments are easy, and most people can make them accurately, or that it's all right to use someone's fashion sense and nice ass to take a spiteful swipe at her. And I think those are both to be discouraged.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:22 PM
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but my sense is that: (1) if you really can judge people that accurately on that kind of data, you're unusual

I think lots of people might disagree with you on this. I think that you have reported that your reactions are often different from those of most of those around you in politics and other areas. It might be that you're universalizing from your experience when that isn't the right move to make.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:22 PM
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It is true that it is unusual to be good at assessing other people's motivations, and as a rule, a person should assume her skills are closer to average than extraordinary.

I haven't had a strong enough experience of being wrong to teach me caution, I guess. Or I'm willing to pay the price for misjudging people. (They may pay a price, but they probably don't notice that I avoid them. It is rare that I voice my judgments, because I have manners in real life.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:25 PM
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I think lots of people might disagree with you on this.

Yeah, but I'm right and they're wrong. I see other people making totally fucked up guesses about what's going on in people's heads like this all the time, and making errors about it (based on later information, or information I have and they don't). I'm not claiming to be unusually good at character-evaluation-through-superficial-behavior -- I'm not. But I can watch other people I know being just as bad as it as I am, while thinking they're good.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:27 PM
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Am I encouraging the wrong sort of behavior by voicing opinions of people's motivations? I gotta count that as low among my sins.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:29 PM
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460: And even if you're good (I wasn't just being polite about your skills, from an online acquaintance you seem like you might be. Ogged, on the other hand? No.) it doesn't really matter in this context, because your audience doesn't know you. So the person reading the evaluation gets the message that this is an okay thing for a person of average (that is, lousy) skills at attributing motives to say.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:30 PM
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I see other people making totally fucked up guesses about what's going on in people's heads like this all the time, and making errors about it (based on later information, or information I have and they don't).

Maybe you're dataset is small or has weird biases or you're misinterpreting the new information. Who knows? It'll have to remain an open question.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:30 PM
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It is rare that I voice my judgments, because I have manners in real life

Well, of course. And there's nothing wrong with making the judgments. I'm just thinking that this is a context where there's a real social value to the manners.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:31 PM
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464: Absolutely. No question can ever be settled. I, myself, am almost certainly a disembodied brain floating in space.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:32 PM
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347: I got that from your statement that gay men, and women, aren't acceptable judges of what sounds like a threat of rape or beating: only "ordinary people" are - which by elimination says you think only straight men are able to judge what constitutes a threat, and apparently now how straight men judge is the "objective standard" in your view.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:32 PM
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466: By the way, what did the oil heiresses pie signify?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:34 PM
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We're just about out the door, so I'm sorry to drop the conversation (soon).

But if I am good about it, I'm not going to give up honed critiques (good and bad) because other people are bad about it. If I think about it and think I've pinpointed something relevant, and I'm asked for an evaluation, I'm gonna say it. I could add some tact if I think that will further my goals, but I'm not gonna give up the whole practice because other people are bad about it.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:36 PM
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Aw, come on, Jes, he didn't say that. You both agree that if it's a threat at all, it's an implicit rather than an explicit threat: "I hope X happens" isn't the same as "I will act to bring X about." Obviously some implicit threats are scarier than others: "It'd be a real pity if you happened to be alone in the parking lot late one night and ended up in the hospital," would be quite scary. So it's a judgment call as to what's scary enough to count as a threat.

But he didn't bring in gender or orientation as what makes someone capable of telling the difference between an implicit threat that's a real threat, or something that's just abusive language.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:38 PM
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471

468: It was an allegory about the gold standard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:38 PM
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472

463 is amusing me, because LB is so quick to judge the inner life of ogged as she decries the ability of people to do that generally.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:44 PM
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473

Well, yeah, I'm kidding some. But what I'm saying people suck at is looking inside people's heads based on demeanor and superficial actions (like, facial expressions, tone of voice, clothing choices), rather than on what they say. I'll talk about what's going on in people's heads based on what they say and substantively do all day.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:48 PM
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474

It was an allegory about the gold standard.

Support your interpretation with citations of the text, please.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:50 PM
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475

471: I told that argument, while useful and fun, isn't peculiarly good at arriving at some objectively true result.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:51 PM
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What they say substantively, like being underprepared consistently for a semester's worth of lectures? (I kid because I love, or because it's either this or clean the bathroom and I'm hoping brownies will come out and do it.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:51 PM
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Maybe you're dataset is small or has weird biases or you're misinterpreting the new information. Who knows? It'll have to remain an open question.

I'm not taking a position on the rights or wrongs of Megan's evaluation, but LB is almost certainly right that most people grossly overestimate their capacity to judge other people's motivations. That this particular cognitive bias is known as the "fundamental attribution error" is suggestive of its strength and prevalence.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:53 PM
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478

The whole exchange is amusing me, because it really doesn't matter whether Megan or anyone else is "good at" judging people's motivations. The question is just whether *and how* to voice one's judgment (correct or incorrect though it may be).

Sheesh. Megan's "tripping about in yoga pants" phrasing, if indeed that was the phrasing, was probably not the best way to further her goals ... unless the goal was simply retribution.

And let's face it, digging around in people's less-than-admirable motivations for various behaviors is ugly stuff.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:54 PM
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479

I'm hoping brownies will come out and do it.

You sicken me, Cala.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 1:57 PM
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Parsimon's right.

The evaluations are anonymous. One doesn't know if "the smart girl" made the yoga-pants comment or the always unprepared stoner boy. As such, there's not much reason for anyone to take a snippily worded comment on the appearance and wardrobe of a female professor as anything more than the standard-issue misogyny that appears on evaluations with sad regularity.

