• July 29, 2014

Professors: Hot at Their Own Risk

Professors: Hot at Their Own Risk 1

Christine Prichard for The Chronicle

Gary A. Hoover, an economist at the U. of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, has found notes under his door asking "what it would take to lasso me."

When Robert Brinkerhoff first arrived at the Rhode Island School of Design, his students thought he was so good-looking they nicknamed him Baberhoff.

Sure, a part of him was flattered. But that doesn't mean he was pleased to be featured on Lemondrop.com's national listing of the 50 hottest male professors. (He was No. 32, and the caption under his photo read: "We see something fine, and it ain't just the art.")

In fact, Mr. Brinkerhoff, who heads the school's illustration department, pretended that he hadn't even seen the online ranking when a fellow professor brought it to his attention. "I was too embarrassed to admit I knew," he says. "Something like this does begin to compromise your credibility."

Research shows that attractive people do better in life. They are treated better by teachers, doctors, even strangers, and are more likely to be hired and promoted than those who are less attractive. But in academe, being hot has a downside: Professors who are considered too good-looking can be cast by their peers as lightweights, known less for their productivity than for their pulchritude.

"You have to be acceptable-looking, but being gorgeous can be a problem," says Judith Waters, a professor of psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University who does research on beauty and success. "If you look as if you spend more time in the beauty parlor than in the library, that's going to be a problem."

Cari B. Cannon, who heads the department of behavioral sciences at Santiago Canyon College, agrees. "Any idea that you might put any effort into how you look means you are not putting effort into reading the latest journal article," she says. Ms. Cannon was No. 5 on a list of the 50 "hottest" professors compiled last academic year by the online teaching-evaluation site RateMyProfessors, which lets students award "chili peppers" to faculty members.

Although research shows that students give better teaching evaluations to professors they think are attractive, good looks can also be a burden in the classroom.

Students have been falling in love with their professors for decades. But the professor used to be a larger-than-life figure on whom the smitten student nurtured a quiet crush. Now sites like RateMyProfessors allow undergraduates to broadcast their feelings, sometimes in the crassest terms.

That can be a particular problem for women. Ms. Cannon says she tries to maintain a distance from students. "It keeps the majority of them from being too aggressive," she says. Even so, male students ask what she is doing over the weekend and invite her to parties. One young man even offered to give her a massage.

Juann M. Watson, an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, came away with first place on RateMyProfessors's top-50 list. "Not only is she unbelievably hot, she can teach, too," one student wrote.

Ms. Watson, who is 44 years old, says she was taken aback. She dresses conservatively, in suits or dresses. "I don't show too much flesh if I don't have to," she says.

'Relatively Laughable'

Male professors are less accustomed to attracting attention because of their looks, and less comfortable with it. "I wasn't sure if this was a joke," says Bradley P. Stoner, an associate professor of anthropology and medicine at Washington University in St. Louis who appeared on Lemondrop's list. "I'm not a good-looking person."

Lemondrop, an online site for women that calls itself "sweet, tasty, and tart," put together its list of the best-looking male professors last year based on nominations from female students. Another professor who appeared on the list refused to be quoted by name. "One's first reaction is of egotistical pleasure," he wrote in an e-mail message to The Chronicle, "and then of course disappointment that this is not about your stellar research and that in fact on a scale of hotness academics aren't all that hot, relatively speaking, and to make a list of hot ones is thus, relatively laughable."

Gary A. Hoover, a professor of economics at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, made No. 8 on the Lemondrop list. He's found notes under his door asking "what it would take to lasso me." And female students coyly ask his advice on whether it's OK to date professors once a class is over.

In fact, Mr. Hoover grew tired enough of dealing with the come-ons that six years ago he moved 45 miles away from the campus so he wouldn't run into students outside of class. "I don't want to end up in a bar and see some nice-looking lady," he says, "and then come to find out, 'I'm in your Tuesday/Thursday class.'"

Todd C. Riniolo, an associate professor of psychology at Medaille College, published a paper in 2006 based on a study comparing the teaching evaluations of professors who got chili peppers on RateMyProfessors with those of professors who did not. On average, faculty members with chili peppers scored 0.8 higher overall on a 5-point scale.

But the "hot" ratings may have just as much to do with a professor's effectiveness as with his physical appearance, Mr. Riniolo says. "It's an overall reflection of whether students like a professor."

After all, he acknowledges, most professors could never win a beauty contest outside of academe. "When students are rating us, they are rating us against other professors, which is not exactly a real strong reference group as far as looks go," he says.

Indeed, professors are famous for giving little thought to their looks. That makes Ebony A. Utley an anomaly. Ms. Utley, an assistant professor of communication studies at California State University at Long Beach, has a Web site called The Utley Experience, where she advertises herself as a speaker on "life, love, and relationships." On a pink-and-white background, the site displays pictures of Ms. Utley wearing a low-cut dress, while R&B music plays and an echoey female voice urges visitors to "Experience ... new visions of love."

The professor, who blogs for Ms. magazine, posted an item in May admonishing students for asking her out and making comments about her appearance. But that wasn't the worst of it. Ms. Utley also tells The Chronicle that one student even advised her that she would make more money as a "high-class hooker." She was so shocked by the comment, she says, that she didn't know how to respond.

