Tread lightly with Rate My Professors

It would surprise me if most college students today haven’t haven’t heard of or used when selecting their classes. I, too, have been an avid user of this website over the last five years. Admittedly, Rate My Professors does have its flaws, but for the most part, it has been a useful tool for me when planning out my terms.

Now, for those who have never visited Rate My Professors, the simple breakdown is that it provides a rating for professors across the nation—as its name suggests. Essentially, when you’re looking at classes and you want to know about the professor teaching the class, you can plug their name into the website and see what people have said about them, how they teach the class, how fair they are, how knowledgeable they are in their subjects, etc. It’s kind of like a ton of people writing course evaluations at the end of the term, except these evaluations are public for everyone to see.

The three main categories that a professor is rated on are helpfulness, clarity and easiness. The average of these three numbers makes up the overall quality score of the professor, with five being the highest rating possible.

Rate My Professors has recently updated their website. Students can now add three different tags to describe their experience with the professor. Some of these tags include “tough grader,” “get ready to read” and “inspirational.” This all seems very helpful and useful—and for me it has been—but the flaws of the website cannot be overlooked.

I have had very few bad experiences with professors throughout my college years. Rate My Professors has helped me find great professors to whom I gave great ratings on the website. I do admit, however, that I gave one professor quite a bad rating during my sophomore year. To try to justify myself, this is a class where the professor’s incessant talking about random subjects made me so bored that I dropped the class after the second day. Also, he was almost a half hour late on the first day. Looking at this professor’s rating now, he stands at 3.1 out of 5; I don’t feel too bad since a lot of other people have had the same opinions about him.

But the problem with Rate My Professors lies within the students who are doing the rating. The website can’t take into account any personal animosity or bias toward a professor. I once heard from a professor that one of her students actually wrote that they thought she was trying to brainwash her students. This clearly stems from either absolute misunderstanding or maybe from a personal agenda. Statements like that can be unfairly harmful when posted on a very public website. Slandering a professor who probably doesn’t have the time or the want to defend themselves is hitting below the belt, especially when these comments can possibly sway someone’s decision.

Then there’s the obvious fact that students who don’t receive good grades are more likely to lash out at the professor rather than realize their own incompetence when it comes to the class and subject material. It’s just easier to blame someone else.

Last but not least, there’s the fact that all of these ratings are subjective. Sure, there are professors whose ratings are very constant—and those are probably the more “accurate” ratings. However, a student’s experience with a professor is going to change with the student. One person may say one thing, and another person may say something totally different, but until you step into the classroom yourself and experience the class and professor for yourself, no rating given by other people will be 100 percent accurate.

Rate My Professors can be a great website and a helpful tool, but it should be used with caution.