If the TA sucked and wasted one's time, then one should say that. Saying that by way of wardrobe critiques will move your eval to the bullshit pile.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:06 PM
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481

Groundhog Day is a Celtic cross-quarter day: Imbolc. In honor of which we should eat sheep cheese.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:10 PM
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I've taught without a fucking lesson plan. Because with or without a lesson plan, I still know more than 95% of the fucking undergrads in the room. And also because, like every other human being in the world, professors are actually fallible and sometimes they have problems (suicidal depression) or other priorities (looming tenure review) that mean that teaching *your* particular course isn't the most important thing in their life/job that semester.

The problem with smartass evaluations like that is that (1) "tripping about in tight yoga pants" is hello, sexist as hell; (2) if you have a problem with a professor, maybe the better way to handle it is to actually go talk to her during office hours, instead of passively-aggressively waiting to snark at her in the eval after the fucking course is over.

Plus smug crap about how you paid for the course and deserve blah blah is just irritating in principle. Education isn't a service-based industry, nor should it be.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:16 PM
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483

I was able to judge LB's motivations at UnfoggeDCon by looking at her butt.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:24 PM
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484

I knew that dress was too tight.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:25 PM
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485

Funny place to keep your motivations.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:26 PM
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486

It's right next to where I pull most of my comments out of.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:27 PM
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487

Thesis: "a word in your shell-like" is one of the most beguilingly odd idioms I know.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:28 PM
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488

Keeps them safe from muggers. It was DC, after all.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:28 PM
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486: You pull comments out of your hoo-hah?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:29 PM
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490

Just a little further back.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:30 PM
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491

I picture a mechanism that automatically readies the next comment, like a baby wipe dispenser.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:31 PM
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And also because, like every other human being in the world, professors are actually fallible and sometimes they have problems (suicidal depression) or other priorities (looming tenure review) that mean that teaching *your* particular course isn't the most important thing in their life/job that semester.

Ok, but a student would be right to criticize you for this.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:33 PM
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I picture a mechanism that automatically readies the next comment, like a baby wipe dispenser.

Peristalsis does all the work.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:34 PM
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494

Peristalsis does all the work.

That's pushing it, KR.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:38 PM
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492: Sure, but not to be all morally superior about it. Nor to make sexist bullshit comments about it, either.

And if the student actually gives a shit about what he or she is or isn't learning in the course, rather than about being smugly superior, then they'd go talk to the professor about it while the course was still in session.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:43 PM
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Because there's no reason a student might feel shy about talking to the professor midsemester about the course content & direction when the professor still has power over her grade.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:46 PM
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497

Yeah, it might be better if students viewed their relationships with their professors as collaborative in that way, but I don't think most do.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:48 PM
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498

You know, strangely, it's never quite occurred to me before that students might enter into a course armed with a potential or latent combative (or defensive) "you owe me" stance ... and throughout the course possibly be developing a sort of helpless resentment if learning fails to proceed apace.

Or, I should say, I've never quite framed it that way to myself.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:57 PM
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In 259 I referenced women and gay men as examples of groups more likely to have been the recipient of threats and so better at decoding implicit threats.

In 309, will dismissed women and gay men as "eggshell victims" and said the proper standard was "an ordinary person" - a straight man, since that's the main group left.

In 347, will clarified that an "ordinary person" - a straight man - would be able to provide an "objective view", which women and gay men obviously can't.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 2:59 PM
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497, I think the moment when I realised that my lecturers actually wanted me to pass and were prepared to help me if I was prepared to work, was the point when I really did become a mature student. (Halfway through my first term: I just barely qualified as "mature student", having been separated financially from my parents for three years...)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:02 PM
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477: While both the concept and it's application seem a little unclear, Wiki (which admittedly accords with my memory) has a slightly different definition:

In attribution theory, the fundamental attribution error (also known as correspondence bias or overattribution effect) is the tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based, explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing situational explanations.
See also the criticism of the name.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:04 PM
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496: Some of them might. Megan seems to be presenting herself as not being that type. More to the point, shy or not, college students are adults and bear some responsibility for their own fucking learning, and if the professor's lecture style doesn't work for them, then they need to fucking say so. Professors aren't mind-readers, and student X isn't the only person in the class.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:06 PM
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Plus! It's a GRADE. The prof/TA doesn't have the power of life or death over the student. It's a single grade in a single course. Let's please not reify the idea that omgifIdon'tgetagoodgradeinthiscoursemylifeisOVER!!!/111!!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:09 PM
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504

You seem overly defensive about this, B.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:15 PM
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502: I haven't had many truly awful professors, but of the handful I have who have been awful, I certainly did not have the impression that there was a quick and easy solution, as if the problem was that the professor didn't know the students weren't learning. Challenging one guy got me called an obviously lazy grade-grubber.

503: It doesn't need to be reified, but this attitude that if the student has a problem and doesn't feel comfortable telling the professor who knows more than 95% of them that she isn't really coming to class prepared, the kid just needs to get over it because it's just a grade strikes me as profoundly bizarre.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:20 PM
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February 2nd is a Jewish ritual built into the Catholic calendar. The Feast of the Purification of Mary. 40 days of being unclean after having given birth. It is the end of the Christmas season.

The day after is no less important as it is the feast of St. Ansgar and Heebie's (and others') birthday.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:22 PM
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Let's please not reify the idea that omgifIdon'tgetagoodgradeinthiscoursemylifeisOVER!!!/111!!

