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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Guess Who's Still Teaching at McGill?

That's right, this guy:

A year ago I wrote a post called Nomination for Worst Professor. I highly recommend it if you're interested in how bad professors can possibly be. Here's a reminder if you need it though. First, the usual "merely bad professor" stuff:
  • His lectures were usually not specifically about the course.
  • He kept telling the class that the course is "boring" and "dry".
  • He liked to end class 30% early.
But here's the stuff that really makes him shine like a hunk of coal in a jewelry store:
  • When it was discovered that many of his students couldn't calculate an average, his reaction was "oh well!" and he never tested us on it (or really anything) even though he said he would.
  • He just about never referenced any research, ever, throughout the entire course.
  • He lied about who our TA was, then started ignoring my emails altogether. He gave me several bogus email addresses for our TA and I never found out who it was, or if they even existed.
  • I persisted, but it proved impossible to get any feedback on an essay worth 25% of our grade. I am nearly certain nobody read any of our essays and we all just got As.
He's Back: Proof the Department Doesn't Care

My comic above is not a joke. In some rare cases, I really do think offering a lecturer position to a randomly chosen graduate student would be a huge improvement for the course. Imagine how seriously a graduate student might take that opportunity? Clearly, improving this course is not McGill's priority.

Maybe hiring a replacement was too much work.

In my original post I did not identify the course, professor, or the department chair. I wanted to give the department a fair chance to do something about this. Now that he's teaching again there's no reason to maintain privacy. Gus Appignanesi is the professor and Jeff Derevensky is the department chair I complained to. I'm hoping Jeff was powerless here but it could have been a conflict of interest. Their research interests are conspicuously identical. They likely work together and know each other outside McGill. More on this in my original post.

By the way, I've still gotten zero feedback on my A grade essay. Or proof that anyone even read it. Why doesn't the department care about this, at all?

But Everyone Loves Gus!
That's right, Gus currently has a smooth 4.6 out of 5 rating on RateMyProfessors.

"Gus is a rare gem at McGill."

"Best professor at McGill"

Well, what did we expect? A professor ends class early, expects nothing, doesn't test you, doesn't challenge you with research, talks about irrelevant fun random topics, and hands out As without reading your paper. Of course students love him - especially those who write glowing reviews without punctuation on RateMyProfessors.

I can't think of a more perfect example of why you must use caution interpreting ratings on RateMyProfessors. It's up to the department to evaluate professors more objectively, and ignore high praise from student reviews in cases where a professor is seriously undermining the legitimacy of a department.

What Now?
Thank you for reading and sharing my posts. I've gotten far more readers than I ever imagined by talking about McGill. I really feel like together we're exposing how some McGill courses are the pinnacle of grade-inflated shams. Like "security theater" too many university courses are "education theater".

If you want a profoundly easy course that does not challenge you, taught by a professor who says and proves he does not care, then take Measurement and Evaluation with Gus this coming semester.

Finally, awhile ago I found a website called Degrading McGill written by a McGill professor. If you're interested in what value McGill is giving you in exchange for your time and money, I highly recommend it.

If you care, complain.