But Ms. Utley also says she realizes that interest from students comes with the territory. And she acknowledges that she uses her looks to her advantage.

"When I have to teach the heavy stuff about race," she says, "I make sure my hair is done, my outfit is cute. I know it's going to be a difficult conversation for students, and if I have a cute dress on, it becomes easier to talk about race and prejudice."

She says professors should dress well and mind their appearance if they want to be successful in getting their ideas across, especially in the visual age of social media.

"You are in competition with people who don't have your training or your intellectual productivity in terms of publications, but they are trying to pull it off based on their looks," says Ms. Utley. "It's time for academics to step up their game and look the part. Put on heels and a suit and take your training to the world."

Comments

1. cranefly - August 08, 2010 at 11:48 am

"It's time for academics to step up their game and look the part. Put on heels and a suit and take your training to the world."

That's just offensive to anybody who takes the life of the mind seriously.
We're not there to be "hot". We're there to teach.

2. kwoodwar - August 08, 2010 at 02:04 pm

I would like to hear about professors' experience as they age. What happens to their ratings and evaluations? Are they taken more seriously, or does ageism lead to negative perceptions?

Also, I am puzzled as to why professors in this article are refered to as Mr. and Ms. and not Professor or Dr.

3. gahnett - August 09, 2010 at 03:26 am

The appropriateness of Ms. Utley's comment may be context dependent.

I know it's customary for newsprint media to refer to PhDs as Mr/Ms but maybe it's time for a rules change. It appears to cause more headaches than anything else and it's not like it would be the first time something like this has happened (eg, usage of "his" to refer to all individuals).



4. 11313934 - August 09, 2010 at 07:56 am

I was taught to call a Doctor of Medicine "doctor", and nobody else.

PJT

5. performance_expert2 - August 09, 2010 at 09:08 am

This makes me to think of how marketing people have taken over. Intrusion Marketing in the USA is a weird thing. I first noticed it at grocery stores that have dual pricing systems: member card pricing and non-member pricing. So, the consumer is expected to carry the store's card with them. This practice is spreading in retail now, it is seemingly everywhere in corporate retail. Like Microsoft with their "my computer" it is now "member" purchasing of basics, hardware and groceries. I find the whole thing disgusting and more than once I have said that these marketing types need to get a real job with their hands on a shovel, and stop harassing the public.

6. cleverclogs - August 09, 2010 at 09:54 am

Making a conscious effort to look "cute" - rather than, say, "presentable" or "professional" - in order to make conversations about difficult topics such as race and prejudice easier is troubling to me. Are we now training students to take seriously only people who get their libidos revving?

It feels off, like propaganda or advertising. It feels like the opposite of education - as if we're asking students to turn their brains *off* and just listen to the attractive person tell you what's right. Yuck.

An over-emphasis on physical beauty is the sign of a declining culture. We're supposed to be saving it, not hastening its demise. For me, I think that means accepting that I can't be sexy in the classroom, even though that might make my evals spike up a point.

7. performance_expert2 - August 09, 2010 at 11:02 am

Being sexy, even "erotic," as a professor is great. The main point is to drive, to inspire, the students to do work. I use the odd term "erotic" to confront. Bottom line is, is the classroom cooking with good things? Are students getting their minds, skills, knowledge, and mission developed? Is their world opening up for them? Are they gaining a foundation? As far as clothing, I... would just as soon teach nude and in a scratchy wool blanket, as in an orange Buddhist monk suit. Who cares? Sensuality in and of itself can be a good thing, though some students will freak out and complain, the ones who leave the mountain of fast-food 48 oz. drink containers piled in the trash on their way out the door.

In a perfect world, I think these "rate my professor" sites are a problem, as well as the distracting attention of student reviews and adminstration that relies on them. For a real teacher doing real work, it is like there are three people in the room, and two of them do not what is going on and are conspiring toward you.

Real world advice coping: If you know your business, give no heed or attention to student reviews of any kind. Don't feed the troll.

8. new_theologian - August 09, 2010 at 11:17 am

I think performance_expert2 has struck the right cord. But I would add that being attractive is not a crime, and should not be considered a liability. It may well be that most of us in academe are carrying over into our professional lives the bruises of our high school and undergraduate years, when attractiveness was about the only thing that counted for anything, and it hurt not to be the one getting the attention. So we look down on the few in our ranks who actually could have won that attention back in the day, and are still winning it now. We should bracket our past hurts and do what we claim we do: judge our colleagues on the basis of their work, and not on the basis of their appearance.

That said, it is really disturbing that a professor would actually accept as a legitimate tool the use of personal attractiveness against a student's resistance. The description of "cute" for a dress evokes, in my mind, a particular intention to appeal to the male student population. I do not know what's going on in the classroom, but, based on the language, I don't think this sets a good precedent.

Now, dynamism is inherently attractive, and professors have been employing rhetorical devices for millennia (rhetoric is the third stage in the trivium). I'm not suggesting that the only tool in our bags should be Venn diagrams and syllogistic reasoning. But just looking sexy isn't supposed to be a part of what we do as professionals.

