Way back in the late 1990s, when American colleges were buckle-down academies bristling with tough-but-fair professors and dedicated students, Suck gave an enthusiastic grade to Teacherreview.com, Ryan Lathouwers's project to put student evaluations (of teachers) on the web. Since then, we've enjoyed some exciting semesters: City College of San Francisco professors Jesse David Wall (Physics) and Daniel Curzon-Brown (English) brought a stunningly frivolous lawsuit against Lathouwers, and saw it quickly thrown out of court, and Lathouwers now posts only CCSF reviews, leaving the students of other schools to speak out at Grade-it.com or the hard-2-surf Teacherreviews.com.
Lately, however, the battle for our classrooms has heated up. A self-described professor at an East Coast school has started Teachers Fight Back, a "safe haven" designed to "respond to the rising trend of irresponsible, anonymous student evaluation of teachers." For all the frequent complaints that the students don't have to sign their names when they slam a teacher, the anonymous coward behind Teachers Fight Back conceals his or her identity even from Network Solutions: A Whois lookup reveals that the domain belongs to "Teacher Teacher" of "Boston St., Boston." Nonetheless, English teacher Curzon-Brown, showing a striking indifference to the dangling participle, tells the San Francisco Chronicle, "[I]nstead of being passive and just taking what you get, it is a chance to turn the tables." Meanwhile, Wall is hitting back with Studentreview.org, which, needless to say, contains many comical specimens of grammar-free posts by some of CCSF's brightest young minds. "I worry more about the potential that (sic) damage this destructive website can do to young teachers," Wall laments. Curzon-Brown, for his part, has reportedly registered Judgereview.org to expose the black-robed villains who failed to support his war on the first amendment; but so far there's nothing up on that site.
It's all bitter, hard-fought, and about as meaningful as an Associate's Degree. Teacher evaluations are designed and executed to give students the illusion of authority. Anybody who has spent any time around college administrators knows that the complaints of disgruntled students are viewed with nothing but contempt, and that those student evaluations they hand out at the end of the semester generally end up unread at the bottom of some archival dumpster.
War crimes tribunals may not be the first place you look for encouraging stories, but from the trial of the "Butare Four" comes a piece of news sure to gladden the hearts of parochial school students everywhere the prospect of seeing two nuns convicted of crimes against humanity. Prosecutors in the proceeding in Belgium contend that Sisters Gertrude Mukangango and Julienne Kizito assisted in the massacre of an estimated 5,000 Rwandan Tutsis in 1994. Sister Gertrude, mother superior of the convent at Butare's Monastery of Sovu, allegedly attempted to lock fleeing refugees out of her building, then showed some of that stern nun discipline by calling the victims "dirt" and bringing in armed guards to evict them. Sister Julienne helped out the killers by distributing cans of gasoline to help to burn people alive (one of the incinerated folks was reportedly an employee of her own convent). In the old scholastic spirit of keeping people from talking out of turn, Sister Gertrude later sued a reporter who exposed her role in the massacre.
It's a sad tale. But for nun-haters everywhere, the trial in Belgium is the best news since Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers took a ruler to Sister Doris Gormley. All we need now is for somebody to register Sisterreview.com.
Susan Sarandon is not a nun, but she plays one on MGM/UA home video. This week, the timeless beauty lends her world-renowned puss to the hard-pressed people of the developing world, posing with a couple of llamas in a shill for Heifer International. The Little Rock Ark.-based charity provides livestock to Nepalese farmers, and its pitch to Suck includes an all-animal order form: You can pick up a draft horse for the low, low price of $1200, a water buffalo for $250, and a flock of chicks for a mere three sawbucks. "Is this an answer to world hunger?" asks the Oscar-winning star. "Absolutely!" Unfortunately, the pitch leaves much to be desired. We scanned the order form in vain to find out how much it would cost to send Sarandon paramour Tim Robbins to some Himalayan family farm, where the lanky actor would undoubtedly prove handy at harvest time. Ultimately we came close to putting up 120 bucks for a pig instead, but the sheer volume of charity pitches we get every day has forced us to be selective. We're not giving money to any organization that doesn't let us adopt pagan babies.
After three decades, its very own market bubble and untold billions of hours of deferred personal hygiene, the Internet has finally fulfilled its original promise: putting you in verbal contact with someone making monkey noises.
Cited as the "original" monkey phone call, monkeyphonecall.com will, for a mere ten dollars, ring up the person of your choosing, introduce themselves and then hoot and screech for thirty seconds. Given the powerful undercurrents of monkey affection that rage just below the surface of the Web, and the apparent profitability of the market-leading fake monkey-sound provider, we can envision a day when monkeys start performing every task of the New Economy: investing venture capital, developing business plans, running Amazon. Hell, they couldn't do much worse.