The Northern Kentucky University Communication Department chair, who also teaches an upper-level electronic media and broadcasting course, is being questioned in her ability to teach a class effectively by one of her students.
An unnamed student in Communication Department Chair Rachel Lyon’s media management class said her classroom is “sterile,” “distracted” and “passive aggressive,” especially where her teaching and grading are concerned.
Because he is in Lyon’s class and receiving a grade, the student requested to remain anonymous.
Before reaching out to The Northerner, this student contacted, also anonymously, the Dean of the College of Informatics Kevin Kirby, to whom he expressed his concern for Lyon’s teaching structure and ability.
“As far as teaching,” he said in the email, which was given to The Northerner by the student, “Rachel is subpar compared to other communication faculty.”
In response to the email, Kirby asked the student to come forward and communicate non-anonymously. “I cannot responsibly count anonymous emails as worth anything at all,” he said in the response.
The student said he did not continue communication with Kirby, because he feared his confidentiality would not be kept.
When asked to comment further, Kirby said he “must discount it” because there was “no evidence it was genuine.”
Although the student said Lyon is the most qualified professor currently to teach the class, “I’m assuming a lot of our stuff isn’t being read, we’re not getting a lot of criticism in the class.”
The media management class is focused on organizing and successfully achieving a complete media production, according to NKU’s website.
“It’s scary because these are movie treatments, so they’re movies people want to make … and very rarely do we get any kind of constructive feedback on our papers. They’re all mechanical errors; they’re not really ‘Hey, this plot isn’t working,’” he said.
The student said Lyon is distracted because of the work he turns in and the grade he receives in return. In a specific case, the student said he was given an A+ on a midterm exam that he “completely forgot about.” “I walked into the class without studying at all … I know I BS-ed some of the answers,” he said.
Based on the effort he has put into the class thus far, “if it was a difficult class, I’d be failing, but I have an A+.”
In previous classes with other professors, the student said he has received helpful constructive criticism on papers about specific narrative movie ideas in other communication department classes, “but not from her.”
After multiple attempts at contact through email and phone call, Lyon responded, but not on the subject of her teaching and a student coming forward. Lyon also requested The Northerner “wait a week for me” before printing the story.
In addition to contacting Kirby, the student also talked with other communication department professors, who advised him not to take the class and referred him to the online professor rating database RateMyProfessors.com.
On this site, a post was made on Jan. 27, 2012 about Lyon which has since been removed. The comment also appears on The Northerner’s website in the comment section, it was posted after being removed from RateMyProfessors.com. According to a screen shot of the entry, the user said:
“Late for class almost every day. Pointed at a disabled student and told him he should go to disability services IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. Told us she used to produce “porno” and then said her favorite part was seeing how big the men’s “schl*ng d*ngs” (her words) were when making them. I have learned NOTHING so far. AVOID AVOID AVOID!”
While the NKU page posting has been removed, the previous university at which Lyon taught, CUNY Queens College, still has four pages of user reviews.
The student suggested that Kirby read the reviews “because they are accurate. And no, I didn’t post them.”
In his email to Kirby, the student expressed doubt in his final statement. “You cannot deny the woman is great at making films,” he said. “However, you don’t see Steven Spielberg teaching at USC.”