Too late! I reified it and put it inside the duck, inside the casket, inside the heart of Frowner.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:23 PM
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It's the turducken of ideas.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:24 PM
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February 2nd is a Jewish ritual built into the Catholic calendar. The Feast of the Purification of Mary. 40 days of being unclean after having given birth. It is the end of the Christmas season.

Ah yes, churching a woman. Now there's something you don't see much any more.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:24 PM
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510

Also, I think they are buying an education. They are not buying a grade, which is where most of the irritation comes up. They are not buying a guarantee of mastery of the material or a necessarily pleasant and nuturing experience. But if they're not paying for education, then why am I being paid to educate them?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:25 PM
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510: To keep the proletariat content with their lot!


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:26 PM
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Goddammit. RELIGION is the opiate! Education is the... ale?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:28 PM
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I'm still sticking up for Megan. Her premise is that she was a good, hard-working student who got stuck with a lazy teacher who seemed to be relying on her looks and charm. I'm willing to grant her that in the context of this thread.

As for the sexism, it shouldn't be hard to imagine a vain straight white teacher being zinged for how he dressed and his preening: "X seems to think he's God's gift to women" or something like that.

I've explained to Megan that frankness will probably ruin her life, so she knows that, but we shouldn't pile on here.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:28 PM
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I should have looked at wiki, there's a good summary of Candlemas, Nunc Dimitas, etc. Relating to Groundhog Day:

In the British Isles, good weather at Candlemas is taken to indicate severe winter weather later. It is also the date that bears emerge from hibernation to inspect the weather as well as wolves, who if they choose to return to their lairs on this day is interpreted as meaning severe weather will continue for another forty days at least. In the United States and Canada, Candlemas evolved into Groundhog Day celebrated on the same date.

Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:29 PM
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it shouldn't be hard to imagine a vain straight white teacher being zinged for how he dressed and his preening: "X seems to think he's God's gift to women" or something like that.

Still wouldn't be relevant. He could be vain and a good teacher; the vanity might make him annoying, but doesn't affect the quality of the teaching.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:31 PM
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Education is the... ale?

Mmm, ale.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:34 PM
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I'm not defensive, I'm just cranky because I'm QUITTING SMOKING and I hate you all.

But regardless of my "tone", I'm right. It is not bizarre to say, look, if Prof X's lectures aren't working for you, go talk to Prof X rather than sitting there feeling resentful all year and then leaving asshole comments on the eval and retroactively justifying them with some consumerist entitlement bullshit.

They aren't buying an education. They're paying for the opportunity to get an education with people who are extremely knowledgable in a wide variety of fields. God knows I believe that teaching is important and that we should work our asses off to teach well, and you all know that, but that doesn't mean that students are entitled to act like spoiled judgmental brats.

Evals are a chance for students to offer detailed, hopefully constructive, criticism and feedback on the syllabus, the course content, the prof's methodology, etc. They aren't there so that people can play gotcha, and they shouldn't be seen that way.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:35 PM
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Candlemas evolved into Groundhog Day

"Evolved" here means "degenerated," of course.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:35 PM
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Good luck with the quitting. It sucks.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:36 PM
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You should have grounded your argument alongside the Lur's, in the fertile soil of retribution.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:37 PM
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Evals are a chance for students to offer detailed, hopefully constructive, criticism and feedback on the syllabus, the course content, the prof's methodology, etc. They aren't there so that people can play gotcha, and they shouldn't be seen that way.

From Friday's evals: "Q: What would you suggest to improve this course? A: DON'T MAKE IT REQUIRED."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:37 PM
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521: That might go to methodology.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:38 PM
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it shouldn't be hard to imagine a vain straight white teacher being zinged for how he dressed and his preening: "X seems to think he's God's gift to women" or something like that.

Yeah, and guess what, John? Men don't have to deal with the same "you're the prof?!?" bullshit that women do, nor do they have to deal with the same bullshit about how (1) if they're conventionally attractive they're obviously asking for it/dancing around trying to skate on their looks/shallow/stupid; (2) if they're not conventionally attractive they're stupid/lazy/invisible/not worthy of respect. So give me a break already with this equivalency bullshit already.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:38 PM
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520 to 513, in light of LB's point.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:39 PM
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God knows I believe that teaching is important and that we should work our asses off to teach well, and you all know that

Sure, that's why I found parts of your 482 strange.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:39 PM
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I smeared feces all over one of my evaluations once, but I feel like I did it constructively. Talk about asking for it, with that tight little butt, Dr. Ramachandran.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:39 PM
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509: Churching! Didn't "churching in" persist in certain places into the 20th Cent.?

Do people still keep Tobit nights?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:40 PM
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I'm redundant because I'm quitting smoking. But my content is clear and correct.

Thanks for the good wishes Cala. No worries, I'm not going to start again, mostly because I promised my spoiled brat of a child that I'd quit as of tomorrow.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:40 PM
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515: Well, maybe it does. Lots of teachers substitute non-teaching for teaching. Good-looking persons of every gender and orientation will rely on their looks and personalities. Megan thought that the teaching was offensively bad.

If Megan were giving a formal ruling in a formal proceeding, what she said would be wrong, but this was just low-intensity advisory feedback which is usually ignored anyway, and would be in this case unless there's a pattern.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:41 PM
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526: I know someone named that! OK, it's his first name, but(t) still.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:41 PM
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mostly because I promised my spoiled brat of a child that I'd quit as of tomorrow.

