A Very Weird Semester at Randolph-Macon College

The two candidates vying to replace Eric Cantor are both professors at the same tiny liberal-arts college in Virginia.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
June 11, 2014, 9:27 a.m.

You’ve heard aca­demia re­ferred to as a snake pit. You’ve heard tales of aca­dem­ic in­fight­ing, and maybe even read about the time earli­er this year when one lib­er­al-arts-school pro­fess­or, who was ac­cused of plot­ting to kill a col­league, sued the ac­cuser for de­fam­a­tion. More of­ten, fac­ulty mem­bers’ polit­ic­al battles re­volve around more mundanely ne­far­i­ous things, such is how to oust their own dean.

Now ima­gine that two pro­fess­ors at one of said col­leges are ac­tu­ally run­ning for Con­gress against one an­oth­er. It sounds like the plot of a bad real­ity show, but at Ran­dolph-Ma­con Col­lege, a small lib­er­al-arts col­lege in Ash­land, Va., that’s pre­cisely the situ­ation.

Dav­id Brat, who just ous­ted House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor in what has been widely re­viewed on the In­ter­net as a shock­ing and his­tor­ic Re­pub­lic­an primary loss, is a tea-party-lov­ing pro­fess­or of eco­nom­ics who already has Wash­ing­ton talk­ing fear­fully about the com­ing pop­u­list re­volu­tionOn Rate My Pro­fess­or, he has a 3.5 out of 5.0 rat­ing for over­all qual­ity and a glow­ing chili pep­per to sig­nal a high level of phys­ic­al at­tract­ive­ness.

Par­tic­u­larly not­able, however, is that even the stu­dents who gave him poor rat­ings seemed to be in awe of him. “Brat changes as­sign­ments all the time, but he’s so charm­ing you for­get to be mad at him,” said one stu­dent, after rat­ing him “poor qual­ity” with a frowny face. An­oth­er who rated him poorly seemed to be cri­ti­ciz­ing teach­ing as a pro­fes­sion: “Great guy, but al­most too smart to teach.” Said an­oth­er who gave him bad rat­ings, “He’s an amaz­ing teach­er, his classes are very in­ter­est­ing and he knows how to catch stu­dents’ at­ten­tion.” Too bad no one taught that lat­ter stu­dent how to use the web­site.

Brat’s Demo­crat­ic op­pon­ent, Jack Tram­mell, is a pro­fess­or of so­ci­ology who un­til Tues­day had been rated only twice on Rate My Pro­fess­or since 2008 (for­tu­nately he’s been rated three more times in the last 12 hours). Like Brat, he has a glow­ing chili pep­per to sig­nal phys­ic­al at­tract­ive­ness and earned a 4.2 for over­all qual­ity.

The cam­pus is likely crawl­ing with re­port­ers already, but un­til they file their dis­patches, we blog­gers will have to make due with so­cial me­dia. Take for in­stance, Tram­mell’s col­or­ful per­son­al Twit­ter page and Brat’s re­cent mus­ings on how Hitler’s rise could hap­pen again. No word yet on how this will af­fect their syl­labi, but it’s go­ing to be a col­or­ful semester at Ran­dolph-Ma­con Col­lege.

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