College professor sues former student over failing reviews online

College professor sues former student over failing reviews online

A University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor is disagreeing with the opinion of a former grad student.  The student thinks she’s a horrible educator, and she apparently does not.

Anthony Llewellyn posted comments and videos accusing Sally Vogl-Bauer of grading unfairly, criticizing him academically, and causing him to flunk out of school after taking a communications class with the professor.  Vogl-Bauer’s attorney reports that she did ask Llewellyn to take the commentary down before filing suit, but he refused.  He says that he tried to address the issues directly with the professor months before receiving a failing grade in her class, and wanted to let the public know about his experience.

While he agrees that students should have the right to voice their opinions, Vogl-Bauer’s attorney, Tim Edwards, feels that Llewellyn’s reviews were intentionally defamatory, designed specifically to damage her reputation. “Persistent defamation among one’s peers and within a small professional community can be devastating to the career of a well-respected professional such as Ms. Vogl-Bauer,” according to Edwards.

Anthony Llewellyn, obviously disagrees.  He states that he merely wanted to inform the public about the way he was treated by the professor, not defame her.

It’s not uncommon for students to post reviews of their college experiences on sites like Rate My Professors these days, and many students utilize those reviews when choosing their class schedules.  Just like any review site, most readers do take reviews into account when making a choice, but realize that not all reviews are completely accurate.  Generally, looking at the overall tone of the ratings will give you a good idea of what to expect, but there will always be those who didn’t click well or someone who absolutely adores someone that everyone else detests.

Did Llewellyn take his reviews too far? He doesn’t think so. He feels that it is important that the content remain online, stating that “I don’t feel I’ve went too far with my videos and comments because everything posted basically communicates exactly how Sally Vogl-Bauer treated me.”

My take? Vogl-Bauer is creating a bit of a Streisand Effect here. By making a big fuss and actually suing a student, she caught the attention of not only local, but national news. Sorry teach, but everyone loves the little guy – haven’t you heard of David and Goliath? Was he over the top in his reviews? Possibly. Was he a bit obnoxious? Probably. Does anyone really care? Not likely. Chances are, Llewellyn was well within his First Amendment right to free speech, and will not have to take his reviews down. As for Vogl-Bauer, I’ve got a book she should read.

16 Comments for “College professor sues former student over failing reviews online”
  1. I am the attorney who represents the professor. The title if this article is misleading and inaccurate. She is not suing because of bad reviews or evaluations. Please check other news sources to get the accurate story.

    1. Hi Timothy,
      I checked quite a few sources. If the content of the reviews is not the reason behind the suit, I’d love to get more information, I’m definitely not trying to mislead anyone.
      Thank you for stopping by.

    2. I think you may be confused about our use of “failing review.” As the context of Erin’s post explains, the professor is suing because of negative online reviews she considers to be defamatory. We’re not suggesting that she is suing because she received a negative evaluation or employee performance review.

      We’re happy to correct anything in the post that explicitly suggests otherwise or is factually incorrect. We’re simply summarizing what others have reported.

      1. If I am confused, which I doubt, so are your readers. This case is not about reviews of the instructor’s performance, which are typically conducted by the university or on an online “review” service, such as “Rate My Professors.” If you truly examined the other news sources that you purport to “summarize,” you would know that. You should correct the factually incorrect content of this article instead of playing word games with me.

    3. I was the defendant in a defamation lawsuit, David
      McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion. Timothy Edwards comments about Ms. Sally
      Vogl-Bauer’s intentions to welcome criticism but sue defamation cause me to
      think “been there, done that, got the Supreme Court dismissal. ”

      The Duluth News Tribune in June 2010 said this about Marshall H. Tanick of
      Hellmuth Johnson: Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick, in a phone interview,
      alleged that Laurion defamed his client in several ways, including posting
      negative reviews of McKee on various websites. The basis for the lawsuit is the
      defamatory statements that were made on websites and to other sources, Tanick said. However, by no means does Dr. McKee want to in any way prevent or affect any kind of communications that may be made to the Board of Medical Practice or any other regulatory agencies. The purpose of the lawsuit is to prevent defamation being made on the websites and through other sources.

      Sound familiar to the present case?

      1. BuzzFeed, 2014: But McKee’s lawyer, Marshall Tanick, of Hellmuth & Johnson, says no matter where it was said, defamation is defamation. “The thing that’s often misunderstood is that this was not just about free speech, but about making actual false statements,”
        Tanick says. “The problem is today’s unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries.”

        Videotaped comments to Minnesota Supreme Court: “He may have
        been upset at how Dr. McKee treated his father. Apparently he was, and he’s entitled to say that. He can say that “I’m upset. Doctor McKee did not treat my father well. He was insensitive.” He can make
        statements like that: “He didn’t spend enough time in my opinion.” He can make factual (sic) statements, he can make them on the Internet, he can make them in letters, he can write a letter to the editor, he can stand in front of St. Luke’s Hospital with a placard saying those things if they are opinions . ..”

    4. Timothy Edwards, have you told Ms. Sally Vogl-Bauer about the Streisand Effect?

  2. It appears that Trackur believes in censorship. It has taken down two of my replies to Mr. Beal’s post.

    1. Hi Timothy,

      No comments have been deleted. They have to be approved before they’re posted, and sometimes on the weekends it takes us a bit longer on the admin side of things. This being a holiday weekend, we’re not at our desks as much as during the week.

