RateMyProfessors.com Earns An Average Grade From Students and Faculty


Published: January 29, 2009

When the time comes to register for classes every student follows a similar agenda: check which requirements you haven’t fulfilled, do everything in your power to get a day off and check Rate My Professors to ensure you aren’t signing up for a semester of impossible essays and boring lectures.

The Web site provides a forum in which students can be brutally honest, and it’s quite clear they aren’t holding back, with some reviews that rave a course was a “life changing experience” and others that go so far as to claim a professor is “the devil.” Although many of us refer to this popular site as a guide, just how much do the reviews factor into the average Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) students’ decisions?

At first glance, there’s no doubt that FCLC has staked its claim on the Web site, with reviews of over 550 professors who have taught at the campus. But while the Web site does serve as a tool for students to get a feel for a particular professor, it doesn’t seem to be the end-all determinant for FCLC students.

“When the time comes to sign up for classes, I always go on Rate My Professors to look up information on all of the offered professors who teach the course I need to take,” said Monika Gadliauskaite, FCLC ’11. “While the information I find on the Web site is usually on target, I’m aware that it could be misleading, so I rely more on feedback from my friends who have taken certain professors that might become my teachers.”

Katie Puccio, FCLC ’10, agreed. “I check it every semester before registration when I’m making up my schedule. If a teacher has bad reviews, I usually ask friends to see if they’ve taken them, as a second opinion.”

Teachers support this method of students advising each other over relying on the heated students who post on Rate My Professors.

“Talking with other students is surely important as is meeting with the professors directly themselves,” said Christopher Schmidt-Nowara, professor of history.

Negative personal experience with Rate My Professors is one reason why some students turn to their friends and avoid placing complete trust in the Web site.

“I’ve taken classes with professors that have gotten bad reviews because it fit in my schedule and have found that sometimes the reviews were wrong. Sometimes teachers get a bad review when they don’t deserve it,” Puccio said.

“I read a bad review when registering for last semester and when I asked a friend, it turned out she liked the teacher,” Gadliauskaite said. “So I took my friend’s advice and ended up loving the class.”

Unfortunately, pleasant surprises aren’t always the result when students rely solely on Rate My Professors to determine which classes they are going to take.

“I took a class because the ratings said the professor was super easy,” said Danielle Page, FCLC ’10. “After a semester of hundred-page readings every night and pop quizzes, I definitely don’t use Rate My Professors as the most important criteria for choosing a class anymore.”

But how does Rate My Professors, which is so widely accessed at FCLC, affect the main subjects of the site, the professors?

“[FCLC] has a family feel to it, a small college feel,” said Amy Aronson, assistant professor of communication and media studies. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Rate My Professors wasn’t as widely used at places with this kind of feel, because students have the opportunity to get a more customized set of opinions from other students. Rate My Professors may be more popular at larger universities where anonymity is common.”

Many professors note the drastic nature of the comments as a reason to be wary of the site’s trustworthiness.

“I think most professors feel that the ratings tend to be skewed to either high or low, since most students who are motivated to take the trouble of going onto the site and rating their professors feel either very positively or negatively about them,” said Brian Rose, professor of communication and media studies. “That’s why you so rarely see middle-of-the-road ratings. Thus, comments need to be taken with a grain of salt.”

“I do not believe that the reviews are accurate,” said Leonard Nissim, assistant professor of mathematics. “Some just represent the venting of disgruntled students.”

Thierry Rigogne, assistant professor of history, also supported this view. “I check the ratings maybe once a year at the most, out of curiosity,” he said. “I do not put much stock in the ratings themselves.”

Professors seem to agree that Rate My Professors only serves those with strong emotions that students need to get off their chests, and not those looking for sound advice about which class to take.

“The venting is probably good for the students in question but it does little for anyone else,” Rigogne said.

“I don’t know how helpful Rate My Professors is for students,” Aronson said. “I can’t help but wonder if students would take more time and care in the formal evaluation and speak more in-person about classes without Rate My Professors as a shortcut.”

While Rate My Professors may reign supreme at other universities, both students and teachers at FCLC are increasingly wary of the ranting monologues and exaggerated praises that fill the Web site’s pages. FCLC’s relatively small population allows for open communication between faculty and students, which lessens the need for the Internet as a mediator. This dialogue ultimately leads to something more than just a published complaint: a solution.

“With this kind of contact, when [professors] aren’t being attacked and put on the defensive, [they] are much more likely to rethink their style of teaching,” Aronson said. And isn’t this the ultimate goal?