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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Ratings before registration

Graphic by Kaitlyn Patterson ’20.

A look at review-based website RateMyProfessors. 

With registration for Fall 2018 classes beginning in a few weeks, the hunt for classes has begun. For many students, the first stop in that search is the review-based website RateMyProfessors.

Founded in 1999, RateMyProfessors invites students to grade their professors on a scale of 1 to 5 and to leave reviews about a class so other students can get a better idea of what to expect about the course and the person who teaches it.

Students also have the ability to assign specific tags to professors such as  “lecture heavy,” “get ready to read,” “caring,” “gives good feedback” and “hilarious.”

At St. Joe’s, where the average professor rating is 3.7 out of 5, more students visit the site than leave reviews.

Andrew Schallenhammer ’18 uses RateMyProfessors religiously every semester and said he finds the reviews to be accurate.

“I will go on there to see a basis of the class like how many tests they will give, how they grade – that’s a big one – how the class is if it’s heavy lecture or more interactive,” Schallenhammer said. “One of the biggest influencers would be how hard of a grader the professor is.”

Molly Sweeney ’18 also uses RateMyProfessors every semester and while she finds the site to be accurate for the most part, she also finds it hard to trust when there are only a few reviews about a professor.

“I generally wouldn’t trust a RateMyProfessors page if it only had one review, either positive or negative,” Sweeney said. “That’s not to say people aren’t trustworthy, but it’s easier to trust multiple people who each corroborate the other’s experiences rather than rely on one person who had a single positive or negative experience.”

Phyllis Anastasio, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, said Sweeney’s reaction makes sense from a psychological standpoint.

“The more reviews there are, the more we trust them for their accuracy,” Anastasio said.

Anastasio is rated 4.6 for overall quality based on 25 student ratings. She is also rated 2.2 on level of difficulty. She said she rarely looks at RateMyProfessors and the last time she did was five years ago because she finds standard course evaluations to be more accurate.

Maria Marsilio, Ph.D., director of classical studies and professor of modern and classical languages, is rated St. Joe’s top professor with a 5.0 based on 20 reviews. She said while she is flattered by the positive reviews, she is even more pleased that her students like the way she teaches her class.

“I would hope that it’s a combination of things,” Marsilio said. “It’s not just the material that the students like, but they like my style of teaching.”

While Marsilio said she thinks RateMyProfessors is a good platform for students to leave reviews anonymously, she also believes  reviews are typically more inappropriate, especially when a student is discontented.

“If you have a system like RateMyProfessors where it is completely free form, the student can say anything they want to say, then maybe there is a little too much freedom,” Marsilio said. “Maybe they are getting a bad grade and want to choose that form to lay out a professor about something. I think there is a greater chance for students to say things that are inaccurate or inappropriate.”

According to Anastasio, there is a psychological aspect behind online reviewing, especially with negative reviews.

“There are many reasons to review, but one of the main reasons is that it gives people a sense of control and a feeling of justice,” Anastasio said. “A student doesn’t have too much control over what goes on in a classroom, but reviewing the professor gives her a modicum of control and a feeling of righting a wrong if she disagrees with the professor’s policies.”

Lauren Platero ’19 said she left a negative review about a professor she had previously taken, but did so to advise fellow classmates.

“There were really specific things that I wasn’t expecting from the professor,” Platero said. “I wanted to make sure I give a heads up to future students.”

While some students use RateMyProfessors to vent about a bad experience with a professor, others share their positive experiences and recommend favorites to other students.

“One of the food marketing professors I had was a very good professor, and I figured he deserved a review so I left one,” Schallenhammer said. “That was good because I definitely want to give guidance to other students that are going to take the class.”

While RateMyProfessors may be a useful tool for some students, Angelo Hastie ’18 said he will stick to choosing classes based on times that fit his schedule rather than on higher rated professors.

Hastie also said he has encountered multiple professors who were rated very low on RateMyProfessors who turned out to be some of his best at St. Joe’s.

“You really can’t just rely on ‘oh, he’s terrible because he’s boring’ or ‘he’s a hard grader,’” Hastie said. “Most of the reviews are written in heats of passion like when a student receives a grade they think they shouldn’t have got, but really deserved. You really have to take their word with a grain of salt.”

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