By Jocelyn Colbert |Staff Writer|
Winter registration is here. Students across campus are planning for the immediate future, and when choosing classes most students use one of two methods: word of mouth and RateMyProfessors.com.
RateMyProfessors.com is the largest online destination for professor ratings. There are 7,500 schools listed on the site and there are over 14 million student-generated comments and ratings.
According to the site, over four million college students each month are using RateMyProfessors. There are categories for all the professors to be rated on including overall quality and easiness which are both out of five points. If students really liked the professor they could vote for them to receive a chili pepper next to their name, which means the professor is “hot,” as in the professor is attractive.
Students can also comment on and rate their school by visiting their school’s page. The site was built for college students, by college students.
Choosing the best courses and professors is a rite of passage for every student, and connecting with peers on the site has become a key way for millions of students to navigate this process.
The site is supposed to be a place where students can go to figure out who’s a great professor and who are the ones you might want to avoid. But, as I have discovered, this is not always the case.
Anyone can leave comments and ratings on RateMyProfessors, and I mean anyone. People who might not have even taken the professors course can comment on their class.
Student Megan Pearson said that users can be really mean about their comments. “If I was a professor and reading extremely negative comments all the time, I would cry. It seems like some students just lash out at professors because it’s an anonymous commenting site. The site should start requiring students to put their name. That would be interesting,” said Pearson.
I laughed with Donna Gotch, one of the professors in the communication department, about one comment in particular left on her page. An obviously upset student cautioned everyone to “avoid her class if possible.”
I pointed out that the student said “Communication 309 is a horrible class to take with her. She is the worst teacher I have ever had!” and asked Gotch how she felt about it.
She laughed and said “I’ve never taught Communication 309, ever. Yes, I read the comments, the good, the bad and the ugly. Since anyone can post anything even those who haven’t even been in a class with me, reliability of the comments is not very high.”
Professor Gotch has been negatively evaluated for teaching Comm 309, but has never taught that class.
This is a perfect example of some of the discrepancies within the site. Gotch has the most ratings out of the entire Communication Department. “All these ratings and I don’t have a chili pepper! I guess I’m not “hot” enough,” joked Gotch.
While it’s a good idea to talk to peers about certain classes and professors, students should form their own opinions of professors and the classes they teach. You might read a page full of negative comments about a professor and be deterred from taking the course.
But what if the comments weren’t true? You would’ve been robbed of an opportunity to take a great class with an incredible professor.
For instance Paul Orwin of the College of Natural Sciences has mostly negative comments on his page.
When visiting him during his office hours, I observed that he is very helpful and mindful of his students. I listened to him efficiently and happily help his students who came to see him.
Want to check out the class before taking it? Go straight to the source. Look up the professor you want to take and find out when their office hours are. Stop by and actually meet the professor and discuss the class you want to take.
Professor Orwin is elated to meet with his students. “I think it [RateMyProfessor] is a resource that students should use cautiously. You have no way of knowing the person rating me. Students have very different opinions. Come to my office and I’ll tell you about the course. I’ll give you all of the information, just come by.”