9. drfunz - August 09, 2010 at 11:21 am

@kwoodwar: The Chronicle never used Dr. in its articles about profesors. not sure why, but it is convention.

I have never been "hot" in any way shape or form... when I was young I was considered by students as "cool" and "fun" (Thus the nickname); now that I am older I am considered "eccentric", but still "fun" by students who stick around long enough to find out. In the past students "hung around" their profs more - now they are rushing to answer their text messages or off to work or to hold the hands of their co-dependent hovering parents. They would find out that more "hot" and "not-so-hot" teachers are really pretty "hot" people inside.

10. performance_expert2 - August 09, 2010 at 12:16 pm

#9. There are some who reserve the term "Dr." for those who work in the medical field.

Video news report: Stripper protest in front of a church: http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/multimedia/video/video.html?videoUrl=http://www.dispatch.com/live/export-content/sites/dispatch/videos/2010/08/08/strippers-protest-at-church.xml

11. kaitlinwalsh - August 09, 2010 at 01:01 pm

@11313934 (PJT) - In the UK it's the opposite. Medical doctors are called Mr. and Professors are called Dr. (only named chairs, etc. are called "Professor").

12. mystery345 - August 09, 2010 at 02:12 pm

Prof Utley's comments in this article are baffling. She wears a cute dress to talk about difficult issues? Put on heals and a suit? I took a look at her blog and noticed that she is wearing, what I would consider, clothing that is inappropriate for the classroom. If this is what she wears when she lectures then I am not surprised she is approached by students. I believe that respect is not automatic. You don't get respect simply by having a PhD and becoming a professor. Respect is earned, and if you want your students to respect you then you must act the part. Wearing a low cut dress, like the one Prof Utley is wearing in the images where she seems to be lecturing, would not help her to earn respect in the classroom. That maroon dress is not cute. It is sexy. It is low cut and several of those images show a great deal of cleavage. As a woman, I agree that looking nice is important but looking sexy in the classroom or on a blog that is visited by your students is not the same thing.

I also looked at the pictures on Lemondrop.com. There are several men on there that are very good looking. The image of the Spanish professor without a shirt - well of course his students are going to be interested in more than a good lecture. But many of those men I would not consider model material, which leads me to wonder if they are voted good looking because they excite their students intellectually. A plain looking man can turn into a good looking man in my eyes simply by his actions. Perhaps there is more to being a hot professor then looks alone.

13. rsmulcahy - August 09, 2010 at 02:12 pm

Concerning #1 comment by cranefly, just how seriously should the "life of the mind" be taken? What does that cliche actually mean? Are you a disembodied intellect swirling through the ether, unattached to any physical body? Your body, as hot or not as it may be, is a key source of (often unconscious) visual and chemical communication to other human animals, including your students. Like it or not, the physical form can affect perceptions of "ethos." So you are at the university to teach (in your corporeal form I take it), unfortunately, I would guess that many of your students aren't there to learn (much) and would rather spend their time checking out the hot guy or girl two rows over. For most undergrads, the "life of the bump and grind" is far more relevant to them. Anyway, with that pedantic attitude, I am sure students love your classes.

14. english_ivy - August 09, 2010 at 02:13 pm

PJT, I was taught to call everyone $%^&-$#@! cod-$&#@er, but I realized that foolish consistencies are the hobgoblins of little minds and all of that, plus I got sick of getting into fights and not having friends.
PhDs were doctors before there were MDs, why can't both be legit?

I tell you, I look around departments in my field and see a lot of good looking people, particularly the higher up the rankings you go. Not always "babes," most professors are at least attractive, and every ugle grad-student I have ever known has struggled to find work, while many many comparable attractive, or at least not ugly, folk have had a generally easier time of it.
The only ugly profs I know at R1s are diversity highers.

Sure, my evidence is anecdotal, however, there is an article/study in there somewhere. Something more than CHE's glossing E-News couch to reaffirm academic meritocracy: "see look, being good looking is actually a problem for scholars. That is because we're living the Life of the Mind."
Also, if you're going to through that phrase around you must watch one of these two clips, probably the second if you aren't going to watch the movie.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuOSKzYfAgE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKm-_VyNVoM

15. cranefly - August 09, 2010 at 02:30 pm

rsmulcahy
I actually get rated many a chili pepper and am loved by my students. It bothers me tremendously that they want to party with me more than listen to me.
I've actually converted most of my courses to online, because I prefer to have them treat me like a human being than a piece of meat.
I never dressed in a sexy way and yet I constantly got student evals of "nice rack" etc.
It's offensive that professors cannot be taken seriously for what they have to say. Hence, my comment about life of the mind. It's not about what we look like, it's about our attitude and what we think, say and do that is important.

16. performance_expert2 - August 09, 2010 at 03:14 pm

Cranefly, Pity you go the online route to avoid being harassed by students. Wow. If the "nice rack" comments are on one of these websites, seems like you would have a nice case to put the site in court for sexual harassment. I'd do it, put them in court. This does not sound like free speech to me, if it is used for sexual harassment. I think it would make a strong and interesting case.

p_e

17. awegweiser - August 09, 2010 at 03:16 pm

Dr Utley thinks a bit too much of her self, despite the cleavage. Good looking yes but Lena Horne she is not, even at Lena's now advanced age.
As a retired Prof (that's as in Dr without being able to do brain surgery or perform the fun procedures of Urology) I am a tad too old at 76 and missed the internet ratings. I did do just fine otherwise in my day and am still out there keeping an eye out for former students up to 70 or so.

