Students Hold the Power of Rating

One thing that Santa Monica College students have in common is that they all have opinions about their professors.  Technology, in all its splendor, has given students the opportunity to publicly vice their opinions on the infamous ratemyprofessors.com.

The website is easy to use and fairly straightforward.  Students find their school, and then search for a professor by last name.  One the professor has been found, students can view the professor’s series of numerical ratings on a scale of one to five.  The categories are Overall Quality, Helpfulness, Clarity and Easiness.  There is even a Hotness rating to let prospective students know how attractive, or “hot,” a professor is, which is represented by a chili pepper.  If the chili pepper is on fire, you’ve got an eye candy situation going on.

The best part of the website are the comments made by former students sharing their experiences from taking that professor’s class.  Naturally, there are positive and negative comments, but they all factor into the professor’s overall numerical score.  Is this really an effective way to assess a professor’s value?

It is very effective.  Minelli Eustacio, an SMC student, gave the website “an 8 or 9, at least,” out of 10 possible points in terms of the accuracy of the reviews on the site.  She finds the website so useful, she visits it before a new semester starts and then afterward to verify the comments made by other students about one of her professors.

When looking for professors, students pay more attention to the actual written comments on the site, rather than the numerical ratings or the hotness ratings.

For SMC student Mehrjou Sabaghzabeh, lower numerical ratings on a professor don’t tell the entire story.  He makes sure to read the comments because “even if [professors] have a low rating, the comments can reveal them as good professors,” said Sabaghzabeh.

Negative comments that seem to have merit and don’t come off as overly biased automatically mean that a student won’t take that professor’s class.

Sabaghzabeh regrets taking a class with a professor that had a low rating with comments by students to support that rating.  Eustacio won’t take a class if reviews on a professor say that students won’t get higher than a B or C in that class.

Surprisingly, professors actually agree with students about the use of this website.  One would think they would be fearful of receiving low ratings, or reading nasty comments by former students.

But it’s quite the opposite.  Santa Monica College video production professor Gail Fetzer calls the website “a valuable resource,” and wishes she had such a website available to her when she was in college.

SMC media studies professor A.J. Adelman said that the website is “a form of peer-to-peer marketing,” and that “most of the students are pretty fair,” when it comes to rating their professors.

However, there will always be a few comments that are not so flattering and will paint a professor in a negative light. Even though Fetzer doesn’t have a formal listing on ratemyprofessors.com, she received a very harsh comment made about her on a separate professor review page.  According to Fetzer, she hadn’t even formally taught the class yet, and the student who wrote the comment had never taken her class.

As for Adelman, whether the reviews are positive or negative, he said he “takes the ratings [on ratemyprofessors.com] with a grain of salt.”

It is clearly understandable why this website is popular among college students.  Students have a website where they can see exactly what to expect from a professor before stepping foot in class on the first day.

Students’ reviews seem to be accurate and Eustacio and Sabaghzabeh all agree that the website is an excellent tool that they use extensively before selecting classes.

A positive experience with a teacher can lead to a positive experience in the classroom overall.

It’s also a useful tool for teachers to see how their students perceive them, allowing professors to make adjustments in their classes if the students voice reasonable points of view.  So, if you’re going to rate a professor on ratemyprofessors.com, try to be as honest and objective as possible.

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