The Advocate

Anonymous ratings spur doubts

By Andrew Weedon, Scene Editor

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A well known web service is continuing to help students choose classes and professors despite skepticism about its reliability and credibility.

The website, ratemyprofessor.com, has been used for nearly two decades to assist students when choosing between the many professors present at college campuses across the country.

With a very simple and modern layout, the website is easy to navigate and has many useful features when searching for information on professors.

After selecting a professor, the user is presented with an overall rating and a level of difficulty. Both of these numbers are compiled from reviews that are left by current and former students.

Students may also choose to put what grade they received in the class, however, that is not required.

The anonymity of this website has caused a lot of controversy.

For many students, such as psychology major Kira Harrison, it can be a useful tool that helps find good professors.

While it is very much based on opinion, Harrison said she still thinks it is a credible service for students.

“People usually give reasons for the things they say in the reviews and you can trust the opinions of other students.”

Music major Antonio Thompson hasn’t used Rate My Professor but says he is familiar with it. He says that he would definitely use it if he felt the need.

“I personally prefer to talk to a professor face-to-face instead of reading a review about them,” Thompson said.

This raises the question about whether a system like this can be accurate and trusted. With so much anonymity, what is stopping students from posting hurtful comments?

Rate My Professor, in its terms and conditions section, lays out clear guidelines about what is and is not permissible.

With a strong focus on constructive reviews, the website states they will remove any comments that are inappropriate, defamatory, discriminatory or personally motivated.

The website even goes so far as to discourage the use of what it calls definitive language which includes words like “always” or “never.”

Rate My Professor seems to have a great system that is liked by students, however, it is not without its problems.

ESL professor Anoosheh Borhan said that she used to use it as a student but hasn’t kept up with it since she has become a professor.

“I didn’t want to take easy professors so I used Rate My Professor to find the strict ones,” Borhan said.

She said while it can be useful, it isn’t nearly detailed enough to give real credibility to the anonymous reviews.

Borhan also said that there is a definite ability for abuse if a student simply had a hard time in a professor’s class.

Admissions and Records assistant Trinidad Ledesma said Rate My Professor is just a numbers game and should not be seen as a substitute for the district reviews every teacher must undergo.

“It is a great opportunity for students to talk to other students but there is still the potential for abuse,” Ledesma said.

Ledesma says this because normally, with district reviews, students who don’t finish the class can’t fill out a review. With Rate My Professor, any student who was in the class, even those who dropped early on, can leave reviews.

This oversight opens up the ability for students to leave reviews when they never really got to know what a professor was like, only judging them on the few days or weeks they had them as a teacher.

Despite this issue, Borhan said that this is still an important service to have as a student.

“If you are spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on your education and future career, you want to be sure that you are getting your money’s worth with good professors,” Borhan said.

“No review will ever be as good as meeting a professor and finding out if they are good yourself,” Thompson said.

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The Student Voice Of Contra Costa College, San Pablo, Calif.
Anonymous ratings spur doubts