18. lucys - August 09, 2010 at 03:57 pm

Teaching at the university level is a second career for me. I was expected to be well dressed and present a professional image at my former job. I am amazed that did not carry over to the university. My collagues take little effort with their appearance and fashionable, professional clothing is rarely seen. I was struck with Cari Cannon's remark in the piece that "Any idea that you might put any effort into how you look means you are not putting effort into reading the latest journal article." Is that really the prevailing idea? I refuse to neglect my appearance. I am not a great beauty, but consider myself at least average looking and think it is important to dress up for the job. By this I mean pantsuits, twinsets and nice pants, etc. I refuse to go the jeans and T-shirt route, or outdated peasant skirt and top look.

19. oldassocprof - August 09, 2010 at 04:33 pm

I'm on my first campus without an RMP chile pepper. I did get a "nice to look at" at age 62, here, though. :( Sic transit gloria mundi...

20. bbarton6 - August 09, 2010 at 05:30 pm

During our faculty orientation my first year as an assistant professor, the group facilitator asked some of the more experienced faculty members for advice on what we, the new faculty, should do if a student develops a crush.
One grizzled veteran raised her hand and said in all seriousness, "Get old."

21. lakemendota - August 09, 2010 at 05:30 pm

I think that it is disrespectful to your students to not dress appropriately, that would include at least a tie and dress shirt for men if not a suit. You are the adult; the person with knowledge. Professors should act that way.

22. artemisms - August 09, 2010 at 06:31 pm

I'm not the judgmental type, so I've come to accept that dress habits for my fellow academics is a matter of personal taste. The girl next to me is in jeans and a t-shirt, the guy across from me is in a suit and tie, and me, I'm wearing a cute, yes cute, top I got on clearance at Banana Republic. So sue me.

Clothes make you confident, and confidence is everything in the classroom.

Students, who just so happen to be human beings, respond to confidence, and that more than mini-skirts and low-cut blouses are what make a person "hot" nine times out of ten.

23. rsmulcahy - August 09, 2010 at 06:47 pm

To cranefly, I found your first post just a tad grandiose but I found your second post to be just...weird. I will take your word that you are a fine example of intellectual chili pepper and so, good for you, I guess. But do your students actually talk to you that way? Seems inappropriate, but you must be super vixen hot if you have been forced to hide behind on-line teaching and can't bring your body to class. However, if your students express that they would rather party with you than learn from you, maybe you need to set some clearer boundaries or make your teaching more compelling. If not, then perhaps a head scarf might help to tone down your hotness.

24. vw1978 - August 09, 2010 at 06:52 pm

PJT - the word doctor comes from the Latin word "docere" which translates into "to teach." So if someone told you not to call people who earned doctorates "doctor" they were misinformed.

25. oldassocprof - August 09, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I'll never wear a tie, or a suit. Makes you look like a stuffed shirt...

26. oldassocprof - August 09, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Hey, and I'm the kind of doctor who actually had to write a dissertation, not the other kind.

27. jairrels - August 10, 2010 at 07:47 am

Regarding #17, (awegweiser), I just want to be sure you know that Lena Horne died a couple of months ago.

28. ellesanger - August 10, 2010 at 08:00 am

A friend of mine works at the University of Guam and he tells me that they definitely have the hottest teachers. This one is health sciences: http://monaroberts.com/calendar.html She also has a pay-per-view website too for those students who want a "peek"

Quite the distraction in that Catholic community!

29. rightwingprofessor - August 10, 2010 at 09:01 am

I spend a ton of time in the weight room and wear form-fitting t-shirts, my female students can barely concentrate!

30. rambo - August 10, 2010 at 09:44 am

colleges and the universities will be the last place before all women who wear a low-neckline shirt or minidress can wear before the real workplace..........but hey, don't tell them that, the views are fantastics and HR are getting tired of reminding those "girls"...

31. matthewsm - August 10, 2010 at 10:39 am

Bah.

32. drgrieves - August 10, 2010 at 10:40 am

Not to derail the discussion of Dr./Nor-Dr., but I want to say something shallow.

None of the hot profs pictured above strikes me as especially bodacious. They all look presentable, even if Gary Hoover has a nasty itch on his back that he can't quite reach and Robert Brinkerhoff is trying to accomplish what the great George Carlin called "The One Cheek Sneak." But they just don't seem all that hot to me.

What's the problem here? Am I not getting their hotness? Do the rest of you look at them and simply swoon? Or are the standards of ooo-lah-lah actually that low in academe? And do I really have to shave my head to be a hot guy?

33. honore - August 10, 2010 at 11:00 am

And the CHE just keeps aiming higher...with any luck soon the editors will rise to the curb. What next?

A "PILF" article?

An article on how to get an "A" by sitting on my prof's lap(top)?
An article touting the glories of bringing a Viagara-dipped apple for teacher?

Please let's grow up here folks. The academy is already in enough trouble with diminished standards, rampant corruption and lack of accountability. Do we really want more articles that belong in "17", "Elle" or "US" magazine?