Now you just need "problematize" "tomorrow."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:43 PM
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523: We're talking about Megan, and I'm pretty confident that she would say the same about a guy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:43 PM
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525: Believing in the importance of teaching doesn't mean thinking that students should act like brats any more than believing in the importance of being a good parent means letting your child learn a bunch of sexist spoiled crap. On the contrary.

Who wants to fight with me, hmm?? Let's see if I can get Ogged to send me an email telling me to cool it by the end of the day.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:44 PM
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I'm just not feeling it any more, B. The magic's gone.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:45 PM
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525: Believing in the importance of teaching doesn't mean thinking that students should act like brats any more than believing in the importance of being a good parent means letting your child learn a bunch of sexist spoiled crap the theory of evolution. On the contrary.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:46 PM
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Yes, but even if what Megan is saying is true (I don't know Megan at all, but armies of caveats scream in my head when people make judgments about women based on their looks) it's absolutely counterproductive for her to make that criticism in that way, because her evaluation will go into the garbage pile next to the critiques of teacher's shoes and comments on her magnifico rack.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:47 PM
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I AM MAGNIFICORACK! MY BOSOM OF DESTRUCTION SEND PUNY HUMAN EVALUATIONS TO GARBAGE PILE!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:48 PM
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and comments on her magnifico rack

I thought elegant females cherished that kind of stuff. I may need to adjust my style.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:48 PM
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I'm not going to start again, mostly because I promised my spoiled brat of a child that I'd quit as of tomorrow.

I've not found that to be a particularly reliable method for staying quit, but good luck all the same.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:48 PM
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Negative criticism is OK too. Megan was asked her opinion about something, and she gave it. Her opinion was that the teacher didn't make a serious effort, and perhaps that she wasn't on top of the material. That's not positive, but it's a legitimate criticism.

Jeez, B., about you said "It's just a grade". A grade can end someone's career, though probably not in this particular class. No "just" about it. By contrast, a single negative evaluation can't end a teacher's career, and even a long string of them often can't.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:48 PM
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532: It doesn't matter if she would or not. It's sexist regardless.

Lots of teachers substitute non-teaching for teaching. Good-looking persons of every gender and orientation will rely on their looks and personalities.

Sure, and that's why I said in my initial comment that I, myself, have done that. And offered a couple of reasons why that might be happening in a given semester. And I've blogged about the way that I use looks in the classroom; it's a fact of life, and it's a potential pedagogical tool, so fuck it, I'll use it. And yes, some people are shitty teachers, and sometimes good teachers have bad days or months or semesters or years.

Regardless. If your problem is with the *teaching*, then address that problem. If you care about your education, you'll do a hell of a lot better to address that problem while there's still the possibility of actually making a difference for the course *you* are taking. If your problem is with the "cute little yoga pants" or whatever, then get the fuck over it already, and if you treat evaluations as a way to "punish" teachers that you don't like, then you're being an asshole--same as the teacher would be if he/she used grades to "punish" students.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:49 PM
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No, no, G. We love it when students say that one to our face, in office hours.

But evaluations? Just not the place.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:49 PM
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Megan was asked her opinion about something, and she gave it. Her opinion was that the teacher didn't make a serious effort, and perhaps that she wasn't on top of the material.

And I don't have an issue with her expression of that opinion. It was the additional opinion about the tight little pants that made me cross.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:51 PM
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B just doesn't believe in punishment.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:51 PM
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Only in left blogistan would people side with the incompetent woman trying to skate by on her looks against the woman who called her out. Well, left blogistan and various fraternities.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:52 PM
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535 makes like zero sense to me.

A grade can end someone's career

Oh, please. Evidence? Even the students who are all upset about how those Liberal Professors are Ruining their Careers by Grading them Harshly because they're conservative can't drum up a half-decent anecdote supporting those claims.

539: Thank you. I'm a better parent than you are, though, and we both know it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:52 PM
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536 nails it, but 537 is awesome.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:52 PM
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Right now I'm just imagining the whole distaff Unfoggetariat strutting around in their tight yoga pants.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:52 PM
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Happy almost birthday, B.

Which is obviously why you're picking fights; you're nearly as old as will now.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:53 PM
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Only in left blogistan would people side with the incompetent woman trying to skate by on her looks against the woman who called her out. Well, left blogistan and various fraternities.

Take that back! I don't think we have any evidence about the fraternities.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:55 PM
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Her opinion was that the teacher didn't make a serious effort, and perhaps that she wasn't on top of the material.

And if that was what she said that would be fine. But it isn't, apparently.

545: Only in the we-hate-feminists-but-we're-not-sexist-really! imagination would people try to pretend that "prancing around in yoga pants" isn't sexist bullshit.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:56 PM
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In 259 I referenced women and gay men as examples of groups more likely to have been the recipient of threats and so better at decoding implicit threats.

In 309, will dismissed women and gay men as "eggshell victims" and said the proper standard was "an ordinary person" - a straight man, since that's the main group left.

In 347, will clarified that an "ordinary person" - a straight man - would be able to provide an "objective view", which women and gay men obviously can't.

No, I didnt.

I said that there are objective standards and subjective standards. You are reading an anti-gay bias that simply isnt there. There are many important reasons why society wants objective standards by which we decide whether something is a threat. Self-defense rules would be a mess if it was a subjective standard.


You never answered my question about whether the professor should be able to get a protective order.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:56 PM
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At the school I went to, a B in Organic chemistry kept you out of medical school. Non-anecdotal, the Chem department had an arrangement with the nearby med school.

A lot of students depend on very high or even almost perfect grades to get into the school they want to go to, or to get the grant they need. A B could end their careers too.

