Kicking “RateMyProfessor” Old School

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From “Annoying Habits of College Professors” (circa 1935 to 1937)” in Scientific American:

… In a series of related articles published in the The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology (in 1935 and 1937), Moore instructed a group of over 300 social science students who were studying at universities in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Idaho to keep a diary in class in which they were to jot down, as they occurred, any and all things irritating about their professors.”Be critical but fair,”Moore advised. The students diligently took notes on their professors’ quips, foibles, movements, insults, hygiene, color coordination and whatever else rubbed them the wrong way over the next few weeks in class. An important caveat was that the specific professors would never find out what was said, so students could presumably feel free to unleash their frustrations without fear of their professors’ retaliation. And Moore wasn’t naive. He knew that annoyingness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.”It should be stated at the outset,”he wrote,”that no hard and fast definition for annoyingness can be stated.”(He might have felt differently had he known some of my colleagues.)

Nonetheless, to give the students some sense of what he was looking for, Moore started off by listing a few examples of annoyances, mannerisms and habits such as”cocking head,”“not looking at class,”“peculiar styles in clothing,”“nails soiled,”and”sticking hands in pocket.”This got the students out of the gate in making their judgments, but they soon found that Moore’s list needed some adding to — actually, a lot of adding to. Some 63 additional items were amended to Moore’s initial list of 25. The final sample included about 200 professors and some telling patterns did seem to emerge in the data. Among the habits judged by students as being”very annoying,”some of the most frequently listed were rambling,”riding”students, pausing too long, and using pet expressions. I’m not sure how these particular pet expressions would go over in today’s college classroom, but in Moore’s study, some of the more bothersome ones apparently included”Ain’t that right, pal?;”“In the final analysis;”“Interestingly enough;”“Like an old mule”(I can only guess what this was referring to.);”If you please, gentlemen;”“Yes suh! Yes suh!”and perhaps my personal favorite,”That’s the meat of the cocoanut.”

Some professors went so far as to scratch their head, clear their throat, act too formal, rub their chin, frown, use slang, gesticulate or pause too long. A few even had the indecency to wear their clothes unpressed and smile too much. Both male and female students found rambling by their professors to be insufferable, but the women were generally more offended by inattention to physical appearance and tended to dislike sarcastic professors more than the men, who were unhinged by inarticulate, slow-talking professors who stuck their hands in their pockets a little too often. …

I know some of the ways I’m annoying – I talk too fast and I’m a sloppy dresser. Oh yeah and that sarcasm thing. Plus now I suspect my self-sabotaging subconscious is going to cause me to say something about coconut meat in class.

–Ann Bartow, via E.

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One Response to Kicking “RateMyProfessor” Old School

  1. efink says:

    I actually did say “that’s the meat of the coconut” during my orientation “preview” of Civ Pro for the incoming 1Ls. I’m sure I’ll be reading about it on RMP any day now…

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