May 9 update: Police search teams have found a corpse a little over a mile from where George Zinkhan’s Jeep was abandoned after the April 25th shootings discussed below. The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that the body has been tentatively identified as Zinkhan’s.

Earlier today, three people were shot to death in Athens, Georgia, and UGA marketing professor George M. Zinkhan III has been identified as the alleged shooter.

The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s website has a mostly straightforward article up on the incident, linking to local media coverage and noting the steps that the university has taken to inform the campus community.

At the bottom of the piece, however, the Chronicle added an eyebrow-raising passage. After noting that students had been quoted in the UGA student newspaper the Red and Black saying that the news of the shooting was “hard to believe” and that Zinkhan was a “nice guy,” the article concluded with this:

“His ratings on the Rate My Professors Web site, however, were mixed. One commenter described him as ‘brilliant and really funny,’ but others said he was ‘cold hearted’ and a ‘creep.’ “

I’m a big proponent of student evaluation of faculty, but this strikes me as wildly inappropriate.


8:30 pm update: Via Womanist Musings, a reminder that the obligatory “nice guy” quote in articles about white middle-class men accused of murder is problematic too.

10:45 am update: Comments at the Chronicle are running heavily against the decision to include the Rate My Professor quotes in the article, and many of them are based on the premise that RMP is inherently worthless as a source.

I just posted this over there:

“If commenters at Rate My Professor had posted that Zinkhan had been violent or bizarrely aggressive toward them, that would have been something to at least consider mentioning in this article. Such comments would have been relevant to what he is accused of now, and might have raised the question of whether there were warning signs in Zinkhan’s relationship with students that UGA should have been aware of.

“But the comments posted weren’t those kinds of comments — they barely rose above the level of generic insults. Even if one believes, as I do, that RMP ratings can provide real information about a professor, these particular comments did not, and they should not have been quoted here.”

1:00 pm update: Huh. The Chronicle has now eliminated the references to RateMyProfessor from the article, and deleted all eighteen of the reader comments that criticized their decision to include the quotes. No note, no explanation, no other changes to the article.

9:00 pm update: The Chronicle has now posted an explanation of their decision to excise the Rate My Professor quotes and conducted another purge of the comments to the article, removing about half a dozen new comments critical of their original decision. They’ve also closed comments on the article, so that nobody can post criticizing their decision to censor the comments thread a second time.


11:00 pm update: It just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. The Chronicle has disabled comments on its follow-up article on the Zinkhan case, apparently because people were using that comment thread to air their grievances about the previous thread. As of this writing, the sole comment on the Chronicle’s article on another recent campus shooting, from commenter “Bing,” reads as follows:

“I am disgusted that all comments critical of the Chronicle’s decision to use anonymous RateMyProfessor screeds in reporting of the Georgia shooting have been taken down and that commenting has been disabled. It’s sad that I have to let the Chronicle know how disappointed I am through another posting. I have no doubt that this one will disappear too, thereby making it perfectly relevant to the article. The irony.”

As long as they keep doing this, I’ll keep updating this post, I guess.

11:20 pm update: And now that newest comment has been taken down too.