Defamation overcomes debate

Defamation overcomes debate

Columnist and college professor Mike Adams has observed that people no longer debate folks with whom they disagree, but too often resort to simple defamation. He provides some examples:

Last semester, a student did poorly in my class. He was one of the few students who did not do well as I had a wonderful semester with as great a bunch of kids as I’ve had in my career. But this one unhappy kid decided that the way to protest his grade was to log on to – I call it “Rape My Professors Dot Com” – and write a fictitious story about why did so poorly.

In a widely read public forum he wrote in great detail about how he did well on all of his tests. But, according to the poor victim, an unethical Dr. Adams graded him solely on personal factors. He also wrote publicly that I lied on my syllabus (by claiming that I did not take absences directly into account in factoring grades).

But there was one small problem. The kid never showed up to get any of his test grades. Therefore, he had no idea that his grade was simply the objectively computed average of all three test grades.

Problem: You do poorly in a class.
Solution: Log on to the internet and accuse the professor (by name) of a breach of ethics.

My experience with defamation

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  • Back when, the engineering dept. I attended at and upstate NY university would keep copies of professor and teaching assistant (TA)evaluations in the main office for review.

    I read through evaluations of a friend who was a TA and 99% of the evaluations were very positive (he took a dry subject and livened it up, and was quite fair and honest with students).  One evaluation was negative and the student had signed his name. I asked my friend about it and he said the particular student missed assignments (and was given extra time for make up), yet the student never completed so ended the course with a D.

    Guess some folks find it much easier to blame others for their own mistakes, and will likely spend their life crying about how they are “victims”.

  • “Rate My Professor”, ugh. My husband is a good teacher but a tough grader, and, boy, has he gotten some bad reviews. One of his colleagues took the time to look around and found that the only profs (from their school, anyway) who had good reviews were the easy graders.

    So if you want a “gut” course, “Rate My Professor” is the place to find it! But open, honest reviews of the pros and cons of professors – not so much.

    Nice post.

  • My good friend is a middle school teacher and she can’t believe what her students and their parents write! In college I had a problem with a professor and her grading in which she failed to show up to class half the time, let us out 25 minutes early, and didn’t have a mid-term, (yeah know those cool popular professors with an easy class) but I took it up with the dean and not with other classmates. I recieved the results I wanted, which was the ability to retake the course with another professor and at the time I believe she was at least spoken to by the department.

    I’m afraid to Google my name or the title of my blog anymore, because I use my real name when I post. I don’t need the stress. Interesting quote from Garrison Keillor….

    Civility doesn’t mean acquiescence. It simply means trying to observe the standards of face-to-face conduct. People whale away at each other in the media and launch juggernauts of invective. E-mail is a dangerous thing, and anonymous e-mail is toxic. Bloggers fight fire with fire, conspiracies are imagined, evil intent is assumed, or craven corruption or utter stupidity, but in the end serious people have to be willing to sit down and look each other in the eye and say what we think. Politics is not transacted between cartoons.

    I stay only within blog that I not only agree with, but those who are charitable in writing. No offense to our Catholic brothers and sisters, some of us can be pretty nasty with the tone of words and even profanity. It is amazing the characters and personas people become on the Internet.

  • This thread hits on two topics, so I’ll try to be brief on each. 
    First, most sales managers talk about the “20/200” rule (numbers vary with who says it): “A happy customer will tell only about 20 people, if that.  An unhappy customer will tell 200.”  There should be a rule in all management, whether retail, education or whatever, that an employee’s positive feedback is the #1 source of review, since it represents the silent majority.

    I’ve had students complain vocally about an assignment, then I revised it to their complaints, then they complained that I went against the syllabus.

    One time, an obnoxious student (a middle-aged man who resented being in my class at all) basically revolted in the middle of class, screamed at me for like 20 minutes, claiming that everone else agreed with him, and that’s why they weren’t saying anything, and stormed out.
    During break, several people came up and said, “Don’t listen to that guy.  We think you’re great.  He was just being a jerk, and we were shocked.”

    On the point about defamation, C. S. Lewis has an essay called “Bulverism” where he talks about this problem on the horizon (for his generation0.  My own tendencies towards Donatism were cured by the public scandals of some prominent conservative Catholics in 2004. 

    But I *would* say that an equal and opposite problem of our new media is the tendency to shut out dialogue.  Everyone has a voice now, but it’s so easy to shut out those you don’t agree with.

    The “power” of the blogosphere allows the administrator to shut him or herself off into a little coccoon.  It’s one thing to ban trolls and stuff.  It’s quite another when people make rules like, “This is my site, and you’re not allowed to disagree with me.”

  • I understand what you are saying regarding the blogosphere, for the several trolls and swarming there are people with interesting insight that I’ve never thought of or have valid concerns and questions.

    People have lost all decorum, at times because I’ve never been properly taught or witness good manners I know other people don’t have them either. When posting on another person’s blog, you are a guest though. So if you want to be invited to the conversation you have to behave.

    Some blog authors have terrible decorum to begin with, so it isn’t worth trying to leave a comment.

  • Years ago I was a professor at one of the military academies.  We did student evaluation forms every semester.  My first semester I did pretty well – better in subsequent semesters – but I had two evals that were really bad.  Both students rated me with straight 0’s on a scale of 0-5, when 95% of the students gave me all 4’s and 5’s. When the Deputy Dept Head went over the them with me he said, “If you don’t get a couple of these every semester, you probably aren’t doing your job.”