Web sites put grading in students’ hands

Difficulty of the course and professors’ attractiveness are fair game for evaluation on several sites.

Jamie VanGeest

College students are taking control when it comes to the good, the bad and the ugly of their professors.

Thanks to Web sites such as Rate My Professor and Pick-A-Prof, students are using computers, complaints and compliments to rate their professors.

And with about 750,000 people nationwide using Pick-A-Prof and 8 million logging onto Rate My Professor, students are making their opinions about their professors known.

Rate My Professor lets college students make anonymous comments and rate in categories such as the difficulty of the course to the hotness of the professor.

Examples of anonymous comments about professors at the University include, “Terrible, the worst professor I ever had,” to “I can hardly keep my pants on when (the professor) is around. His bald head sends me over the edge.”

Pick-A-Prof posts grading patterns of all listed professors including the number of A’s and F’s they give and the drop rate for the class, said Karen Bragg, director of university relations for Pick-A-Prof.

The site also lists student comments and hosts “Study Buddy,” an online outlet where students can chat with fellow students in a particular class, she said.

“Instead of just having the opinion of your roommate or your best friend to ask about a certain course, now you have the opinion from every student on campus,” Bragg said.

Ezra Miller, an associate professor in mathematics, received positive ratings for attractiveness and teaching style on Rate My Professor.

“I was amused by (the attractiveness rating); I don’t think they are picking the class based on that sort of statistic,” he said.

Miller said he thinks professor-rating Web sites are “imperfect,” but said they are useful for students and give a general impression of what the professor is like.

For one of Miller’s classes, he had about 600 or 700 students and only four of them rated him on Rate My Professor. He said more students probably have read the comments.

“You can look at this Web site and know if the teacher is truly bad,” Miller said. If so, the professor will have a lot of frowny faces next to their name, he said.

“I think it’s a great idea, but I don’t think it works,” said Michelle Lekas, a lecturer in cultural studies and comparative literature who received several positive ratings.

Lekas said anyone can rate an instructor an unlimited number of times with multiple e-mail accounts.

Also, not only students, but also bitter neighbors or anyone who is mad at you can leave a posting. Even a student who feels he or she had a bad experience can post multiple times, she said.

“We are accountable for anything we say about students; (professor-rating Web sites) are anonymous, which I think raises some problems,” Lekas said.

Also, there are issues that arise when friends and family members read the Web sites.

Lekas’ daughter read her profile on Rate My Professor and cried when she read some of the negative comments about her mother.

Lekas said she thinks it’s OK if students would own up to what they say. They can write anything if they’re posting anonymously, she said.

She pointed out there is a rate-your-student Web site where professors can write stories about their students.

She questioned how students would feel if their professors were rating them on their looks.

Drew Hines, a first-year electrical engineering student, started using Rate My Professor after he had a bad experience with a professor. He said he uses the Web site to pick classes and said that so far the ratings have been accurate.

When it comes to the attractiveness ratings, he said, he finds them amusing and doesn’t think people use them to pick their classes.

Transportation and civil engineering senior Nick Dobea said he thinks only bitter students will leave postings, making the Web sites inaccurate.

“(Professor rating Web sites) are not even worthwhile,” Dobea said.