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Professors Even the Score with Online Student-Rating Blog

Initial faculty vitriol gives way to more constructive comments

Professors who have scored poorly on official student evaluations and informal rating websites now have a way to vent their frustrations with undergraduates.

RateYourStudents.blogspot.com, a newly-created website, allows irate instructors to post scathing anonymous comments about the students whom they have taught.

The website’s editor identifies himself only as “The Professor” and says he is a tenured faculty member at a small southern college. He says he initially founded the site in response to the popular RateMyProfessors.com, which allows students to anonymously review—and sometimes to publicly humiliate—their instructors.

RateMyProfessors has attracted over five million postings and may be used by some students when selecting courses—especially at schools that do not publish official internal ratings such as Harvard’s Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) guide.

“The Professor” reported that he scores a 4.6 out of 5 on RateMyProfessors, and he said his creation of the alternative site is not motivated by any personal vendetta.

In its earliest days, posts on the new RateYourStudents were mostly angry diatribes.

For instance, one self-identified English professor from Wisconsin wrote, “To G: My pity. I truly doubt that you could read this. In fact, I truly doubt that you have opposable thumbs. Density: Off-scale; skull has its own gravitational field.”

Some professors have even gone so far as to wish harm upon their former students.

A professor from Wichita, Kan., wrote, “Mean Miranda, here’s a lump of coal. Mean Mitch, here’s one for you, too, but this one has a jagged edge I hope you snag your finger on.”

More recently, though, “The Professor”—who spoke to The Crimson by phone yesterday—said his site has evolved into more of a dialogue than a diatribe. He said that 30 percent of the e-mails that his site receives are now from students.

He also said the comments have become “more and more positive over time,” as students propose ways for professors to better understand their pupils.

“The Professor,” who said he is a 20-year veteran of college teaching, said that hostility between teachers and students stems from today’s test-driven society, in which students see higher education as a chore rather than opportunity.

But some Harvard professors have a more optimistic take on the present state of student-teacher relations.

The former dean of Harvard College, Harry R. Lewis ’68, wrote in an e-mail, “I am old enough to know that students I might have, though annoying, can turn into fine adults, if given time and encouragement to grow up.”

But Lewis, who is now the McKay professor of computer science, added, “I just wish they would all turn their cell phones off in class, that’s all.”

“The Professor” said that internal ratings such as Harvard’s CUE guide are “the greatest thing in the world” because they present more statistically accurate ratings as opposed to RateMyProfessors, which he said attracts extreme comments.

According to the editor-in-chief of this year’s CUE guide, Lyndsey M. Straight ’06, less than 5 percent of classes at Harvard get decidedly negative evaluations in the published guide.

At Harvard, professors must choose to have their course evaluations published in the CUE guide, but the guide has become so ingrained in Harvard culture that most professors opt to include it in their reviews, according to Straight.

“On the whole professors are really enthusiastic about the CUE guide,” according to Straight.

—Staff writer Kristin E. Blagg can be reached at kblagg@fas.harvard.edu
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