Professor creates ratemystudens.com
by J.R. Cohen
Students are well aware of “ratemyprofessors.com.” Increasingly students are using the site to select their courses, although the site is about professors, not courses. The value of the website to students gave Jodi Cohen, Professor of Speech Communication, an idea. She asked “why not ratemystudents.com?” Her idea became a cyber-reality last week when ratemystudents.com went on-line.
It would seem that professors already have a powerful tool for evaluating students, called “grading.” But Cohen points out that “it is also the case that students already evaluate their professors through course evaluation forms.” She goes on to explain that “the site’s purpose is different. It is about informing others - often warning others - about things not asked on an evaluation form or covered in grading.”
The new Web site mimics “rate my professors”: Professors are invited to anonymously post evaluations of their students. Anyone can logon to the site and look up a student’s evaluations. Although the Web site is just getting started it already has files for 780 Ithaca College students. Cohen says, “The faculty is really responding positively to the site. More than 400 professors have posted evaluations for students. I am going to have to hire someone to manage it.” Some faculty responses posted on the site include, “She is lazy and dumb;” “Must hold his hand every step of the way;” “Can’t read or write;” “This guy seems dangerously insane.” “He is not pleasant to look at and he has political opinions;” and “Grade Grubber.” One feature of the site is the “dumb as rocks” icon given to students judged to exhibit substandard intelligence.
Dean Humphrey calls the site “eye opening,” and sees it an effective response to grade inflation. The site shows more than half of the Ithaca College students in the system have accrued five or more rock icons. One student has thirty rocks. According to Humphrey, the faculty is sending a message that these students should not be in college. Professors, increasingly under student pressure for high grades, have an alternative place, a public space, and an anonymous space to say what they really think.
Professors use the Web site to vent but also to find out what others say about the students in their classes. Sanford Shelton, professor of economics says “If a student wants you to let them into a class, or if they’re between grades, the website is a great resource for making the final decision. Just last week a student asked me to sign a waiver so he could add one of my courses. I looked him up and decided I don’t need the aggravation.” The site is also being used by potential employers. David Bloom from Career Services expects its use will grow because “the site provides the employer with uninhibited critique.”
The site seems to work for all of the same reasons ratemyprofessor.com does. Ultimately students, as well as their family, friends, and potential employers, may find the site provides a more realistic assessment of their skills than the grades recorded on their transcripts. But for Cohen, “rate my students” has a greater, more ideal purpose. She says that “it empowers professors. We can use it to eliminate intellectually weak students from campus as well as those students we just don’t like dealing with.”
J.R. Cohen is a Speech Communication professor who has serious issues with your sassy gum chewing. Email her at Cohenj[at]frontiernet.net.