Story by Jackie Klein
With class registration just ending, students across the Drake University campus are on the lookout for tips on which classes to take.
Many turn to online resources, namely the popular ratemyprofessor.com.
This website provides reviews of professors from other students. A reviewer ranks a professor’s class from one to five in four different categories: easiness, helpfulness, clarity and rater interest. Students also have the option of nominating their professor as “hot,” indicated by a chili pepper on the professor’s page. A comments section is also provided to leave any advice
With 480 Drake professors catalogued, it’s not surprising that the total number of faculty reviews extends into the thousands. Drake also boasts a 3.72/5 professor average, as well as a 3.8/5 as an overall campus rating, which is a newer feature to the website.
Another novelty is the “Professors Strike Back” section: professors are now allowed to respond to the reviews. So far, no professors at Drake have taken the opportunity.
Professors at Drake have a wide spectrum of views about the site. Some professors check their ratings each semester, others purposefully avoid
Radostina Purvanova, assistant professor of management and international business, visited the site once, then resolved never to do so again.
“It’s not useful for two reasons,” Purvanova said. “One, with social media, you have to keep in mind the bias a person may have. Two, the school provides confidential professor evaluations. Online, there’s no privacy, everything is publicly available.”
Not all of Drake’s professors feel this strongly. Some have never been curious enough to visit their page, or were unaware of the site to begin with.
Most, however, agree that the concept seems less effective than the formal end-of-term class evaluations. Each emphasizes that professors actually do take written evaluations into account, despite some students’
Additionally, most recommend that students take the ratings with a grain of salt.
Michael Rothmayer, associate professor of theatre arts, didn’t condemn students using the site, but didn’t condone it either.
“Forewarned is forearmed, but it’s extremely subjective,” Rothmayer said. “The type of person that is going to leave a review obviously feels very strongly, whether it’s good or bad.”
Likewise, Geoffrey Bartlett, assistant professor of accounting, cautions students on the use of the site, especially in pursuit of a slack class.
“I think it mostly harms students if they are taking a class from a certain professor because they think it will be an ‘easy A,’” Bartlett said. “An ‘easy A’ may help the student in the short-run, but it will end up harming them long-term.”
While most have visited the site, few students at Drake have based the decision to take a course on ratemyprofessor.com reviews, and fewer still have left a rating. Shay Miller, a junior education major, left a
“I had a really good professor. I just felt like he should be commended,” Miller said.
Some are also suspicious of the reliability of the website.
“It depends on the number of reviews. You have to look at it like a bell curve and think about which extreme is being represented. If there’s a good number, that’s easier to see, it’s more helpful,” Kathryn Kriss, a sophomore biochemistry, cell and molecular biology major, said.
So, if most professors don’t take the site seriously, has it ever been used for tenure decision?
“Absolutely never,” Janet McMahill, dean of the school of education, said. “We would never use ratemyprofessor.com results in a tenure decision because of its flaws and the existence of our own system that we carefully follow. Students know that they can speak confidentially with department chairpersons and deans about situations they believe to be serious.”