The jury is out on RateMyProfessors.com

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By James B. Miller Jr.
Pulse Staff Reporter

An ever-growing population of students places its faith in ratings websites when determining class schedules, despite concerns over accuracy.

Ratemyprofessors.com is the largest college and professor rating website on the web. In terms of traffic, it surpasses any other competitor by nearly 120,000 unique viewers per semester. The website provides students with ratings on potential professors and has done so since 1999.

Students may rate any professor on helpfulness, clarity and easiness, or students may simply review the online profile of a professor to assist in choosing their upcoming course schedule. This ability to play role reversal and issue grades to professors has been the subject of much debate, garnering national attention from notable news media such as Buzzfeed, USA Today, Slate, and even the New York Times.

According to a convenience sample poll conducted at Palo Alto College, eight in 10 students said that they rely heavily on this online feedback when determining which professors and classes to enroll in. Even as Ratemyprofessors continues to grow, concerns over accuracy and libelous material found on the website raise many questions.

“The website would be great if it were up to date,” said Miranda Gonzalez, a first year Kinesiology major at Palo Alto College. “Professors change over time and some come and go.”

The website provides students the option to encapsulate their view of a professor in an “anything goes” manner. This often results in commentary, such as, “If there was a nuclear holocaust, the only survivors would be cockroaches and his tests.” Another example of commentary is this comment on an Economics professor, which read: “BORING! But I learned there are 137 tiles on the ceiling. Bring a pillow to class so you won’t smack your head on the desk when you lose consciousness.”

“The website, even with its faults, is still the best source of information to use when picking a class,” said Christian Ruiz, a sophomore Communications student at Palo Alto College.

Critics are quick to point out that academia and teaching critiques should not be addressed in the same ‘Yelp-esque’ manner as those provided for a bad burrito. In many cases, professors have received poor ratings from students as retribution for low grades.

Student reviews can assist in determining which professor to choose for a given class. For example, a random search of Biology professors of at Palo Alto College returned the following results: Professor A: “He was always smiling, in a good mood, helpful, and kept the class interesting. Not a lot of homework. You won’t need the book,” and then there is Professor B: “Did you sign up for Statistical Thermodynamics at Cambridge? Might as well have. No time for questions. HARD class! You’ll finish the book cover to cover.”

“I used to never use Ratemyprofessors when picking classes until I had a horrible professor one semester,” said Doug Rodriquez, a second year Arts major. “Then a friend told me about [the website]. Since then, I have always used [the website] to pick classes and to rate my professors.”

Not every rating on Ratemyprofessors is negative. Palo Alto College, named 2014-2015 best in the state by the website, has nine professors rated at 5.0, which is the maximum possible score. The average for professors at PAC currently stands at 3.92, while the campus itself is rated at 4.1. In fact, Ratemyprofessors.com awarded Palo Alto College “One of the Top Colleges in the State of Texas” in addition to being rated fifth in the nation for junior and community colleges.

To see the full profile for Palo Alto College, or to review individual professor profiles, please visit the website here.