RateMyProfessor.com almost sounds clickbait-y: a website that allows students to literally give their professors a review? It sounds like the plot of a bad revenge film. However, it’s been one of the most useful –albeit notorious –websites for students and educators alike.
Launched in 1999, Rate My Professor has been a crucial tool for students entering college for the first time. Many a freshie has perused the site to find out whether their Philosophy 102 professor is going to be a hippie who doesn’t care much for attendance and just lets you watch Lord of the Rings all day, or a buzz-cut stickler who will make their lives a living hell. Students praise the site, professors, well not so much.
What is Rate My Professor?
Rate My Professor is a website that allows students to give their college professors reviews and feedback. These reviews are then collected and an average rating is given to the professors, with positive and negative feedback being posted for everyone to see.
Since its launch more than 20 years ago, the site has received a healthy amount of traffic, with 1.7 million professors from around the country and the world receiving over 19 million reviews from students.
How Does Rate My Professor Work?
Rate My Professors made it simple for students to rate their professors: first, you visit the website, then you enter a school name or a professor’s name, and then leave a comment for both. Students can then leave reviews and feedback on both the professor and the school of their choice.
All reviews are completely anonymous, with students being allowed to leave their reviews and ratings without having to create an account on the site. Of course, creating an account does provide you with a bit more credibility, but again, it’s not mandatory. Prior to posting a review of a professor, students are asked to reveal the grade they received in that particular class, along with other particulars like what year and semester they had that particular professor.
Each student can give the professor three tags that would best describe them. These tags can include adjectives like “respected”, “stickler for rules”, “tough grader”, and “motivational”, to name a few. Students then have the option of writing a more personal and detailed review. Although this is optional, it is highly encouraged, and while hating a professor for liking the Twilight sequels (which, apparently, happens more often than we think) isn’t going to be removed, it is going to be a reflection of one student’s experience, something that the site values.
However, just because the ratings are mandatory doesn’t mean it’s a battle-royale-wild-west-no-holds-barred world: the Rate My Professor website has stringent posting guidelines and moderators will not hesitate to remove posts that have slurs, slanderous statements, and of course, swearing. Professors can also flag reviews for assessment if they feel it’s unfair or untrue.
When rating a professor, students can select up to three “tags” that best describe their teacher, including “tough grader,” “respected,” “test-heavy,” “inspirational,” and more. A more detailed, personal message is optional. Finally, users are asked to reveal the grade they received in the class before posting a review.
Is Rate My Professor a Credible Source?
It depends on who you ask: many students across the country have consistently hailed Rate My Professor as a democratizing tool that helps students provide more accurate feedback about professors. Proponents of the site argue that, because the site is carefully curated and moderated by a seemingly unbiased team, the reviews, whether positive or negative, are an accurate representation of how professors are.
Meanwhile, critics say that Rate My Professor is not an accurate reflection of their teaching skills, but rather, a measure of their popularity; in June of 2018, the website had to remove the “hotness” score as many teachers saw it as a sexist and objectifying criterion for ratings. In our own review of the site, we’ve seen professors get bad scores because of seemingly arbitrary reviews like “doesn’t have a triangle tattoo” or “picks his teeth during quizzes”. Again, while these are accurate representations of a student’s personal experience, it’s not exactly reflective of that teacher’s capabilities.
Both sides, it seems, have a strong argument: on one hand, if you’re a student, you want to know more about a teacher you’ll be getting in college and whether or not you feel like you’ll learn something from them. On the other hand, as an educator, it can be frustrating for students to judge you based on your personality and popularity rather than your teaching skills.