Useful only for registration

Class registration is often a very hectic and difficult time for students. They must meet with advisors to get a priority number before they can even begin signing up for classes. Then comes the hardest challenge of all: deciding which classes, and more importantly which professors, to take.

Ratemyprofessors.com is a tool designed to make those choices much easier.

Since most students, particularly underclassmen, really have no idea who a majority of the faculty is, choosing one professor over another can often be a rather arbitrary decision. Unless they know older students who can give them advice as to who they should take, it is all really just the luck of the draw.

However, with the creation of Ratemyprofessors.com, this is not entirely the case anymore. Students simply have to look up St John’s in the site directory to find a list of just about every professor here. Every professor who has been here long enough to have taught a few classes will have a rating and at least an entire page of comments.

The ratings on the site are provided by none other than the professor’s own students, past and present. They give points depending on a number of qualities including easiness, helpfulness, clarity, and rater interest and write comments based on their opinion about the class.

Everything is summed up with a single smiley face rating of good, bad, or average.

The comments are by far the best part of the site. While the numerical scoring system can be deceptive, the student-written portion of each rating gives the best idea of what the professor is like from the perspective of the student.

Some students get right to the point, writing simply whether a professor is hard or easy, though others give a much more in-depth description. They say how much they have learned from the course, whether the workload is manageable, and how the professor treats his or her students.

This sounds like it might be a helpful way to look up which professors one should take for the following semester.

But what do any of those ratings actually say about the professors? Are the professors with the highest ratings necessarily the best ones?

Ratemyprofessors.com seems to think so.
But if one were to actually think about it, it would be pretty clear that those ratings are based entirely on the opinions of a few students. Each of them has had a unique experience in a specific class with a specific professor, which does not necessarily give an accurate representation of that class or professor.

One student might have had a hard time with the subject matter or the workload may have been too much, leading to a poor rating for the professor which may or may not actually be the case.

On the other hand, some professors may have been rated higher than others for the wrong reasons. Very often the ratings show just how important some students consider the “easy A.” Those students would only give good ratings to the easiest professors.

A professor that makes you work hard for a good grade would immediately receive a low rating, the infamous sad face, no matter how talented that teacher is.

The fact that “easiness” is a part of the rating system at all sheds doubt on the idea that the top ranked professors are the best ones.

Yet, the General Manager of mtvU, Stephen Friedman, took the top 50 ranking of three St. John’s professors as a compliment to our University. “It’s remarkable that St. John’s is leading the country. It seems like you have an outstanding faculty.”

It is true that St. John’s has a great deal of good professors, and those who are ranked highly on the site are not necessarily bad professors, but the fact remains that the site’s rating criteria does not provide for an accurate ranking of talented professors. The site should be seen for what it is: a valuable resource for students registering for classes.