Very sad...the CHE leadership needs to pull its head out of its...

34. drnels - August 10, 2010 at 11:52 am

One reason I went into academia is so I'd never have to wear a suit. I've never worn one in my life and don't plan on starting now. I will say, though, that I do have a personal sense of fashion that I feel represents my personality, and students do comment on it on course evaluations in positive ways. Just last semester, I got a "You wear great shirts" and "Love your socks!" on course evals. I'm too fat for any of my students to think of me as hot, though. I'm more known as quirky and passionate. I hear those words thrown around about me consistently. I say this partly to convey that looks and personality have to mesh for students to take faculty seriously, I think. In other words, if we dress one way and act in a way that doesn't match up, students get thrown and tend to pull back, kind of like in real life. So, I wonder if "hotness" is more about matching a certain ideal than embodying it, if that makes sense.

As for the doctor thing, I called every professor at my southern undergrad doctor, and no one every questioned me or said anything different. Now that I live in the north, I refer to myself as doctor but see that students call us professors. Point being that a lot of this is regional, too.

35. robertwgehl - August 10, 2010 at 12:51 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39YUXIKrOFk

36. 22122118 - August 10, 2010 at 04:23 pm

Age takes its toll, alas. However I was egotistically gratified--to borrow from a prior correspondent--when a student observed that I was "still kinda sexy, like the Stones are." I suspect the student was referencing Mick--although you never know with Keith--but nonetheless having grown up as a Stones' rather than a Beatles'loyalist, it was a nice touch. Now, if the reference had been to Jimbo.....

37. honore - August 10, 2010 at 05:07 pm

okay, I will admit it...I keep a fire extinguisher behind my desk for those occasions when even I have to admit to myself..."I am just too hot today"...got me

38. honore - August 10, 2010 at 06:51 pm

@ 22122118...could the student have meant the Flint"stones"?

39. mystery345 - August 10, 2010 at 07:16 pm

For a bit of related entertainment see College Candy's discussion of professor crushes. Especially read the comments. Crushes are quite the norm...

http://collegecandy.com/2009/11/16/heres-to-you-professor-robinson/

40. 22122118 - August 10, 2010 at 07:42 pm

Sorry, honore (#39), it was the one and only Stones--the student knew of whom she was speaking, having in fact caught a relatively recent performance--and not some cartoon name-a-like (no further comments please). The point, however, is well taken, as Mick is clearly living a Dorian Gray existence, Keith's a ghoul, Ronnie should long ago have retired to a beach hotel in Brighton, and Charlie--ever indestructible--should be tending his ledgers and breeding his brood mares (as no doubt he is). On the other hand, take a listen....

41. lapcas - August 11, 2010 at 12:39 am

One thing that no one has really addressed(I guess because we are not supposed to care)is that rating professors' attractiveness can be hurtful; Rate My Professor has now added a "not hot" selection, whereas before students had the option of choosing "hot" or skipping it. Moreover, when you get selected as "not hot" it takes your hotness score down.

The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous and I really resent being put out there to be judged that way in a public forum. My job has nothing to do with being hot and to have a public website that allows people to evaluate me as such is deeply offensive. Nonetheless, it does hurt my feelings (and other young female professors I know)when a student rates me as distinctly not hot. I am a human being outside of my job that struggles with my own image issues while living in a culture in which women are constantly bombarded with unrealistic ideals of beauty and told that their most valuable currency is their appearance. For the young TAs I work with, many of whom are only a few years older than their students, these ratings can be especially hurtful.

Obviously, the wise thing to do is to stay off RMP; however, at least at the schools I have taught at, the students take those rating quite seriously when choosing courses and professors, and that being the case, I want to know what is being said.

42. uniwashdc - August 11, 2010 at 10:36 am

Regarding the Dr. vs. Mr./Ms. stuff ... please take a look through the rest of the chronicle and you will see that this is their standard practice. University presidents are event called Mr./Ms.

Relax. Geez.

43. nowhat - August 11, 2010 at 03:39 pm

Isn't it ironic how professors in the article are repeatedly described as "not attractive." So much for trying to overcome pop culture's superficiality.

44. worstprofever - August 11, 2010 at 03:53 pm

Yup, yup, and yup. I left in part because I was tired of having to frump myself up -- the students were fine with looking good, but my colleagues were not. And what's so wrong with looking your best? As I've written about here: http://worstprofessorever.com/2010/06/28/why-plato-would-love-what-not-to-wear/

45. cybrarian_ca - August 11, 2010 at 05:58 pm

One big problem with being a 'hot' professor is what happens when the student who has a crush on you is also mentally disturbed. This happened to a friend of mine. He gave this woman no encouragement at all, and yet she sent him gifts (which he returned, telling her politely that it was inappropriate), asked him out (he's married, and no, not interested in fooling around), and ultimately downright stalked him. Eventually, she got the message that he was not interested - after he had to have her transferred out of his class! Then she tried to claim he had sexually harassed her! Of course, the head of the department knew better, and her claim went absolutely nowhere - and my friend was not the first prof this crazy student had harassed. But what if he had been a little less careful about repeatedly reporting her behavior to his department head? What if he hadn't been believed? His career could easily have ended, over one crazy student. He did ultimately leave academe, anyway.