"School they want to": for example, in philosophy, if you don't go to a top-20 school your chances of ever working in the field dwindle almost to nothing.

This is a separate argument, but "It's only a grade" is bullshit.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:56 PM
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Thank you, WD.

Since I'm cranky, I'll point out that I am not picking fights; this particular fight was well advanced long before I showed up. But of course, as usual, it'll end up being all my fault. Because Ogged's a feminist.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:57 PM
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Yeah, frat boys love lazy teachers in yoga pants, as long as they grade leniently.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:58 PM
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a B in Organic chemistry kept you out of medical school. Non-anecdotal, the Chem department had an arrangement with the nearby med school.

No it didn't. What you are saying is that it kept you out of *one* medical school.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 3:59 PM
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552: Jes did pre-empt your question in her 259:

Not explicit enough perhaps to bring the cops in, but over the line and not ignorable.

And while I don't think you meant to express anti-gay bias, the 'objective' -- if by that you mean explicitly rather than implicitly threatening -- doesn't work. "It'd sure be a shame if your face got broken," isn't an explicit threat, but it should be treated as a threat. Where to start thinking of something as a threat is going to be a judgment call.

Myself, I wouldn't read that evaluation as a threat unless there were other circumstances making it scarier. But it's not that far off.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:01 PM
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in philosophy, if you don't go to a top-20 school your chances of ever working in the field dwindle almost to nothing.

Allow me to suggest that if you're such a grade-grubbing chickenshit that you're afraid to go talk to your professors when you're having trouble with a course or want it to be more challenging, your chances of ever working in the field are probably nothing anyway.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:01 PM
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I will go back to what I understand the issue to be.

When a school says that an evaluation is anonymous, when should the evaluation not be anonymous?

My answer is only when the evaluation contains a threat.

The next question is whether the school should explain that abusive language should be excluded from anonymity. I think that the school should.

The student in this situation wasnt making a legitimate attempt to evaluate the professor, so all bets should be off if the school explains the policy.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:02 PM
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It wasn't me, and the people who told me about this got into medical school with A's in organic chemistry. This was Last Chance U., and not many medical students accepted its students.

Back off on the "it's just a grade" stuff. We're already arguing about 2 different things, Megan's evaluation and the post itself. School is a way of sorting winners and losers, and that's what grades are for.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:02 PM
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Myself, I wouldn't read that evaluation as a threat unless there were other circumstances making it scarier. But it's not that far off.

It looks a lot closer to "I hope you get cancer" than anything else to me.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:03 PM
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And while I don't think you meant to express anti-gay bias, the 'objective' -- if by that you mean explicitly rather than implicitly threatening -- doesn't work. "It'd sure be a shame if your face got broken," isn't an explicit threat, but it should be treated as a threat. Where to start thinking of something as a threat is going to be a judgment call.

No, objective does not mean explicit.

Objective standard in the law means the reasonable person. Would the reasonable person (formerly the patriarchal "reasonable man") think this was a threat, under the circumstances?

You surely know this, Lb?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:04 PM
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Allow me to suggest that if you're such a grade-grubbing chickenshit that you're afraid to go talk to your professors when you're having trouble with a course or want it to be more challenging, your chances of ever working in the field are probably nothing anyway

And if you know your Prof's a vain asshole who'll type you as a spoiled grubber and take it out on you at the end of the semester, it'll be smarter to keep your mouth shut. Really, you can put together the hypo all kinds of ways. But Emerson's right about how grades matter.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:05 PM
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B, you really should keep smoking.

I never was a grade-grubber, but I probably should have been. As for "talking to the professor" Megan judged that not to be a good idea in this case, and used the evaluation forms instead, and the whole purposes of evaluation forms was to enable to do that.

I think that you're really unrealistic about what the stakes are in undergrad education.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:07 PM
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Eh, I'm going to stop arguing with you John, because you're just being a cranky old man.

I agree with Will that if there's a threat, then yes obviously the school should track down the student, but that this particular evaluation wasn't really a threat.

That said, it was assholish, and so I can't really bring myself to get all boo-hoo over the poor, poor student whose anonymous right to be an asshole was violated.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:07 PM
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Happy almost birthday B.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:08 PM
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a radical method, but i quit smoking when i smoked a pack one day
i think i got poisoned, felt sick and threw up
after that i could not smoke anymore, though i smoked almost like 10 yrs from my teenage days
like 5-10 sigarettes a day


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:08 PM
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Who's saying who's cranky? At least I'm not wearing yoga pants.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:10 PM
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Emerson's right about how grades matter.

Okay, fine. Getting a bad grade in one course will RUIN YOUR LIFE, and even if you perform well on all the exams, etc., professors give good students bad grades because they (the students) come to office hours and say things like "I'm really having a hard time following your lectures" ALL THE TIME. And anyone who gets a bad grade in a course is a loser, and will end up on welfare, because every grade you get as an undergraduate determines the future of your life.

Break me a give, folks.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:10 PM
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Objective standard in the law means the reasonable person. Would the reasonable person (formerly the patriarchal "reasonable man") think this was a threat, under the circumstances?

I surely didn't know you thought we were talking about "How would Virginia caselaw come out on this issue?" And if that's what you're talking about, the 'reasonable man' standard does have exactly the problems Jes noted, by implicitly excluding the background threat of gay-bashing. You need to be thinking of the "the reasonable gay man on that campus."

