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Should students bother with Rate My Professors?

Rate My Professors does more harm than good

Justin Dallaire
Justin Dallaire

You will regret finding reviews of your future professors

Justin Dallaire | Fulcrum Contributor

PROFESSORS BEWARE: STUDENTS have found a way of holding you accountable. If we find you boring, monotonous, strict, unhelpful, or unqualified, we’ll write a comment about it on Rate My Professors. After all these years of persecution, it would seem that we are finally having the last laugh.

Of course, “seem” is the key word.

Despite the appeal of a website that can help students avoid the classrooms of the university’s most unpopular academics—no more uninteresting lectures, no more heavy workloads, no more self-aggrandizing preachers to endure—the “rate them as you see them” project does students more of a disservice than a service.

One of the major problems with the site is that many students take the reviews and recommendations too seriously. They seem to forget that reviewers typically fall within two opposing categories: those who have loved, and those who have loathed.

This creates ratings that often do not take into account the students who felt indifferently towards the teacher. Our obsession with categorizing professors as either good or bad suggests we have lost faith in their ability to simply get the job done.

Ratings are problematic for another reason. Students are likely to give lenient professors more favourable reviews, but you can guess what happens if students do poorly or fail the course. Is it unfair to assume that the ratings are often inaccurate?

Users of Rate My Professors would argue that people recognize biased ratings when they see them, especially university students who are trained to have a critical eye. This, I will admit, has some truth to it—but there are other, more important reasons why students should avoid screening their teachers on review websites.

For one, students learn differently. Some learn the most during well-organized lectures, while others learn during class discussion. Some prefer multiple-choice exams, while others favour written take-home assignments. Some appreciate professors who are easy peasy, and some seek to learn something in school. Who knew?

I for one did not take these differences into consideration while creating my schedule last year. I remember selecting one class based on the professor’s exceptional ratings. In fact, I had subjected all of my teachers to the same strict screening process. Everyone checked out. It was shaping up to be a great semester.

That’s why I can’t help but blame Rate My Professors for the pain I endured in half of my classes. Had I not taken the advice of other students, I may have never struggled the way I did. It’s not that the teachers were bad; I simply did not enjoy the approach they took to teaching.

This anecdote serves to illustrate one of the biggest problems I see with the website and others like it: what is liked and disliked most about teachers varies, often drastically, from one student to next. This renders screening for “good” difficult, if not futile.

In most instances, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle, but students continue to rely on these comments. Not only do they risk making choices they’ll regret later, but they also risk missing out on some really great professors.

We should instead be willing to take more chances. If the experience turns out to be a bad one, the professors can be easily avoided in the future. Besides, the poor experiences could teach us some valuable lessons for a future workplace, as we will surely face bosses we feel are unjust or unqualified and there will be no way for us to switch to another.

So, if you haven’t finalized your schedule for the upcoming academic year, relish the thought of taking a course with someone you know nothing about. School is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get.

Rate My Professors is an invaluable tool

Jesse Colautti
Jesse Colautti

Students need all the help they can get

Jesse Colautti | Fulcrum Staff

UNIVERSITIES ARE A business —plain and simple. But unlike what you’ll find at your local Best Buy or Tim Hortons, the product sold by universities is something that could potentially provide you with knowledge and a career. This product is education.

Is it wrong of me to place the same expectations on my university as a coffee shop? I expect Tim Hortons to provide me the best damn iced capp and service for my money, and so I expect my university to do everything in its power to give me the best damn education they can offer.

The gift shop, the football team, and the sub-par café food are all superfluous from the one thing we pay our school to do for us—educate. Therefore, I am not one to casually shake off an awful professor teaching a mandatory course in my program, or shrug off a low grade because of a ridiculous exam or essay-marking scheme. I think it is our right as paying customers to know which professors are awful, unfair, or just plain boring.

The university will never be the one to provide us with information about who among the staff is sub-par—that would not be a good business decision. So, it is vital for students to have access to reviews on Rate My Professors in order to make the most informed decisions about their education.

Think of the website as a consumer report for university. The site has its flaws, and each individual review should not be read at face value, but it can be used as a useful tool for students. They will have a better idea of which professors to avoid compared to those who do not consult the site. That is enough to end the discussion.

I’m not defending the site’s flaws or justifying the reviews from failing students with vendettas against professors because they did not show up for class or do any readings. I’m saying that students deserve every possible tool available when deciding what classes to take. Moreover, any student who is unable to differentiate the obviously biased reviews from the genuine ones probably isn’t going to have the critical thinking skills to do well in any class.

This coming school year will be my fourth at the university, and I can honestly say that Rate My Professors has guided me through three years of a pretty painless education. I do not agree with the assertion that a difficult professor or marking scheme is necessary in order to learn something.

At this school, I have had professors who have changed my life. They have inspired me, changed my career path, and built me up to give me the confidence to try harder and to learn more than I ever could have before. I can say with complete honesty that all of these professors scored highly in Rate My Professors. It is true that some students perform better in particular learning environments, but I would argue that the good professors adapt to their students and the low-scoring ones do not.