46. islan_1 - August 11, 2010 at 07:55 pm

As someone just beginning my career on campus I am not sure what to make of all of this! I am a fit, petite female who will probably make an effort to at least cover my tattoo when Fall rolls around... I cringe at the thought of seeing a student at happy hour, the gym, or while in my bikini at the beach.

47. performance_expert2 - August 11, 2010 at 09:16 pm

'Suddenly realized how ebarrassingly vacant this article and topic is. Fish, please meet bait. The internet is a time thief, let us introduce you.

48. phikaw - August 12, 2010 at 09:49 am

To islan_1 -- being a petite female is a definite disadvantage to having any authority in the classroom. And believe me, having authority/credibility is essential to effective teaching, your own sanity and self-image. If you can bear it, wear heels, don't dress "frilly" (unless you have a huge ego and can carry it off with aplomb), don't fidget and don't talk too fast. You can have fun, too, believe it or not. Other tips (not about appearance) -- have policies, enforce them and be firm about them. Just a few suggestions that you might find helpful.

49. ric822 - August 12, 2010 at 10:01 am

This is yet another product of our obsession with the media culture. The fact that an instructor cares what the students think about their "Hotness" is just sad.
Yes, it does feed the ego, but just like in any other profession we are here to do our jobs, not be rated #1 on some hotness or other popularity poll.

50. chooroo - August 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Any ideas about "not hot" ???????

51. performance_expert2 - August 12, 2010 at 12:56 pm

#50., Yes, I was thinking the caste of "professor" has fallen to something more in common with "line cook."

52. lapcas - August 12, 2010 at 04:42 pm

#49 - not sure if your comment was directed at me, but I want to clarify. I don't really care if my students think I am "hot"; as I said, that's not my job and I would prefer they didn't comment either way. But when someone rates you as distinctly "not hot" which in mind equates to "ugly", it's hurtful. Someone going out of his or her way to say that you are unattractive doesn't make me (and, like I said, other professors I know) feel particularly good.

53. ellenhunt - August 12, 2010 at 05:48 pm

Oh, my. Ms. Utley is quite attractive.

54. performance_expert2 - August 12, 2010 at 09:56 pm

Have you Ms. Utley's info-tainment "experience" website? http://www.theutleyexperience.com/

As far as being quite attractive, she looks like a regular person to me and to be honest, not getting an "attraction" vibe. Sort of like going to a stripper bar on a hot afternoon to get some A/C and a cola and end up talking to the workers and end up bored out of your skull.

Her website almost seems like a parody. It is certainly .. errmm... innovative... in the edu-tainment way.

SEE-YOU! BYE!

55. performance_expert2 - August 12, 2010 at 09:58 pm

I wonder if I did a male info-erotic-edu-topia website if I would get a send-up in the CHE ? (just being a jerk)

56. performance_expert2 - August 12, 2010 at 10:01 pm

For those of you living under a rock, here's the New Boyz "You're a Jerk" music video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv9VKKXwVxU

Well-produced entertainment. By the way, everybody's attractive in the music video. Sexy? That's a personal decision.

57. dannyboy547 - August 12, 2010 at 11:44 pm

It's funny -- we academics spend years studying and chasing the paper, then years in the classroom and years in our office. We don't get out much, so we're surprised to learn that we are judged in part by our looks. But everyone else knows it! So what do we do? We write bemused columns in the Chronicle about this and some of us even do research on the topic and publish papers!

58. bluefish74 - August 13, 2010 at 06:37 am

Why do so many academics think they are "above" the system? This is a visual world where pop culture reigns. Lawyers, doctors, investment bankers, curators, art critics, politicians (even the president) are valued partly for their physical appearance. Why do academics think they are different?

Yes, we author papers, read books, muse over philosophical quests, and think we have the answers to all of life's dilemmas. But let's face it: at the end (or well the middle) of our days, we are teaching students who are between 18-22 years old. Do you remember what it was like to be 18-22 years old? How many of you as a freshman in college had the intellectual maturity to overlook people's appearance that surrounded you? How many of you now even have that intellectual maturity? Gathered by the comments on hot v not and the chili peppers v no chili peppers, I'd assume few of us today can dissociate our libido inside and outside the classroom.


Do I agree with the professor's comment about her dress being "cute” a comment which implied that she thinks her "cute" dress will inspire her students to have a tolerant discussion? No. Do I believe that her wearing that "cute" dress may have given her an extra "boost" of confidence to go into the classroom and have a fruitful discussion? Probably.

Can professors not be highly attractive, highly intelligent, and successful? I know plenty that are and have the respect of their students and their colleagues.


59. mickfan - August 13, 2010 at 08:15 am

I'm in my 32nd year of education. I used to be a cheerleader instructor. At the beginning, first 15 years or so, I was "hot." I dressed very conservatively but deliberately "nice" and professional. I was admired, ratings high, etc.--one of those faculty with whom students wanted to emulate, sponsor their clubs, etc. The second half of my career has been different as I have aged and gained weight. Now I'm everyone's mother. No one would put me in the lukewarm category. Respect seems to have waned. My talents have not changed, my enthusiasm for the profession has not diminished, nor has my willingness to work hard and care for students. I have to believe that my age and appearance matter in how I am regarded.

