Thursday, June 2, 2011

University Professor Compensation -- Andrew and Joseph hit the big points but leave out the punch line

Both Andrew Gelman and my co-blogger Joseph take down David Rubinstein and his bizarre Weekly Standard piece, "Thank you, Illinois taxpayers, for my cushy life." Both posts do a good job showing how unrepresentative Rubinstein's case is and how flawed the conclusions he draws from it are, but to get to the really amusing part of the story you have to go into the comment section of Gelman's blog (always a good idea, by the way) where you'll find a link to Rubinstein's RateMyProfessors page. Here are some representative quotes:

got a B in his class. tests are all fill in the blank/short answer but you can use the book and your lecture notes. so you really have to come to lecture and take good notes. he is really disorganized and got off topic easily. i wouldn't recommend him.

DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS W/HIM. Terrible teacher!! He is very frustrating and unclear. Nobody understands what he is talking about. Everyday he comes in with an empty coffee cup and takes sips throughout the class even though there is nothing in his cup!!! CRAZY. DO NOT TAKE SOC 100 WITH HIM! HE IS SO UNORGANIZED!!!

This class can sometimes be interesting, but mostly he just rambles about useless stuff that barely makes sense. He doesn't even write a real syllabus he's so disorganized. If you take his class, definitely go to lecture. You'll fail completely if you don't.
You'll have to go to the second page to find a 'good' rating (the rest were 'poor'):
i love this class. If you're right wing lol, i think you are going to like professor rubinstein
If you read between the lines, that review doesn't really contradict the others. Numerous students complained about the professor going off topic. Since it's hard to imagine a straightforward 'intro to sociology' lecture having a deeply right wing bent, it seems more likely that the good review was also a reaction to these tangents.

When Rubinstein talks about how overpaid he is, he's almost certainly right, not because the system is flawed (that point is certainly up for discussion) but because David Rubinstein appears to be an exceptionally bad teacher.

We may be seeing the beginning of a new journalistic genre: writers proudly basing arguments (implicitly or explicitly) on their own incompetence. First we got the "I'm too financially inept to support a family on $350,000 a year" stories (and the closely related "I'm too financially inept to support a family on just over a quarter of a million and too financially illiterate to grasp the concept of marginal tax rates"). Now we get Rubinstein. Can we expect some columnist to follow with a piece entitled "You shouldn't trust journalists because I'm a moron"?

(actually, I'd like to see that last one.)

1 comment:

  1. "You shouldn't trust journalists because I'm a moron"

    I actually laughed out loud. :-)

    MikeM at the Monkey Cage has some extremely good points.

    I wonder at the people who want to abuse something like tenure simply on principle; it seems to be a minority position in any academic institution that I have been at.