Kent State prof fires back at Web site

Teachers dispute Web forum

Students aren't the only ones who look at RateMyProfessors.com anymore.

An increasing number of students and professors access the Web site, a forum for students to discuss their positive or negative feelings about specific teachers. Professors at AU and schools across the nation have begun to view the site more as a place for students to vent than to post useful information.

Karl Idsvoog, an electronic media professor at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, responded to personal attacks on RateMyProfessors.com with an online video through MTV's new program, "Professors Strike Back." Comments on RateMyProfessors.com described Idsvoog as a "rude, disrespectful, pretentious snob."

Idsvoog responded to negative comments on the Web site by saying, "I'm not there to baby-sit, we're there to train professionals. If you can't take a direct question, you're in the wrong place; you don't deserve to be at the university. Grow up," according to MyFOX.com.

Idsvoog, however, said he only participated in MTV's program because the station approached him, not because he was offended by his ratings.

"Did the comments on the site upset me? No, not at all," he said in an interview. "When they first came out I printed them out and put them on the door."

Maggie Burnette Stogner, an assistant professor in the School of Communication, said she believes Idsvoog's video response to his ratings was inappropriate and unprofessional.

"We try to model to our students how to be professional and how to handle negative situations," she said. "The idea of putting together a video response is inappropriate. You're not teaching your students very good life skills that way."

Dan Scotchmer, a freshman at Kent State University, said he believed Idsvoog's response to the comment was acceptable.

"As long as he's not targeting a specific student, I don't really have a problem with it," he said. "The First Amendment gives him the right to defend himself, so it's his right to express his opinion on what's going on behind his back."

Hadley Guiler, a freshman in the School of International Service, said that while RateMyProfessors.com serves as a valuable tool for choosing professors, students have to remember that the site can be subjective.

"I think RateMyProfessors.com is a good utility for when students are making their schedules, but you have to understand that it's biased at one extreme or the other," Guiler said. "People who post either love or hate the professor."

While Guiler said she found it appropriate for Idsvoog to defend himself, she believes that responding to criticism personally in class could have been more effective.

"My dad's a professor at Robert Morris University, and when he gets negative comments on RateMyProfessors.com, he addresses it face-to-face with his students in class. Even though the students attacked him anonymously, he thinks it's more professional in an educational institution to address problems directly," she said.

Stogner said she would prefer for students with concerns to talk to her personally rather than posting their feelings on a blog.

"Open dialogue is the healthiest way to handle a situation," Stogner said. "I think we kind of lose sight of that today because so much of our communication is over the Internet."

You can reach this writer at news@theeagleonline.com.

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