Mathochism: An unexpected response

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

It’s been a few days since I sent the Algebra II evaluation to the Brofessor, and frankly, I doubt I’ll hear back from him. I suppose I might, but a cursory glance at comments on show me that many of his most annoying mannerisms — such as the constant digressions — go back as far as 2003. Seven years of such behavior is not an anomaly but a pattern. Patterns are hard to break, especially if the person who’s fallen into them doesn’t recognize the problem.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I got an e-mail last night from the Chair of the math department. Well, to be fair, maybe it’s not such a surprise. The college has a well-deserved reputation for academic excellence, and has a high transfer rate to prestigious four-year universities. Besides that, of the six classes I’ve taken there so far, this was the first dud. I picked far fewer winners in the last election!

But back to the Chair’s e-mail. Out of respect for this person’s privacy, I will not reproduce it here. But to summarize, the Chair was sorry I had had such a bad experience. The Chair also assured me steps would be taken to tackle the Brofessor, the main one being sending someone in to observe him next semester.

Call me cynical, but one class session, with the Brofessor on his best behavior under scrutiny, isn’t going to do a thing to change things. I even recall one night when someone brought up such evaluations during class, and the Brofessor bragged that department inquisitors were easy to fool. No, a student questionnaire, not attached to the final and not handwritten, would be the best litmus test here.

Still, I really appreciate the Chair taking the time to listen and write back. I also recognize that my privileged status as an older educated student and journalist likely played a part. I doubt a 19-year-old would have been as lucky. Or perhaps I’m being cynical again?

One last note on the comments: While most were very critical (even the positive ones spoke of his arrogance), there were one or two that bordered on mash notes. “He is so smart and so cute!” one raved, not even discussing math class. Could it be the Brofessor is writing his own reviews? Then again, serial killers are often inundated with marriage proposals while in prison. Tastes just differ.

All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.


  • Congratulations on raising a flag. If you end up corresponding further with the department, you might emphasize the ‘evaluation attached to exam’ thing, as that is probably against school policy.

  • I agree with Ellen. Reply to the department head’s e-mail.

    My university does not even allow the professor being evaluated to be in the room while the class is filling them out. Someone else comes in, we fill out the bubbles, write comments on the back if we wish, and office staff will type up the handwritten comments so the professor cannot compare handwriting and retaliate. It’s not taken as seriously as it should (while most students will fill out the bubbles, few will write comments. Many draw pictures.) but at least the anonymity is kept.

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