Instructors dispute the validity of Rate My Professors

American River College professors discuss their feelings on ratemyprofessors.com in the 2019 fall semester. (Photo by Ashley Hayes-Stone)

Many college students dread the thought of showing up on the first day of school and finding out their teacher isn’t quite what they expected. Luckily for students, the website, Rate My Professors (www.ratemyprofessors.com)  is there to help decide which professor’s classes to take and which to avoid.

But how does this make the professors feel? Do they see it as a helpful tool or more of a mean way to over-analyze people trying their best?

Two American River College professors said the site has both pros and cons.

Speech professor David Austin said he doesn’t spend much time thinking about his rating on Rate My Professors. Even though he doesn’t regularly look at the site, Austin said he has students every semester that tell him they took his class because of his positive rating.  

Austin said he feels that the ratings that students have shown him have been very kind and thoughtful. However, some ratings, he said, were just confusing. 

“Once, a student did show me a rating on Rate My Professor(s) that was low because a student reported that they were required to give speeches,” Austin said.  “I thought it was funny because the student was enrolled in a speech class—so I am not sure what they expected?”  

Austin said he has also read reviews of other professors and thought that some of the reviews were too harsh.

“The reviews claimed that the course had a lot of work or a lot of writing. If I were a student, I would choose professors that were challenging so that I would be better prepared for transfer,” Austin said. 

Austin added that some of these reviews also contained comments complaining about the “lengthy comments” professors wrote on their papers. He said he believed the students leaving these comments felt “picked on” for their writing. 

However, Austin said he also feels the teachers are trying to help their students rather than cause them stress. 

“I think that those teachers spent a great deal of time attempting to show students how to better their own writing–and that is a gift of care, concern, and time,” Austin said. “Those comments should be viewed as gold.”

Austin added that he thinks that some students use the website to take out their frustrations on a professor instead of actually working with the professor while taking their class.  

“If you are going to take the time and complain on a public forum, why don’t you actually take the time to talk to the professor?” Austin said. “Perhaps they can find out why a teacher does things the way that they do things or perhaps work toward a better grade.”

Austin’s view on Rate My Professors is not uncommon even to professors who use the site more frequently. 

Journalism professor Alan Miller includes student comments from Rate My Professors on his class syllabus’. However, he said he also feels that the site has some drawbacks for professors.   

“I believe [the site] is a double-edged sword,” Miller said. 

Miller said he feels instructors may benefit from student feedback about the course and teaching methods, but he said he also thinks some professors may become more lenient on students in hopes of gaining a better rating. 

“It can put younger professors worried about gaining tenure to go easy on students for fear of a bad rating,” Miller said. 

Although both professors said they feel that the site can reflect professors inaccurately they both say they have benefitted from the site’s existence.

Students don’t only leave negative comments. Miller said that most of the comments he receives are positive and thoughtful.  

“The responses I’ve received seem genuine,” Miller said. “I’m flattered yet grateful that my class resonates with so many students on several levels.” 

While many students see Rate My Professors as a useful tool, others like kinesiology major Alyssa DeMarco feel the information on the site isn’t always accurate. 

“I think it’s useful in some ways, although the responses could be biased,” DeMarco said.

DeMarco said she’s had professors who acted nothing like the way they were described on Rate My Professors. She said she thinks this is because students may have really liked the teacher on a personal level and given them an unfairly high score.

Opinions about the validity of the site are fairly similar from students and professors alike; most feel it can be useful, but how useful or accurate the information is, is subjective to each student or professor.

“Teaching ought not to be a popularity contest. That said, I have had students take my class because of the ratings and comments,” Miller said. “In that respect, it’s a resource for prospective students.” 

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About the Author

Oden Taylor
Oden Taylor is in both his first semester at American River College and his first semester writing for The Current. Taylor is a journalism major with a focus on politics and activism, hoping to obtain a bachelor's degree after transferring to University of California, Davis. Taylor also aspires to one day become a documentary filmmaker.

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