Students at the University of Georgia often use websites like Koofers.com to rate classes and tell stories about professors they’ve had in the past. But students aren’t the only ones who use the Internet to express classroom struggles.
Websites and blogs such as Rate Your Students and College Misery have generated controversy for providing a place for professors to anonymously publish evaluations and stories about their own classes. RYS, one of the most popular student rating websites, was founded in 2005 by a college professor to create a forum to express the frustration and angst of academics across the country in their daily interactions with students and other faculty. Posts deal with everything from rants about students who don’t understand the syllabus to anecdotes about professors quitting their jobs.
“I’ve just spent half of yesterday and all of this morning going through your latest essays. They’re horrid,” reads the beginning of one popular RYS post. “Each one of you has disappointed me in some essential way.”
Brock F. Tessman, an associate professor of international affairs at UGA, said although student rating websites could provide professors with a way of expressing frustration, he doesn’t think they are appropriate to address concerns about students.
“Sometimes students are careless, which might leave professors frustrated and willing to react,” he said. “But I can’t envision a scenario in which I would [post online].”
The culture RYS created was the source of much criticism from educators, parents and students who lodged various concerns about its ethical implications and necessity. The website stopped publishing in 2010 because they did not have enough staff to support it, but over 1,000 archived entries still remain on the site today.
Nigel Adams, a professor in the UGA Department of Chemistry, said he can see the humor in such sites, but expressed a similar judgment to Tessman’s.
“It’s silly. It seems to me that professors should be providing information on whether or not to take their classes [instead],” Adams said.
However, some students doubt the value of professor rating websites as well.
“I don’t trust them at all,” said Spencer Oliver, a transfer student at UGA who said he has used RateMyProfessor.com in the past. “It’s hard to weigh between [differing opinions] because there is usually a strong bias.”
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire found that 84 percent of students have visited the RateMyProfessor.com and 23 percent have posted to it. They also found that websites like RateMyProfessor.com may be genuinely useful in that they mainly focus on honest feedback as opposed to derogatory comments.
“Students who post do so for a variety of reasons and not just to complain or exclaim; they are similar academically to students who do not post; and patterns in their ratings suggest that easiness and quality are not synonymous to them,” the study reads.
Tessman said, in contrast with the constructive culture of professor rating websites, student rating websites belong to a larger wave of internet-emboldened maliciousness due to their anonymous nature.
“Anonymity on the Internet has often proven not very positive,” he said.