      1. Thank you Erin. Andy’s post was a bit snarky, and I thought it was important to promptly correct him given how fast news cycles are these days. I am not prepared to post the complaint, but I will send you a copy (which is posted on other sites) by e-mail. You will see that this case has very little to do with online “evaluations” or “reviews” of my client, who completely supports any student who wants to provide good faith feedback about her performance in a true evaluation or review.

  3. The reality is that our 18th century education system is not fit for purpose. Professors do not have a direct relationship with the people who pay fees for their services and thus there is an ever-widening gap between what is offered and what is accepted.

    Quite simply most low-ranking colleges are no longer worth the money, time or effort.

    And any professor who needs to employ an attorney to defend should be drummed out of the profession.

  4. Earlier poster: [[ I was the defendant in a defamation lawsuit, David
    McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion. Timothy Edwards comments about Ms. Sally
    Vogl-Bauer’s intentions to welcome criticism but sue defamation cause me to
    think “been there, done that, got the Supreme Court dismissal. ” ]]

    I think Sally Vogl-Bauer should expect the same results as shown below. Tim Edwards should have told her her chances.

    The Top Lawsuits Of 2013
    by Steve Kaplan
    December 20, 2013

    Never Shout “He’s a Tool!” On a Crowded Website?

    Dr. David McKee, a Duluth neurologist, was not laughing when he saw what one former client wrote about him on a doctor-rating website. The reviewer, Dennis Laurion, complained that McKee made statements that he interpreted as rude and quoted a nurse who had called the doctor “a real tool.” As these statements echoed through the Internet, McKee felt his reputation was being tarnished. He sued, and so began a four-year journey that ended this year in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

    Laurion was unhappy with the way McKee treated his father, who was brought to the doctor after he had a stroke. Laurion went to several rate-your-doctor sites to give his opinion. That’s just free speech, isn’t it?

    It sure is, says Laurion’s attorney, John D. Kelly of the Duluth firm Hanft Fride. “The court held that what my client was quoted as saying was not defamatory,” he says. “I do think the Internet makes it much easier for persons exercising poor judgment to broadcast defamatory statements, however… a medium… doesn’t change the quality of a statement from non-defamatory to defamatory.”


    But boundaries were not on the minds of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Free speech was. Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote, “The point of the post is, ‘This doctor did not treat my father well.’ I can’t grasp why that wouldn’t be protected opinion.” As to referring to the doctor as “a real tool,” Justice Alan Page wrote that the insult “falls into
    the category of pure opinion because the term … cannot be reasonably interpreted as a fact and it cannot be proven true or false.”

  5. Here’s another teacher following the trail of Dr. David McKee and Professor Sally Vogl-Bauer.

    “Texas teacher sues two students for defamation”
    Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI, May 13, 2013

    May 13 (UPI) — High school English teacher Elizabeth Ethredge has filed suit against two students claiming she was suspended and may be fired because they told the principal that she had asked her class to stalk a suspected thief on Facebook. Ethredge claims she was giving an “oral storytelling” lesson in November 2012 when she told her class an anecdote about her son having personal property stolen at a high school in another district, reports Courthouse News Service.

    The complaint states that Ethredge “mentioned to her students that they might be able to help recover her son’s property.” She invited any student with a Facebook account to help by messaging the suspected thief to try and purchase the stolen item from him.

    Ethredge claims the two students only brought it up months later, in March of this year, when she sent them to the principal’s office for disruptive behavior and a dress code violation.

    “Defendants wrote statements about the oral storytelling exercise that were clearly retaliatory in nature, designed to take the focus off of their inappropriate behavior and to instead focus the principal’s attention on plaintiff,” the complaint states.

    As further evidence of the students’ alleged “deliberate and malicious intent to injure plaintiff’s reputation,” the complaint shows that one student posted a message to
    Facebook during school hours that said, “Hey Ethredge, “I threw stones at your house” what you got for me big bada**? Case closed!”

    The second student named in the suit commented on the post, saying “Hahahahah [expletive] ain’t got [expletive]!”

    Days after the cited Facebook posts, the Board of Trustees of the Waller Independent School District proposed termination of Ethredge’s employment.

    Ethredge seeks punitive damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.


  6. I believe little consumers hiding behind a computer should be sued as well, for
    making false negative reviews. It’s a very childish act and if they’re own
    liveleyhood was at stake depending on reviews for income, you know they’d think
    twice. Sue the little cockroaches! At least make an example of them.


    Anthony Llewellyn now has three lawyers, Andrew Price, Kate E. Maternowski, and Laura Brenner . Jury trial is still scheduled for SEP 15 – SEP 17, 2014, in the Walworth County Judicial Center Courtroom of the Honorable Phillip A Koss; however, it is hard to find any of Anthony Llewellyn’s videos online. IS HE TAKING THE VIDEOS DOWN?

    Sally Vogl-Bauer apparently had her pre-trial hearing AUG 20, 2014. It is no
    longer listed on the pending court docket.

    Visit . Click agree.

    On next page enter name = Llewellyn,

    County = Walworth,

    Case Number = 2013CV001140.

    You’ll see suit history and public data about Sally Vogl-Bauer and Anthony

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