Now, my guess is that it still wouldn't read as an actual threat, unless there was some current worry about violence against gays locally. But those sorts of circumstances need to be considered.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:11 PM
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will got to his 562 before I did, but I thought that's what he was saying: that whether something counts as threatening for legalish purposes is the reasonable person standard. Not "you are gay/female/dress poorly and must therefore be discounted" but "whether you personally found it threatening isn't the relevant criterion."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:12 PM
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Thanks, Will.

Emerson, I'm not in the mood for "joking!" sexist bullshit today. Really.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:12 PM
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Grades are important for students who want careers, B. That's why you have grade-grubbers. They know the system.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:14 PM
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571: I agree with Will, but to be fair, distinguishing between "whether you personally found it threatening" and "the reasonable person standard" isn't quite that easy, in part because the reasonable person standard is historically pretty much based on the idea that white middle class men are more "objective" than the rest of us.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:15 PM
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508: The turducken to me represents giving up on an idea before its completion. Outside the turkey, why not a pig?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:15 PM
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Right, John. Because people who don't get straight As never have careers.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:16 PM
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757: Aren't there Middle Eastern banquet recipes like that? A camel stuffed with a sheep, stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken stuffed with eggs? There are probably more and better components, I just can't remember them well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:17 PM
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It isnt easy. But the reasonable person evaluates it from the circumstances surrounding the person.

In other words, if little Cala hitting me is judged differently from me hitting her because of size.

Likewise, if the husband beats the wife to an inch of her life every time he gets drunk, when he gets drunk and approaches her to hit her, she doesnt have to wait until she is almost dead to protect herself.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:18 PM
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Someone from my alma mater, Last Chance U., is well advised to have a near-straight-A average if they want to get anywhere.

From someplace like Harvard, a B is like a gentleman's C, and while a Harvard degree is worth something anyway, Bs at Harvard don't get you into a top grad school.

Schools are all about competition and hierarchies, and grades are important.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:20 PM
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575: A pig isn't poultry. The real problem with the turducken is that there really aren't birds that people eat that are bigger than turkeys. Maybe an ostrich, but I think we only eat the leg meat, not the body. I could be wrong, though.

Of course, this is also the thing that saves the turducken. Because otherwise you'd end up in this endless infinite stuffing-birds-inside-birds loop.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:20 PM
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Okay, John, if you say so.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:20 PM
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Turducken:

http://www.cajungrocer.com/fresh-foods-holiday-dishes-turducken-c-1_15_24.html?source=google

Dont forget to order the quaducant (quail, duck, pheasant)


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:21 PM
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Jesus, B, have a cigarette.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:21 PM
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578: At that point, though, you can't call a gay man who's reasonably worried about anti-gay violence and perceives the abusive language in the evaluation as threatening an 'eggshell victim'. (You can if he's unreasonably worried, and I think odds are such worry would be unreasonable, but I can picture not entirely implausible circumstances where it wouldn't be.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:22 PM
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584:

The question is whether he is reasonably worried v. unreasonably. That is exactly the point.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:25 PM
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Yeah, I just think saying this language is 'objectively' not threatening is palming a card. It's close enough that I can see circumstances where it would reasonably be perceived as such.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:26 PM
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501: The definition you cite is correct, SCMT. I was treating this as a special case of the general phenomenon (albeit in a sloppily worded way).


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:26 PM
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John, how many times have I said that I want to drop this argument? Do you think maybe you could just, you know, agree to let it go?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:30 PM
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The example Jes gave is illustrative.

She said (approx.), imagine that you have been threatened with assault or rape previously. Now, hear those comments.

Nasty, abusive, anti-gay comments do not turn into a threat because you have been assaulted by someone else. A different story would be if this guy (or an organization that he belongs to) previously assault this professor by shoving something down his throat. Under those circumstances, these comments would be tied to the previous assault and could be seen as threatening.

But, to repeat, I find the remarks horrible. As I have said before, our neighborhood has a huge percentage of gay couples. This person is not sympathetic at all. But, unsympathetic people are the baseline for judging whether a system is fair.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:31 PM
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586:

Then, you must think our entire legal system is palming a card. Hey, maybe you are correct.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:32 PM
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Yea, that's right. I just said, "I have lots of gay friends." That part of 589 didnt come out right.

I just meant to explain to Jesur (who I have always respected immensely at OBW) what my perspective is.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:35 PM
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591: smooth-talking me doesn't work.

You've got to at least buy me a drink.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:44 PM
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593

Nasty, abusive, anti-gay comments do not turn into a threat because you have been assaulted by someone else.

That's simply untrue. (Note: In the following I'm making facts up -- not purporting to claim that I'm describing the circumstances at the actual college we're talking about.) Say you live in a place where there's a lot of gay-bashing: last week you were in a bar, and someone came over to you and said, "Hey, I hope you die choking on someone's cock," and then when you went out into the parking lot, someone, you think the same guy, jumped you from behind and beat you up. You have friends with similar stories: confrontationally abusive and anti-gay language, followed by violence.

That experience doesn't just make you unreasonably jumpy, it gives you information about what a reasonable person should, under the circumstances, be afraid of in the social milieu in question. And it would tell a reasonable person to perceive that sort of abusive language as threatening.

(Now, I don't think that's the actual atmosphere at any college in America now. But there are times not too long ago, and places not too far from where any of us live, where it would have been a reasonable description of the sorts of things that happened to people, and a reasonable person would have been threatened by that sort of language.)

Also, will? 590, and the 'Surely you know' comment before it? I'm cranky because I'm working, but those made me annoyed. If that wasn't the goal, I figure you should know it was the effect.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:47 PM
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LB:

"surely you know" I try not to give you more of a hard time than you can take.

