Whenever a TV panel discussion requires an extra dose of gravitas and dandruff, the call goes out for the Celebrity Professor, that hybrid creature who is equally comfortable on the Op-Ed page and the faculty lounge.
Q: Are they cabalistic social shut-ins, or preening intellectual frauds?
A: The best are a bit of both.
Happily, the Internet has made bitch-bitch-bitch critics of us all, and public humiliation is no longer an exclusively instructor-on-student sanction–thanks to www.ratemyprofessors.com, where reviews of professors make life easier for students in search of bird courses, or that malleable Humbert Humbert.
So let’s get on with it.
Herewith, Frank’s list of Twelve Worst Celebrity Profs, in order of increasing awfulness, based on their entries at www.ratemyprofessors.com. The term ‘celebrity’ is used in its loosest, most Canadian sense.
All student typos and grammatical barbarities have been preserved, so we can better appreciate the educational footprint left by our esteemed Public IntellectualsTM.
#1 NELSON WISEMAN
Political Science, University of Toronto
Banjo-eyed director of U of T’s Canadian Studies always crackling with startling insights for media stenographers, last year cracking the mystery of Ford Nation for Time: “A third of the public would still vote for him. They see him as a big dumb guy like them—a Rodney Dangerfield type who just can’t get no respect.” Uh, thanks, professor. Mitigating factor: He’s even worse in person.
“Lectures were dull and uninteresting, voice was quiet and monotone, wrote on a blackboard for a lecture of over 100 students, refused to use email or Portal, and occasionally snappy and dismissive of student questions. One of the worst professors I’ve had, period.”
“Monotone and boring.”
Teacher’s Pet: “Excellent professor. He does not like E-mail however if you call him, he is more then happy to chat and answer questions.”
#2 DARRYL DAVIES
Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University
Salary: $118, 193
Police brutality, militarization, racial profiling? Media hacks know they can rely on Davies for pithily paranoid punditry, but students soon tire of his one-note whistle-blowing.
“You could tell he has a bias towards the cops. He talks about how cops are bad. He does not post anything on CuLearn so that means no lecture slides. His class consisted of one paper and one exam. I did bad on the paper and good on the exam so got a C+. Exam was easy.”
“Atrocious opinionated rants that derailed any attempt at learning. Read the textbook. It’s the only thing you’ll learn in this class other then viciously one-sided argument where facts counter to his opinion are completely ignored.”
“Absolutely worst professor I have ever had. Rambles on about how much he hates police every class, shows the same documentary’s in all his classes and is unapproachable and argumentative about everything. 60% final exams. At the end of the year I couldn’t say what I had learned in his class.”
Teacher’s Pet: “Makes the class interesting. Rants a lot, but they’re always relevant. Very clear on what we need to know; the major theories are important, the rest of the book is supplemental. Loved the class and would definitely take another by him.”
#3 WESLEY WARK
Spy Groupie, U of T, Munk School of Global Affairs, U of O.
One part Samuel Huntington, one part Professor Frink, two parts Ambien. These are anxious times, and spy-groupie Wark’s apocalyptic mumblings have never been in higher demand, but what say those who’ve actually been close enough to feel the spittle of the great man?
“A great prof if you don’t have to approach him. he DOES accept emails, but his replies often give the impression that he’s impatient with you and would rather be doing anything rather than answering your ‘silly’ questions. Makes him rather intimidating.”
“Definitely knows his stuff, but is a complete jackass when you need help. Not having suggested essay topics can really screw you over, too.”
“reminds me of stephen king…. ????” “borrrring” “fall-down-a-well-and-wait-for-Lassie boring. Fake accent?”
Teacher’s Pet: “voice induces sleep, but once you get used to it, really good”
“Love this class, and loved Wark. He got more and more friendly and jovial as the year went on, but never lost his passion for the topic. I admit to having spy fantasies about him during class.”
#4 NEIL BOYD
Criminal Justice, Simon Fraser University
SFU’s ubiquitous shrinking head and author of The Beast Within aka This is Your Textbook. Buy It. The Vancouver media can’t get enough of his peppy penseés on pot, prostitutes and pig farms, but the kiddies at SFU don’t exactly genuflect to Neil.
“The textbook that he wrote was actually semi-interesting but the way he books it out of his class the second it’s time and is just generally dismissive is so irritating. There are no notes during class and the amount of readings we have to do is absolutely ridiculous.”
“This guy thinks hes all that cuz he gets interviewed in the province, always looks dishevelled like he just got off a plane from mexico, lots of talk but no even partly clear answer from boyd, makes you buy a bunch of books he wrote or is referenced to but you dont even use them so I felt really scammed spending all that money for nothing STAY AWAY”
“He has no respect for his students and does not hesitate to talk down to u. He is arrogant and is the worst professor Ive had at SFU. He is no teacher, he is only a lawyer. He’s obviously too comfortable with his associate director position and takes advantage of it. A complete wasteofmoney. Needs to realize that he works for us We are paying him.”
“self-indulgent; lazy, lazy, lazy & unfair”
Teacher’s Pet: “Best prof ever! very interesting, no notes, open book midterm, take home final….does it get any better then- this??!?!?”
“Great teacher, wealth of invaluable knowledge.”
#5 IAN LEE
Sprott School of Bidness, Cartoon U.
Much-liked in ratemyprofs’ early days, over the past few years the Sage of Dunton Tower has lost his mojo and ratings have slipped. Slower learners in the media still hang on his every budget day bloviation.
“He’s full of himself and I learned that my first class when he entered the room and the first thing he did was google his name. Seems very knowledgable but expects an unrealistic amount of work (200page report) and then complains about how much marking he has to do.”
“This course would have been better without his self-absorbed lectures or his unbelievable partisan commentary. I’m AMAZED that they let someone spout rhetoric in classes that we’re paying hundreds of dollars to take. Lazy, awful professor.”
“A useless man who truly represents Carleton, where the K stands for quality”
Teacher’s Pet: “All these other reviews are extremely too harsh! Ian is an awesome guy! super intelligent, and all around knows what he is talking about. Sure, the paper is lengthy, but it’s not like he doesn’t give you an entire semester to complete it or anything. Obviously these reviews are slackers pissed they have to work towards graduating, good class/prof”
#6 THOMAS HOMER-DIXON
Munk School of Global Affairs/U. of T./U. of Waterloo
“ThemostconceitedProfessor I have had to date. Holy Hell, it’s really bad. And he is so biased.”
“So the story with him is the following: years ago he was ridiculed by the IR community and I think he’s finally made a name for himself so he’s still reeling from that high. Hence his arrogance. Hope this helps.”
“This man gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘ego-maniac’. He has done some good work, but he vastly overexaggerates his importance. The class ended up being more about ‘who said this, who said that’ and what he thinks about the issues than about the actual issues themselves. I wouldn’t reccomend the class, there are better ones out there.”
“Comes off as arrogant, and probably doesn’t care about his students much (only about himself and his book!). But gotta admit, he is brilliant and definately knows his stuff.”
Teacher’s Pet: “This class was amazing, and if you work hard and do your readings you’ll get a lot out of it. I finally felt like I was in university — we had challenging, interesting readings and debates. THD is fantastic… unless you’re lazy. But then why are you in university?”
TOMORROW: Janice Stein, Cathy Dunphy, Andrew Cohen and more!