Websites like Rate My Professor are popular with students as a means for rating former professors and finding information about new ones. In this article, professors speak up about the comments being posted about them on these websites.
Any university student asks about his or her professors for the new semester. After all, with the rising tuition fees, it is just right that students are looking to invest their scholarship or loan money on a class that is taught by a good professor, and of course, will give them a good grade to help with getting a good GPA.
Most students turn to their peers or other students who have taken the class before to give them feedback, but there are now websites that offer students a way to rate their professors to guide future students. Rate My Professors, a website founded by software engineer John Swapceinski in 1999 but has changed ownerships over the years to current owner MTV’s college channel mtvU, is quite popular – with more than 7,500 schools registered and more than 14 million comments and ratings from students submitted on the site.
It’s very easy for students to leave ratings on a website at the end of the semester, and given that it’s not an objective way to rating professors, the comments can vary from harsh to funny – with students commenting on professors’ style of clothing and plain good looks and sex appeal. The risk is students leaving exaggerated comments and new students avoiding or dropping from class without giving the professor the benefit of the doubt.
How do the professors feel about the site and specifically, what is written about them? Most of them know about the site, and some of them do check how they are being rated by former students.
One professor, Douglas Whynott from Emerson, admitted that he checked the site for the first time after his daughter mentioned the site to him and said that he is not rating too well on the site. After checking it out, Whynott was not really impressed and doesn’t understand the reason why he rates low, specifically what he is doing wrong in the classroom. The worst thing is the fact that only the negative comments are posted – he wonders what happened to the positive ones he receives verbally from the students. Thus, he feels the website is more commonly used for revenge, rather than constructive criticism.
Some professors, with more colorful comments not anymore connected with teaching methods, admit even that family members and friends also check out the site and forward the comments posted.
There is an estimated 5 million students using the site every month, thus the site sustains itself. Although the site in theory is good and useful, students looking for ratings of current professors should always remember to take with a grain of salt what they read on the website. Best see the professor and rate him yourself.
Image by Trondheim Byarkiv