Jesurgislac:

anytime.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:55 PM
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LB:

I do not understand 593.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 4:57 PM
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I do not understand 593.

If it's true that gays often get the shit beat out them by others shouting "Die you fucking faggot!", then writing those words to your gay teacher can reasonably be construed as a threat.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:00 PM
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Let me try 593 again. If you live someplace where people are likely to say "I hope you choke on a dick and die", or similarly abusive language, and then beat you up, you can reasonably perceive "I hope you choke on a dick and die" as threatening, because it's a conventional precursor to gay-bashing. Such places have existed in the past and may still exist.

A reasonable person might come to know that he lives in such a place by having been assaulted in the past. At that point, he's not an 'eggshell victim' because his history of having been assaulted makes him unreasonably nervous about language that isn't really threatening, he's a reasonable person with knowledge about what sort of language can be construed as a threat.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:02 PM
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Ooh, and Goneril with the concise way of putting it. Hey, want to write my counterclaims for me?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:03 PM
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I do not disagree that a causal connection can be made under the right facts.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:07 PM
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2nd place btw. Edwards and Clinton too close to call? Exciting.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:07 PM
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||

Woo c'mon Edwards let's see a strong second place finish!

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:09 PM
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Of course, shouting "die you fucking faggot" is a much easier case.

Threats also are dependent on the location. A statement made in dark parking lot is different from one made from far away.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:09 PM
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Pwned: it feels so good!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:12 PM
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Did someone perform the Heimlich Maneuver on Labs yet or did you bastards just ignore his cry for help?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:13 PM
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That wasn't a cry for help, he was just bragging.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:14 PM
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I said far above that a vague death wish is much more threatening when the one making the vague wish is physically able to find the person he's talking about.

Contrast a random internet posting saying "I hope so-and-so chokes to death.... etc." The student knew where to find the teacher.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:14 PM
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MSNBC mentioned some exit polling results that were pretty interesting out of South Carolina. One that really sticks with me is that the black voters they talked to were more likely to feel that America is ready for a black president than the white voters they spoke to, a reversal from previous polling I've seen. I'm feeling pretty good about Obama again.

Plus, I was happy to see on CNN that all 20 superdelegates from Illinois have already said they'll vote for him. Hurray!


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:18 PM
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I have not read all the comments, though I believe I've hit the highlights.

The problem with the stance of "oh, but it wasn't explicit that the privacy right excluded abusive behavoir, etc.," in my view, is that it assumes that the best way to operate in educational relationships is through explicit contractual guidelines. Such an attitude creates a sense of entitlement among students and places an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on faculty.

If students were really concerned about the professors' level of preparation for class, they would insist that departments abolish the various meetings to address assessment, etc., etc., etc. What value is really added by student evaluations? The students who are really engaged and who really have constructive comments should be encouraged to come forward personally. Otherwise, my belief is that student evaluations should be treated as a "venting" opportunity and shredded before the professor is distracted by reading them.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:18 PM
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If I'm reading the exit polls correctly, second place will go to Hillary and Obama may poll above 50%. That would be interesting.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:21 PM
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Prof-to-be Kotsko's anticipatory socialization is showing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:29 PM
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NBC says Obama loses the white vote 40-25.

Also predicts Edwards third, which is a shame.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:31 PM
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611: He lost the white vote, yet won the primary. The only possible conclusion to draw from this is that black people exist and their votes count every bit as much.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:33 PM
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I was assuming all already know that Obama won overall by a large margin.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:33 PM
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612: also can draw the conclusion that black voters made up a very large proportion of SC primary voters (over half), but are only about 12 percent of the overall U.S. population.

Super Tuesday is going to be verrry interesting...


Posted by: P.G. Delightful | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:35 PM
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612: What? Really? But, but....


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:39 PM
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614: Ah, but see, the overall US vote doesn't matter; the electoral college does.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:40 PM
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I just said, "I have lots of gay friends."

I do too! We should have sex.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:44 PM
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I just said, "I have lots of gay friends."

Yes, but are some of your best friends gay? Because that is the litmus test, you know.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:46 PM
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OH NO SCARY BLACK MAN STEAL WHITE HOUSE! QUICK RUN AWAY DOOOOOOM!


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:50 PM
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BLACK MAN STEAL WHITE HOUSE!

That's gonna be really tricky to fence.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:53 PM
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NBC says Obama loses the white vote 40-25

Better than expected. He's still toast of the long term, though.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:55 PM
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When a school says that an evaluation is anonymous, when should the evaluation not be anonymous? My answer is only when the evaluation contains a threat.

This seems like a ludicrously stringent standard, in light of the circumstances. It's a student's evaluation of a professor, nothing more.

Also, how the fuck is CNN calling SC for Obama with only 9% reporting?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 5:55 PM
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Also, how the fuck is CNN calling SC for Obama with only 9% reporting?

He won the exit polls by something like 30%. They can be pretty off, but it would be incredibly rare for them to be that off.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:08 PM
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One might also note that Obama won in Iowa, a state where his presence made the black population shoot up by a significant percentage during the campaign.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:09 PM
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So: when Edwards drops out, who has more of an impact: the people who are voting white (and possibly "familiar") who go to Hillary, or the people who are voting progressive (not to mention male) who go to Obama?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:15 PM
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I'm watching Bill Clinton on CNN. It seems like a strange move to not have Hillary on TV tonight. She apparently put out a statement.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:17 PM
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625: That's a good question. I'm guessing that it would be the people who go to HRC, because I assume more and more of the "progressive" vote is already leaking to Obama as it looks like he needs it and Edwards is done. But, also, I would think that the reason Edwards would leave is because he doesn't have t hat many votes to be thrown to either candidate. So I'm not sure how big the effect might be as we go on.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:25 PM
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Forgive me, I'm backing upthread, then I'll get off this topic. The new one is of interest.

