Story by Maggie Nadeau
Artwork by Ashley Kron
Believe or not, once and a while Chapman professors do check what students are saying about them on RateMyProfessors.com. Although it is a useful tool for students, many teachers see it as biased evaluations that misconstrue their methods of instruction.
Around the end of every semester, students prepare to register for classes. With course options open on one Internet tab, and RateMyProfessors.com open on another tab, students try their best to get their classes with the highest rated professors. The website rates professors on a five point scale according to overall quality, helpfulness, clarity, easiness, interest level, textbook use, average grade and hotness.
Professor Morgan Read-Davidson of the English department first heard about the site five years ago. However, he has no opinion either way about his 4.6 rating, which is among the best.
“I don’t put a lot of stock into something that has a chili pepper as part of its rating,” Read-Davidson said.
He sees it as a self-select website, like Yelp or Amazon Review. Students do not get a true look at the quality of an instructor because the reviews are coming from students who are either extremely angry or extremely happy with their instructor.
From the anger side among Chapman students:
“She makes me want to drop out of school and learn how to mix concrete.”
“Offensive. Condescending. The entertainment industry has gutted this woman’s soul and capacity for joy. Approach with extreme caution.
From the other side:
“Hot teachers always make it easier to pay attention.
“He has a lot of passion for teaching. And he is HOT!”
“Very hot for his age.”
Professor Terrence Snodgrass of the Communications department, with a 3.0 rating, used to check the site regularly when he started teaching. But as time has passed he does not look at the website as often.
“When I was a brand new teacher, my own evaluation wasn’t positive. The most common comment was that I was very loud. For that reason, my reviews would say to sit in the back and bring Tylenol to class. So, I tried to calm it down,” Snodgrass said.
Both professors have criticisms about the site. Although it may be useful for students, it does not serve as a tool for them to critique themselves.
“For me, it is not a useful measurement because it is not contextualized with a specific class. I get student evaluations from each course every semester, which allow me to compare the outliers with the rest of the class,” Read-Davidson said.
Professor Snodgrass does believe there are professors who do not have a lot of fans, but there can be some problems with these negative evaluations.
“The one problem with it, like anything else, is that people can be mean and hateful. As a teacher, you might not get a fair shot, because you might get hated on by a student who didn’t do their work when you were the one doing the right thing,” Snodgrass said.
Professor William Cumiford of the History Department, is one of Chapman’s highest rated professors according to the website. “Super cool person in and oukt of class,” is one student comment about him. Another: “May be the best professor I’ve ever had.”
Despite his rating, Cumiford sees a problem with the website.
“The only downside of RateMyProfessors.com, is if people only take my class because they think I am an easy grader,” Cumiford said.
He feels great about his rating, but is concerned for those students who base their opinions solely off the rating.
The ratings can be useful for those having to choose between two professors. However, as sophomore Miranda Nuevo believes, it is important to keep in mind the context of these evaluations.
“Since it is so subjective, I don’t really use it. I usually seek out people who have the same learning style as I do to help me decide if the professor is right for me,” Nuevo says.
RateMyProfessors.com can help students because of the online word of mouth, but it can also damage the professor’s reputation because of extreme student subjectivity. When registering for classes, be aware of the subjectivity that can come from the website.