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EDITORIAL: Rate My Professor can be misleading, but students have few other options

Rate My Professor is a tool for students to learn about the quality of the professors they are choosing from their peers, but the reviews can be misleading. – Photo by Pixnio.com

Within the next few days, we are all going to google Rate My Professor to read the sage advice of our peers. These reviews on the professor's personality or instructional style influence our decision to take one section over another. Of course, not all reviews are made equal, some are well thought out and fair while others are the result of keyboard mashing. 

The fact is, no matter how unreliable some of the reviews on Rate My Professor are, we rely on the website to guide us away from the professors who lean on their tenure and not much else. When we have to take out thousands of dollars in debt each semester and rely on our GPAs for future employment that will pay off that debt, taking a key class with a distracted professor is not an option.

Students are always encouraged to go to their advisors to ask for course recommendations and advice, but as we have said before, advisors at Rutgers are not always the best option. Even if advisors had the inside scoop on every professor at Rutgers, the honesty of the student review cannot be matched. Advisors cannot openly complain about the amount of work a professor gives, or a professor’s love of failing grades. Students can, and do. 

That said, emotions run high at the end of any semester. The anger surrounding a lowered GPA will color the contents of any review, regardless of what caused the bad grade to begin with. Navigating Rate My Professor becomes slightly more challenging when considering all the factors that go into a professor’s “score.”

It is no secret that students have been led astray by Rate My Professor more than once. Reviews on anything, be it a lecture or Amazon product, tend to be left only when the product is really great or really terrible. There do not seem to be any middle-of-the-road approaches, because professors who are perceived as average will never instill the passion that those who teach at the fifth-grade level but test at the postdoctoral level will. 

The conclusion that we have come to is that the website does not lead you to the good professors, but it certainly steers you away from the terrible ones. 

But what effect does all this online gossip have on the professors themselves? While we, unfortunately, cannot gaze into the offices of those who oversee our professors, there is no evidence to suggest that professor’s jobs, salaries or tenure depend on Rate My Professors’ elegantly written reviews.

No doubt, feelings can get hurt when students leave critical reviews, especially if those reviews are undeserved, but if students can handle a C+ then certainly professors can handle an angry review. 

What many students may not know is that Rate My Professor is not the only source of professor reviews we have access to. As it turns out, the Student Instructional Rating Survey (SIRS) we take at the end of each semester are compiled into a database that goes back at least seven years.

Here you will find quantified information from dozens of students as opposed to the qualitative information from a questionable sample size on Rate My Professor. 

Regardless of which method you chose to curate your collection of courses, the fact is Rate My Professor is here to stay and we can each do our part to make sure that it is a reliable source of information.

Before you publish a scathing review, take a minute and reflect on the accuracy of your statements. Leave honest and fair reviews for all your professors, not just the ones you hate with a passion. Most importantly, make sure to take online commentary with a grain of salt.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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