Flames of the Torch

The end of every semester means a few things for students. First, finals week and term paper due dates are fast approaching. Second, a nice, long vacation is within sight. And finally, if you haven’t started registering for classes, you are in trouble.

For every student rushing to put a class schedule together before all of their required courses fill up, any source of help in the decision-making process might appear to be a blessing sent from on high. However, as the saying goes, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Ratemyprofessors.com is just such an example.

On paper, the site seems like a brilliant idea and invaluable resource for any student deciding on which professor they should take. Before the days of the Internet, students could only rely upon the suggestions of acquaintances and classmates who had taken the professors in question. With ratemyprofessors.com, students can find a directory of just about every professor at their college, complete with ratings and comments by other students.

Again, this seems like it would be every student’s best friend. Yet, any sort of rating system for professors raises a serious question: what exactly qualifies a “good” professor?

Just skimming through the endless pages of student comments seems to answer the question quite definitively.

On the Web site, one can organize the list of professors according to any of the parameters measured by the site.
Clicking on “Overall Quality” leads one to a quick list of the highest rated professors at St. John’s.

Near the top of the list was a Discover New York professor. Her overall quality rating was a 5 out of 5, as was her easiness rating.

The top quote on her page reads, verbatim, as follows: “There is no way you can fail her class. Is impossible!!! All you need to know is how to use your computer and printer. I gurantee you will get an A from her. Some people even sleep in her class. While 99% of the class just go on AIM. If you do what she tells you, you are fine. Even if you don’t, just talk to her, you still be fine.”

Another St. John’s professor who received an overall quality grade of 4.9 and an easiness of 5.0 after 52 ratings, had this quote at the top of his page: “take him…incredibly easy barely even a class. just makes ur life easier.”

This just affirms the major problem with a site like Rate My Professors. Students are not the right group to decide which professors are the best, since ratings seem to invariably be biased toward classes that are easy.

This is a real shame, especially since many professors featured on the site are excellent teachers and deserve high ratings. In fact, some professors are blasted by students for actually making them do work, and receive low ratings as a result.

Making students study or write papers is by no means the hallmark of a bad teacher. Some might even say that working for a good grade and learning something out of the exchange is a positive thing.

The one beacon of hope on the entire site is that some students ignored easiness and spoke only about how interesting or intelligent a professor was in their posts. Ratings like these should be the things that students see when looking for some sort of guidance before registering for their next semester.

Unfortunately this is not the case, as the vast majority of ratings and posts focus just on how little work students were able to do while still receiving a high grade.

For students that look beyond the easy “A” and hope to actually get something out of their education here at St. John’s, do yourself a favor and avoid ratemyprofessors.com altogether.