Professor declares Teacher Review site defamatory, files lawsuit against creator

CALIFORNIA -- A professor at the City College of San Francisco filed a lawsuit in October against a former CCSF student over a Web site that allows students to post reviews of professors.

"It's sending lies, death threats and defamation against teachers around the world," English professor Daniel Curzon-Brown said of the Teacher Review Web site.

Curzon-Brown charged in his suit that the site has caused him emotional distress by publishing statements about him and other professors that are false and defamatory. He criticized the site for allowing students to post anonymous reviews and for failing to ensure that students who post reviews of professors have actually taken a class by that professor. He also said students have threatened to post bad reviews of him if he did not give them the grades they wanted.

Ryan Lathouwers, the creator of Teacher Review, said the site is simply a way to help students get a better education by allowing them to choose teachers conducive to their learning styles.

Lathouwers, a computer science major, created the site, which he pays for, while he was a student at the City College of San Francisco. When he transferred to San Francisco State University last year, he added a section where SFSU students could also post reviews of professors.

Lathouwers said he removes any reviews that do not conform to guidelines he has posted on the site. A message on the site encourages any user who feels that a posted review is objectionable to e-mail Lathouwers.

Curzon-Brown does not think that is good enough. He said he wants the site taken down.

"I cannot emphasize enough that the information people are using to evaluate their teachers is tainted," he said. "It is not reliable information. It's Internet information."

Curzon-Brown is also suing the City College of San Francisco for assisting Teacher Review by allowing links to the site from pages on the college's Web site.

The college's chancellor has refused to prohibit student organizations that have pages hosted on the college's server from including links to the Teacher Review site.

Lathouwers said he has no intention of shutting the site down.

"It helps other students," he said. "By spreading information about who are the best teachers, you can take the best classes."

reports, Winter 1999-2000