RateMyProfessors does not give clear description of teachers

Nick Sestanovich
Nick Sestanovich

Somewhere, a student is thinking “Ha, foolish teacher! You think you can give me a D on my essay? I’ll show you by giving you a low rating on RateMyProfessors!”

By now, I’m sure most students are familiar with RateMyProfessors.com. It is a site where students can post reviews of their own teachers and give them ratings. The professors are graded under the categories of helpfulness, clarity and easiness with an optional grade for “hotness,” which means exactly what you think it means.

I will browse the site to see what other students say about my own professors, both past and present. I even look up teachers I am registered with for future semesters to get a sense of what students think about them. While I do occasionally find the reviews to be accurate, I don’t think it should be the only source for students to determine which professors’ classes to take.

For one, it is hard to get a sense of where students are coming from. Are they giving professors bad reviews because the teacher was truly terrible at their job, or were these students just jaded because they got a C on an essay? It could be either. I know bad teachers exist, but the definition of “bad” is going to be different for every person. Some professors may have a style that does not work for certain students, but that doesn’t make them bad teachers. It’s often hard to tell legitimate gripes from personal biases on this site.

Also, because the reviews are anonymous and the moderators approving them have never met the professors being graded, there is nothing to stop students from simply lying. I once saw a review of a certain professor saying “She assigns too many essays.” When I finally took that professor’s class, I only wrote about two or three essays the entire semester. It makes me wonder if this person even took the class, or if they simply had an axe to grind. It’s because of comments like these that students don’t get a full picture of what professors are really like. They’ll never know until they take the class, and since many upper division classes have only one professor teaching them, negative ratings aren’t going to make much of a difference.

While RateMyProfessors can be an entertaining read, I do think the ratings should be taken with a grain of salt. I’ve had professors with horrible ratings on the site but turned out to be decent. Professors with very positive ratings that ended up not impressing me. I’d say go with your own judgment, but don’t be surprised if a teacher ends up being completely different from what their online rating suggested.

Nick Sestanovich can be reached at [email protected] or @Nsestanovich on Twitter.