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Friday, November 19, 2010

Offensive Student Evaluations

It is that time of year again – student evaluation time.  Although the value of student evaluations has been questioned  (for example, see here and here), I used to take them pretty seriously. 

And then I got this one:

In response to the question “What are the best aspects of the course?” the student wrote: 

Professor is kinda hot – not bad to look at!

In response to the next question, “What advice do you have for the instructor to improve this course?” the student responded: 

Lose a few pounds. 

Really? An entire semester of Property, and that is what you came up with?   So now I take my student evaluations with a grain of salt and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.  

Posted by Ashira Ostrow on November 19, 2010 at 11:34 AM | Permalink


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I had student tell me on course eval that I shouldn't wear black so often. Nice to get fashion advice...

Posted by: Delaney Kirk | Dec 14, 2010 10:37:30 PM

A classmate came up with my all-time favorite comment regarding a really horrible (and horribly taught) course on commercial law, which consisted of the "professor" literally reading the statutes:

Q: What did you like most about this course?
A: The minty freshness.

Posted by: Joyce | Nov 24, 2010 12:01:17 PM

@Katie ... srsly? lighten up. people like you give lawyers a bad name.

Posted by: Jamal | Nov 24, 2010 4:35:32 AM

In response to "Sexism," above:

The issue is the comment's sexism (and the fact that these type of comments are disproportionately directed at female professors), which is independent of the sex of its author. It's just as much of a sexist comment coming from a woman as it would be from a man.

Posted by: Katie | Nov 23, 2010 10:22:39 PM

What a miserable, useless, offensive evaluation. However, I hope your comment about now taking all student evaluations with a grain of salt is a little tongue-in-cheek. Surely such an approach would be a bit over-inclusive, no? Some students *do* take the time to submit thoughtful evaluations. I hope you still take the thoughtful evaluations seriously. To do otherwise would be to let the morons spoil it for the rest of us.

Posted by: '12 | Nov 23, 2010 7:28:07 PM

seriously--do you think straight guys even notice shoes?

Posted by: C. Dick Montana | Nov 23, 2010 6:45:42 PM

With regard to sexism, you don't know for sure if it was a male or female making the comment. If you are assuming, aren't you being a bit sexist yourself?

Posted by: sexism | Nov 23, 2010 6:34:57 PM

If you did need to lose a few pounds, having left the world of biglaw for the academy should help.

Posted by: Law Firm Associate | Nov 23, 2010 6:06:40 PM

Well Professor Ostrow, after researching Google and the Hofstra webpage, I too must conclude that you are "kinda hot." Can't blame the evaluator for being honest; that's what the anonymity is supposed to bring out, right?

Posted by: Jonathan Sams | Nov 23, 2010 5:48:55 PM

My favorite: "You're a dick but a good teacher."

Posted by: Mike Mannheimer | Nov 22, 2010 10:13:46 PM

A colleague and I recieved "evaluations" that were very similar -- "She dresses like a bag lady" and "Her hair and clothing need an update". Wow, that really is helpful for improvimg one's teaching!

Posted by: Dianne Raeke Ferrell | Nov 22, 2010 10:17:09 AM

"ways this professor could improve?". "sit-ups and ironing". Tre enough

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Nov 20, 2010 11:33:39 PM

It's amazing what a little anonymity will do to bring out the sexism!

(Of course, course evaluations must be anonymous. It's just striking how much stuff like the comment in the original post you get if you're a woman and there's an opportunity to make anonymous comments about you, whether on the internet, in course evals, etc.)

Posted by: anon | Nov 20, 2010 12:36:26 AM

My fav: "There's absolutely nothing redeeming about her as a person ... but she has nice shoes."

Posted by: anon | Nov 19, 2010 8:10:03 PM

I once got a detailed breakdown of my strengths and weaknesses -- on our intramural basketball team.

That looked really great in the tenure file...

Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Nov 19, 2010 5:45:01 PM

Serious response: while some students take evaluations more seriously than others, women profs get more comments on their looks/appearance than male profs. We're not in a post-sexist society.

Re "favorite quotes from evaluations," in my second year of teaching, a student described me as "a dictator with a sense of humor."

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Nov 19, 2010 4:38:02 PM

Since we're playing the favorites game, here's mine: "Prof. Jordan was great in class, somewhat less so in person."

That said, I find evaluations a very useful source of feedback. To be sure, students will occasionally miss the point, but I would hate to think that the lesson of stray remarks is that we should disregard evaluations altogether.

Posted by: Sam Jordan | Nov 19, 2010 3:55:34 PM

My favorite: "He's too slim to wear pleated pants."

Posted by: rob vischer | Nov 19, 2010 3:18:42 PM

At least now I know what I have to look forward to.

Posted by: Jake Linford | Nov 19, 2010 2:12:35 PM

My personal favorite:

"He was a good instructor and seems like a nice guy, but the ability to be a heartless, cold professor will come with time unfortunately."

Posted by: andy | Nov 19, 2010 12:37:15 PM

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