60. mickfan - August 13, 2010 at 08:17 am

addendum to my comment #59: ignore the "with" in sentence #5.

61. rightwingprofessor - August 13, 2010 at 09:39 am

Ms. Watson is a little overweight, Mr. Hoover has a funny shaped head and the other guy is balding. How about showing us some truly HOT professors CHE.

62. lemondropdotcom - August 13, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Hi everyone -- I'm an editor at Lemondrop.com, the site that did the 50 Hottest PRofessors list last year. Honestly, we did it all in fun, but when we found this article, we were really intriguied. We hadn't heard this side of the story. We did a response -- check it out: Hey everyone -- I'm an editor at Lemondrop.com, the site that published the 50 Hottest Professors last year and when we saw all the conversation around the article, we did a response:

Hot Professors 'Hate' the Attention -- Men, Welcome to Life As a Woman”
http://www.lemondrop.com/2010/08/12/hot-college-professors-male-teachers-hate-being-hot/ At the end of the day, well, our sympathies lie elsewhere...

And actually, after reading these comments, I'd love to hear from some female professors (like #46) about your experience in the classroom. And likewise, male profs, if any of you have tales of being hit on by female students, let's hear it -- email them to us at editor@lemondrop.com

63. lemondropdotcom - August 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm

(and sorry -- there's a typo up there that I didn't see but I can't figure out how to edit the comment)

64. veronica1987 - August 13, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I am a former student of Dr. Utley and I would have to say that as a student, i believe her theory is correct. As a communications major at Cal State University of Long Beach, i was shocked to hear many other students in my other communications courses talking about Dr. Utley's appearance and how great she looked. I would hear these comments from male and female students. I feel like her appearance kept people interested or more willing to listen to topics we would normally try to run from. Not only did she make the material interesting by making us look at it in new ways, she also kept us wondering about her. We wondered how old she was?? how often she worked out?? Students respected her for being attractive as well as intelligent.

65. performance_expert2 - August 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I've just finish tuning up a syllabus and now turn my attention to wardrobe. I was thinking of maybe a fishnet shirt this year. See what you think http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vziUC1IT0wo

66. performance_expert2 - August 13, 2010 at 01:07 pm

Everytime I attend your class, this is what I sit and think about http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/10587

67. dkenarov - August 13, 2010 at 02:02 pm

So these are the type of articles the Chronicle has been up to these days. Sad.

68. mxims - August 13, 2010 at 03:58 pm

I agree with those posters who contend that "hotness," with regard to students rating professors, is not always a matter of looks. I've been asked out by a number of male students and was always baffled that any of them thought such behavior was appropriate. Finally, one of my female students told me (though I did not ask) that several of her male classmates thought I'd be a "hot date" because I'm approachable, a good listener, and have a sense of humor. She added that she and her peers are not as adept at meeting people in person because they're more comfortable communicating through technology and that my "accessibility" made me seem attractive (aka less threatening). Though I was a cheerleader, model, and actress in my day, I think these chaps are responding to me as a friendly, familiar face to whom they know they can talk rather than as someone they'd ever consider sensuous or sexually provocative.

69. wisernow - August 13, 2010 at 04:42 pm

Encouragement of 'hotness' is simply asking for trouble, by creating boundary isses for students who need guidance in dealing with leader/supervisors, which is the role we are in. We have a job to do, it can be a fun job, but we need to take our supervisory power-differential role seriously. As the AA people say, there is a lot of power in the (class)rooms -- the students do not need us as friends, they need us as leaders.

More students seem to approach with a seductiveness that is not healthy these days -- perhaps their only way to relate to a more powerful person?

If you find that you are preening, you are sliding into trouble.

70. punnett09 - August 13, 2010 at 05:20 pm

I weight train as much as my limited schedule permits and have quite a bit more muscle than the average science professor. However, I do not have a single chili pepper on ratemyprofessor.com (I'm CRUSHED... get it, crushed pepper...). But don't worry, I've had my share of less than subtle queries on my view of student-professor relationships and have had friends who work with my students outside of school pass on comments (usually as part of teasing me). As someone already stated, one's classroom rigor seems to have a lot to do with getting that chili pepper. If you challenge the students (for many students who choose to post on ratemyprof this means you are a bad teacher), the chances of that pepper go down ("sigh"). I've also noticed that "hot" depends on student demographics. In a prior position where nearly all students were blond suburbanites right out of high school, the faculty names (mostly male) dropped by students were usually associated with faculty who were slight built, fit, well kempt and student-friendly. Senior faculty also often had chili peppers and were seen as grandfatherly - go gramps! Of course, this was at an institution that encouraged them to date students (and find wives among them) when they were first hired (I ain't lyin'!). (It should be noted that many of the female faculty at this institution felt as if they became surrogate mothers to many of their advisees.) Now, at an institution that caters to an, on average, older student, suddenly I'm eye-candy. At 44 and as a heart attack survivor, I'm not complaining... but I'm not dating any of them either!

71. finantj - August 14, 2010 at 09:11 am

I wonder why the majority of the professors in the "Hot 50" list seem to be anthropology.

