Views differ on professor rating site

By BRYAN WEISGAL
Contributing Writer
[email protected]

Students use RateMyProfessors.com as a tool for selecting classes, but professors maintain that the site lacks credibility and that students should not rely on it.

The website aims to represent students’ general impressions of specific professors through reviews, and barring inappropriate language, no review is censored.

Most ratings on the website represent more extreme opinions, generated by students who truly loved or hated the professor, said Matthew Farrence, professor of English and creative writing.

“The anxiety it produces amongst colleagues has to do with the lack of control that exists within the site,” said Ferrence. “It is like any type of personality measurement, except you have random students with quite polarizing opinions.”

RateMyProfessors.com combines students’ written reviews with a survey that creates the ratings. The survey is comprised of three general criteria for each review: the professor’s “overall quality,” “easiness,” and “hotness.”
The first two criteria are graded on a 5.0 scale, and a “hot” teacher is designated by a chili pepper placed beside his or her rating.

On average, Allegheny professors get a 3.43 rating, the third lowest amongst other schools of similar size in the region.

Although students can easily acquire information about professors through the site, there is no way to trace reviews back to the reviewer, said Becca Chrissman, ’12.

“Word of mouth is good, but sometimes you are picking classes, and you are not in the campus center or at a place where you can get information on a professor,” Chrissman said. “Sure, I would like to know who puts up some of that information, but it is a nice assurance that some people like the professor that I am about to take.”

Student discussions on campus are far more powerful than the small sample of student opinions that are featured on the website, said Dan Shea, professor of political science.

“I checked the site four or five years ago, but I have not checked it since and I do not plan to,” Shea said. “I also find it troubling that easiness is one of the criteria students look at. Professors do not teach to be easy, and students should put the work in.”

The site gives students the chance to avoid taking a class with a professor that is notoriously strict, said Alexandra DiPerna, ’14.

“I know it sounds bad, but realistically students want to be efficient and succeed. If students can use a tool to find an easy professor, I think they are going to,” DiPerna said. “This was true at my old school, and it is certainly true here.”

Alumna Elizabeth Boykiw said she posted reviews several times during her time at Allegheny.

“I spoke out either positively or with a sense of neutrality,” Boykiw said. “I wanted to help students, and I think that RateMyProfessor is a good tool that we can all use to help each other in school.”

Ferrence, at least, sees the student benefits of RateMyProfessors.com.

“It is like a consumer review on Amazon–probably not the most accurate reflection of how the general population feels, but it is an authentic student reaction.” Ferrence said. “I am thrilled that I have a chili pepper.”