Day 112: Witches & Titans – The Staff At U-VA

originally published April 21, 2012

In lieu of doing factual research on a topic – school just ended, and I feel like giving my brain a rest – I will instead be presenting blatant, unchecked opinions. Those are always so much more fun than facts anyway.

Ms. Wiki assigned today’s article to the University of Virginia. Rather than pontificate on its rich 200-year history, its triple-A credit rating, or its notable alumni (Edgar Allen Poe, Tina Fey, and Steelers’ linebacker James Farrior, to name but three), I’m going to instead take a more personal approach.

The popular website RateMyProfessors.com allows students to arbitrarily assign ratings and comments to their professors. So to all present and future Cavaliers, this can be a valuable resource for you. The internet is never wrong, so pay attention.

Drama 387: Prof. Richard Herskovitz

This is a film studies class, apparently with a focus on independent filmmakers. One critic warns, “Prepare to meet some subpar filmmakers, since he doesn’t know any real ones. He brings them to class and everyone feels awkward since no one liked their movies.”

I’m totally on board for this class. An uncomfortable discussion with 50+ students trying desperately not to tell the guy behind the podium that his movie made them want to pluck their eyes out with a long skinny fork and dip them into a pot of cheese fondue? Who wouldn’t want to witness that? It would be like taking a music appreciation class with guest lecturer David Lynch.

Anthropology 225D: Roberto Armengol (T.A.)

Not a prof, just an assistant. Still, with a comment like “HOTHOTHOT. And a great teacher”, how could you miss? I googled Roberto in hopes of catching a glimpse at this slice of Virginian beefcake, and found this picture.

Not encouraging.

Economics 201: Prof. Loizos Solomou

This professor got a quartet of high ratings, but one vicious soul thrashed out the following: “He speaks Greek, not English. More interested in his hairstyle than his subject.”

That’s intriguing. Now I want to see what his hair looks like.

Astronomy 121: Prof. Ciska Markwick-Kemper

Here are some quotes: “a very bad teacher”, “the worst teacher I have ever had in my life”, “the worst teacher I have ever had”, “worthless and uninteresting”, “she’s a witch”, “wouldn’t know ‘helpful’ if it bit her in the arse.”

This actually makes me wish I could take her class. A bad teacher is a bad teacher, but a witch? The worst teacher two people have ever had? Someone who inspires this much vitriol, this much fury, must be experienced. If you’re in the Virginia area with an abundance of time and nowhere to be, I would suggest auditing her class. She has twelve reviews on this site – an above-average number – and every one of them is horrendous. Might be a great place to practice your heckling skills.

Digital Media Studies 110: Prof. Siva Vaidhyanathan

In this class,  “…you read his books and books by his friends.” “I’m not sure why he thinks we would care that he has met the guys who wrote our assigned readings.” “7 books plus a couple hundred pages of handouts… for a 100-level class.”

This is the kind of practical, helpful advice that I’m beginning to admire from this site. Okay, he name-drops people you’ve never heard of – that could be funny if he takes it really seriously. But all that reading for a 100-level single-semester class? That’s a lot of alcohol, loud music and bisexual experimentation you’d be giving up, and that could really smack a dent into your college experience.

Music 3336: Loren Ludwig (T.A.)

I was intrigued by: “It seemed that he was on something and that his goal was to make life miserable”, but a reviewer of Ludwig’s Music 212 class warns, “You learn nothing in the discussion. He’s bald.”

There’s simply no forgiving that.

Ethnic Studies: Prof. Shawn Lyons

The University of Virginia might be a great place to take an ethnic studies course; three of the five professors listed are rated as ‘Hot’. Prof. Lyons is one of the two non-hotties. Nevertheless, one helpful reviewer wrote, “Easy, enjoyable class. Professor Lyons is a beast among men.” The next boasted that Prof. Lyons has “the strength of 10 men”. The next exclaimed, “He means well.”

You know what’s bothering me about this site? It’s the evident censorship. I’m clicking from professor to professor, looking for something with some personality to it, and almost every review is clean and helpful, whether positive, negative or neutral. This just isn’t how college kids talk.

The profs that get a hotness rating, there’s no description of the students’ boner intensity during lectures, or any elaborate buttock curvature reports. The words “douchebag”, “ball-gobbler” or “taint-shreddingly hard exams” are nowhere to be seen.

While I respect that this keeps the site pure and safe for impressionable kids to use as a legitimate research tool, it takes a bit of the fun out of it. I think this is a marketable idea: a RateMyProfessors.com rival site that allows subjective, profane, and passionately honest reviews, whether positive, negative or neutral.

The University of Virginia’s Wiki page reads like a brochure. But then why shouldn’t it? Two of the three Kennedy brothers attended the school. It was established by Thomas Jefferson. It’s the school once attended by Woodrow Wilson and TV interior decorating guru Vern Yip.

You see? This is what I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t looking to give the school free publicity, but it’s hard to find fault in it. As goofy (and bald) as its professors may be, this is a kick-ass institution.

I find it interesting that they use an honor system, an official student-run code that dates back to 1842. It boils down to “don’t lie, cheat or steal.” My university has a list of rules that includes “don’t cheat” (and I assume “don’t steal”, though they don’t feel the need to pass out a handout in the first class of every course about it), but the lying thing sounds great, if you can get it to stick. Given how many politicians have graduated from the school, I can’t imagine these rules are a lifetime commitment thing.

I hope this has helped someone in picking their timetable for next year. My advice: go for the prof with the strength of ten men.

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