72. morgan1 - August 14, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I'm sorry to burst the bubbles of all the commenters claiming that a female professor shouldn't look "sexy" or show cleavage, but we all have different body types and we fit in clothes differently, so get over yourselves. I'm a pretty large-chested woman, and unless I wear turtlenecks all the time (simply not an option in 100+ degree weather) some cleavage is going to show. If I wear a dress, unless it's a muu-muu, it's going to show that I have a curvy figure. Are you suggesting that I should wear only turtlenecks and baggy carpenter jeans because my body type happens to be considered attractive? I find THAT offensive. Since when did the "life of the mind" encourage sexist stereotypes?

73. doctorateintraining - August 15, 2010 at 04:19 pm

I find it strange (and incredibly rude)that anyone would object to a professor who holds a doctorate being referred to as "Dr."

A doctorate is technically the highest level of education one can achieve in the university system--and it is not an easy degree to earn.

I think people who don't hold Ph.D.'s and say they refuse to call professors by their professional title "Dr." are showing how uneducated and low class they are. Especially in the context of the education field, Ph.D.'s ARE doctorates, i.e. doctors of philosophy.

As for the topic at hand, faculty looking professional is important, more so than looking "sexy."

74. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 08:12 pm

Actually, philosophers are doctors of philosophy, if one wants to look at operational terms versus titles. The problem with "dr." title in the USA and particularly with education "dr.s" is the difference in many programs. For example, there are online doctor degrees that require 150, then, there are brick and mortar degrees that require 300 page dissertations and formal proceeeding and judgments, OH and THEN, there are brock and mortar "doctor" degrees that require full-time in-house participation, requiring teaching undergraduates and also teach methods in being a professor, how to write a syllabus and conduct class. Point is, the last of these is for career professors who have no intent of what might be called regular workplace work. In my not so humble opinion, the last of these three is the one where "Doctor" is appropriate due to the full-time (not part time) rigor and level of professional training.

The rest is career ornamentalism and you know it, too.

75. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 08:13 pm

And a basket of typos, too.

76. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 08:19 pm

PS It is not about "the highest level of education," it is about doing effective work. Mother Teresa, Solomon, and Thomas Paine, and even Balzac and Michel de Montaige (the person who invented the essay) did not highest degrees. They were on a different plain.

Hmmm. President Obama has a JD, doctorate of jurisprudence, but nobody ever called him "doctor."

77. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 08:19 pm

At least finish the thing.

78. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 08:21 pm

Wait until everybody calls you "doctor" and you can see how vacant it feels. The only thing that feels unvacant is doing effective work.

79. bertnb - August 16, 2010 at 07:17 am

performance_expert2--
My doctorate is very real, from a very real brick and mortar institution. I had a 14-year career before beginning to teach in academia.

I would thank you NOT to make blanket statements. Do NOT decide for me whether people should call me "Doctor" or not. They should "in my not so humble opinion."

Whatever you want to do with your title is fine....but leave the rest out of it. And yes, I can be called "doctor" and do effective work at the same time. One does not preclude the other.

80. matthewsm - August 16, 2010 at 04:09 pm

Once again, and for the record: "Bah".

81. roro1618 - August 17, 2010 at 11:02 am

I dress very nicely for class, but I rarely wear suits. I typically wear dresses. I've had students attempt to make an inappropriate remark, but that happens only once because I am quite explicit about the boundaries between students and I. However, I like looking nice and wear very attractive, yet professional clothing, shoes, hair and makeup. Female students comment favorably on my clothing and shoes and I do the same with them if I like their attire. The notion that being a professor means dressing badly or that appearance doesn't matter is ridiculous. How can I credibly teach my students about being professional in both behavior and attire at work, when I am dressed like a slob???

82. roro1618 - August 17, 2010 at 11:04 am

One of my favorite professors as undergraduate whom I respected greatly was smart, beautiful, and dressed very well. She was in her mid-40's and I was very impressed by both her knowledge and the care that she obviously placed on her appearance. I am a woman, by the way.

83. profpinata - August 18, 2010 at 11:18 am

Yet another example of beauty indeed being in the eye of the beholder.

A few years ago I was approached at a faculty function by the spouse of a well-resepcted professor who told me she thought it was hilarious that I (an adjunct)had such great ratings and comments (including chili peppers)on Rate My Professor and her husband -- a longtime tenured prof -- was miffed beyond words that he had none. She said he checked the site often and ruminated about his lack of attention. I had not looked myself up on RMP and have yet to do so because I think it's bullsh*t.

And by the way, the miffed prof told me recently that he went on the RMP site and gave himself some thumbs-up reviews and even a chili pepper or two and that since he did this the number of students enrolling in his classes has increased dramatically.

84. shmengi - August 26, 2010 at 11:06 pm

"And likewise, male profs, if any of you have tales of being hit on by female students, let's hear it -- email them to us at editor@lemondrop.com"

I wish.

As for the term "Doctor" -- those practicing medicine expropriated the term from academics. Medical doctors used to just be barbers with saws (see Frank Norris's McTeague). To add an air of respectability to their profession they started using the term "Doctor." I have no qualms calling myself one.

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