When LSA senior Jason LaBelle schedules his winter semester classes, he won’t be concerned about one thing. After checking out ratemyprofessors.com, he can decide which professors to take based on their ratings.
The website is a database for looking up or rating professors from universities across the country. The University’s Ann Arbor campus has 1,326 professors listed on the site, with student ratings for the vast majority of them.
“I found it pretty accurate, actually,” LaBelle said. “Every semester, I’ll check that site. If there are a lot of accurate observations, not people who are mad about grades, then I’ll use that to shape my opinion.”
Next to each professor’s name on the website is a happy, neutral or sad face to indicate whether a professor is of good, average or poor quality. The rating system is on a one to five scale, with five being the highest. Each rating is based on four categories: easiness, helpfulness, clarity and attractiveness. A chili pepper next to a professor’s name signifies the instructor’s hotness.
The ratings are monitored daily by a University student who reviews the ratings and comments.
Such comments range from “Ralph Williams is my guilty pleasure-” to “I swear he is in the Mafia.”
A few professors at the University believe the site has a practical and positive purpose for students.
“I think it’s a lot of fun, actually,” nuclear engineering Prof. Alex Bielajew said. “Students can rate their professors anonymously. I think it’s pretty useful.”
He added that professors also can use the website to see what students think about them.
But not all students and professors agree that the site is helpful and reflects the truth about all professors.
LSA junior Rebecca Siegel wasn’t impressed with the site’s evaluations of her professors.
“I was actually kind of surprised with some of the responses, and I totally didn’t agree with them,” Siegel said.
LSA senior Steve Gozdzialski expressed similar concerns.
“It’s hard to determine the kind of person who took the class,” he said. “Some people who were complaining on there didn’t seem to have valid complaints. One professor of mine that was rated had a low rating, and I think he’s a good professor.”
Kenneth Balazovich, a professor of biochemistry, cell biology lab and immunology, said he believes the ratings may represent skewed perceptions of a professor.
“I have a very low opinion of it, and it’s not because of how I got rated on it,” said Balazovich, who got an overall rating of 1.9 on the site.
Balazovich went on to say students could write multiple “glowing evaluations or terrible evaluations” on a professor, creating an inaccurate rating.
He added that the course evaluations distributed by the University in every class at the end of the semester better represent students’ feelings about courses and professors. Since every student fills out these evaluations, he said, the results represent an average of all students’ opinions, whereas ratemyprofessors.com displays opinions slanted toward one way or the other.
These Course evaluations completed by students at the end of each semester are compiled by the Michigan Student Assembly and posted on its website Advice Online, where professors are rated based on the University’s course evaluations.
A few of the 18 categories include “overall this was an excellent course,” “overall the instructor was an excellent teacher” and “I learned a great deal in this course.”
Engineering sophomore Yuan Ma said both sites could be useful resources for students.
“I wouldn’t say one is better than the other,” Ma said. “The MSA version is more professional, whereas ratemyprofessors.com is a lot more general. I don’t think a lot of people know about the MSA version, though.”