You are all on the road to convincing me that professors should all be garbed in unisexual jumpsuits -- yea verily, orange ones. One size too large.

mm, I do hesitate to revive the question, but really: we all know that in our world, attractiveness plays a role in all human interaction, and for women to a much larger extent than for men. Many women who are attractive are aware of it, and to some degree use or rely upon it. This is one reason for the disproportionately critical eye women cast upon other women. It's often a case of knowing it when we see it; it's equally often a case of sheer snarkiness if another woman is outcompeting others in the room.

The problem comes when you see someone doing this, know perfectly well that it's encouraged (indeed applauded, we all wanna be hot, right?) by our society and that we all participate, know that it's deeply fucked up, and wish to hell the woman in question weren't doing it. Then you are operating from a highly conflicted arena.

In an ideal world, we would all opt out of this game. As it stands, the game happens. If there's anything a little weird about raising it in the context of a college classroom, it's the double-think involved in wanting that environment to transcend the particular when we so clearly know that it does not.

p.s. I hate you all.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:26 PM
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Edwards isn't going to drop out.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:32 PM
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ABC news is asking "why does he keep on?"

Um, maybe because, you know, he actually really does believe in what he's doing. Crazy concept, I know.

I'm totally voting for him on the 5th. Fuck it, man.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:34 PM
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Granting 629, whom is he hurting by staying in? Cuz he ain't gonna win.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:35 PM
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Me too, B. He keeps Obama honest.

Vote against the 4 tribal compacts. They chucked workers' rights -- the earlier compacts included a right to organize. Especially galling because this was done with the cooperation of the Speaker, who had been the political director of the LA Country Fed of Labor previously.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:37 PM
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Edwards isn't going to drop out.

I certainly won't hold whatever he does against him, even if, in the end, he does decide to drop out. And, as many have pointed out, he's been--at a minimum--a useful foil for HRC and Obama, from a progressive perspective.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:37 PM
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632: Hmm, really? Crap. I usually vote for the Indian gaming thing.

We're actually watching tv now, which we haven't done in months, I don't think, and all the ads for the various propositions are making me want to vote exactly the opposite way the ads say, because the ads are so fucking obnoxious.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:39 PM
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631: Who knows? The white age split in SC is interesting, though. HRC won the 60+ and lost the others to Edwards. I suspect, based on what little I stereotype of SC, that there are plenty of reasons for people to prefer the Edwards' program to that of either other candidate. But then why did he lose the 60+ crowd.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:41 PM
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Because older women remember the days when women didn't run for political office at all, and are voting accordingly.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:45 PM
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Here's another puzzler: CNN says the Dem electorate in SC was 61% female, 39% mail (Repubs were 49-51). Is this a registration differential, a turnout differential, a consequence of felon disenfranchisement, or what?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:47 PM
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You can say he's the black candidate. You can also say he's the "If I have time to campaign in person & mobilize my volunteer organization, my supporters will turn out in record numbers to kick your ass" candidate. Neither bodes particularly well for Feb. 5, but the latter does explain Iowa too. Anyway, who knows what happens going forward, but what a great night.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:49 PM
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Because older women remember the days when women didn't run for political office at all, and are voting accordingly.

Yeah, *that's* why older white women aren't voting for Obama in South Carolina.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:54 PM
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637: it's the electorate going postal.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:55 PM
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His campaign has acknowledged he isn't likely to win any states. He's trying to change the party, and it's a worthwhile effort.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:55 PM
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in my view, is that it assumes that the best way to operate in educational relationships is through explicit contractual guidelines. Such an attitude creates a sense of entitlement among students and places an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on faculty.

Alternatively, it could be assuming that we expect our educational institutions to promote clear communication.

Some might want our educational institutions to model the work environment with unclear expectations or require students to understand that we do not necessarily mean what we say. But, I think it is best to let students do their interpretation of unclear language in class.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:56 PM
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I hate the media's coverage of these primaries.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:57 PM
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Also pretty funny is the breakdown of voting based upon "Importance of Bill Clinton Campaigning". Those who find his campaigning important were about three times as likely to vote for Hillary as those who did not find his campaigning important (though Obama still won the group who found it important).

That does seem to suggest a heavy effect of Bill Clinton helping her out, though the criticism of Mr. President on MSNBC has been pretty incredibly vicious. They're really seizing on his racially charged non sequitor comparing Obama's success to Jackson in '88 without any comment. Also, they seem to really be harping on the Clinton's games with the Michigan and Florida votes, and the many character flaws they think are being revealed. Interesting to see if these become major anti-Clinton narratives for the next week.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 6:59 PM
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Wow. The media finding ways to criticize the Clintons. I am shocked. Simply shocked.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 7:01 PM
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And why the hell have I heard at least two commentators pronounce "divisive" with all short i's, rhyming with "missive"?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 7:02 PM
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Gosh, would someone put up an independent post to discuss the SC primary?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 7:21 PM
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This is not a blogocracy. Our primary discussion needs are stomped under the jackboots of the (absent) blogtatorship.

Also, holy shit, Sausagely is right, the guy can speak. And his crowd's chant fundamentals are rock solid.

And that's the third time they've pronounced "divisive" really weirdly.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-26-08 7:29 PM
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