rate my professors
i confess that i'm a closet ratemyprofessors.com reader. i like how the site exposes hidden information with a DIY grass-roots pirate-radio sensibility. plus, unlike official evaluations, ratemyprofessors is interactive: students can debate each other on the merits of their heroes and villains.
thus far, the site has gathered 5,281,715 ratings on 734,095 professors at 5,754 schools. three caveats: first, the ratings on individual professors come from small and highly selective samples. i'd guess that we hear from students at the tails of the distribution -- those who either loved us or hated us. second, i cannot endorse the idea of being rated on "easiness," since good teachers make hard work seem easy. third, false accusations or misleading information could be posted pretty easily, although it looks as though there are some ways to remove it.
finally, i have no idea whether the site has safeguards that would prevent ballot stuffing or professor self-ratings. the prospect of the latter seems really pathetic, but i can picture many unscrupulous faculty members succombing to temptation: those kids aren't fair! let's see. i'll give myself 5 for clarity, 5 for helpfulness -- no, make that 4 -- best to be realistic. uh, 3 for easiness since i don't want any slackers signing up, and i'm definitely hot. oh yeah, chili-pepper hot.
with all these caveats, ratemyprofessors likely helps students gain some basic information about the clarity and helpfulness of professors -- and the respect that they show students. sometimes the comments are more telling than the evaluations i get from my classes. think about it: wouldn't you be nicer to your profs in their written evaluations but brutally honest if writing for an audience of fellow students? here are some of the funnier ratings identified by the site. the wit and wisdom restores my faith in our undergraduates.
20 You can't cheat in her class because no one knows the answers.
19 His class was like milk, it was good for 2 weeks.
18 Houston, we have a problem. Space cadet of a teacher, isn't quite attached to earth.
17 I would have been better off using the tuition money to heat my apartment last winter.
16 Three of my friends got A's in his class and my friends are dumb.
15 Emotional scarring may fade away, but that big fat F on your transcript won't.
14 Evil computer science teaching robot who crushes humans for pleasure.
13 Miserable professor - I wish I could sum him up without foul language.
12 Instant amnesia walking into this class. I swear he breathes sleeping gas.
11 BORING! But I learned there are 137 tiles on the ceiling.
10 Not only is the book a better teacher, it also has a better personality.
9 Teaches well, invites questions and then insults you for 20 minutes.
8 This teacher was a firecracker in a pond of slithery tadpoles.
7 I learned how to hate a language I already know.
6 Very good course, because I only went to one class.
5 He will destroy you like an academic ninja.
4 Bring a pillow.
3 Your pillow will need a pillow.
2 If I was tested on her family, I would have gotten an A.
1 She hates you already.
could any of these have been written about you? i confess that the space cadet line seems awfully familiar to me. are these rankings a scourge or blessing? are there dangers i haven't mentioned? what would happen if universities routinely published all course evaluation material online?