Professor ratings not always on target

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Now that it's course scheduling season, an inevitable part of this process is the informal method of gleaning the caliber of potential professors from other students.

While I recognize that professors often have little to nothing to do with which students are placed in their classes, I would like to propose an idea to aid professors in their ability to create the inevitable waiting list for their classes. (Side note: For more information about how everyone hates the course selection process, see previous columns and stories).

Ratemystudent.com (sound familiar?) would allow professors around the country to enter incredibly factual information about the students in their courses. After providing general rankings, they would be permitted to provide comments for the benefits of colleagues who may be less familiar with the level of student work and effort.

Why? Because like the fool-proof information on ratemyprofessor.com, interacting for 3 hours a week gives people incredible insight into their innermost personalities and capabilities. It's science, I think. 

Let's look at some hypothetical examples. 

Submission number one: Overall ranking- 3.2. Comments: "Macy always comes to class and participates. Unfortunately, she's always trying to talk about things other than what I'm teaching. Why would I want my students to think critically? Once, she asked me a question about animal imagery and I was like. . . William Blake was last week."

Submission number two: Overall ranking- 4.0. Comments: "Macy is a very prepared student, but she has absolutely no social skills.  Once she made a joke about the Cold War and I could literally feel the hatred from the other students surrounding her like the mist in that one subpar Stephen King book about sea monsters. I don't really get how you can be a good student if you're even a little bit boring."

Submission number three: Overall ranking- 0.7. Comments: "Macy is arguably the most inattentive student I've ever seen. When she participates in class she typically cocks her head, strokes her chin and repeats what the previous student shared. This comment typically begins with her saying ‘to go off that...' and sometimes she gives an arbitrary example from her own mundane life to accompany her ‘thoughts."'

After a little Googling, it seems that a blog called "rateyourstudents" existed for a bit, but was shut down in December 2010. According to the site, the blog's purpose was to allow professors a place to work out their "angst and ennui of their academic careers." 

While I'm conceptually opposed to both angst and ennui (for more information, see my previous column about whining), I think it's worthwhile to consider how and why we speak about professors during course selection as if our evaluations are always meaningful for other students. Maybe the reason you're not enjoying the class is that you're not putting your full effort into it and the professor's attitude towards you reciprocates that. I know that's certainly been the case with me in the past. 

Seeking advice from other students about professors and courses is reasonable. But allowing the negative experience of another student to influence your decisions, particularly when that student may have a different level of interest in the course or more time to commit to it seems silly. 

Speaking of which, if you have a genuine grievance about the professor, do you know what to do? Answer: Don't tell all your best friends that they're illegitimate as scholars. Consult the Student Academic Handbook on the DePauw website for various options. 

P.S. Aren't you glad I made it all the way through the ratemyprofessor.com reference without mentioning that awkward tamale? Yeah, me too. 

–Ayers is a political science major from Cincinnati, OH. She is the opinion editor for The DePauw. Opinion@thedepauw.com.