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Striking Out
Campus Report ^ | January 28, 2008 | Bethany Stotts

Posted on 01/28/2008 11:03:51 AM PST by bs9021

Striking Out

by: Bethany Stotts, January 28, 2008

The popular online professor ratings site, ratemyprofessors.com, has been eliciting some fiery responses to what professors see as the accountability-undermining anonymity of online technology. The subsidiary mtvU of MTV Networks, owner of ratemyprofessors.com, hosts the “Professors Strike Back” series in which professors “rebut” the anonymous and often insulting comments left on the ratings website. A 24-hour channel, mtvU broadcasts to 750 campuses and over 7.5 million students.

Throughout the series, many professors decried the ratings website as promoting non-constructive venting which often occurs in the heat of the moment and reflects the difficulty of the course rather than professors’ pedagogical ability. “The worst thing about ratemyprofessors.com is that there is no quality control and any disgruntled student can go there and say whatever he or she pleases,” said Boston University Professor Sassan Tabatabai. He also argued that the “the type of student who leave negative remarks about the professors on ratemyprofessors.com are the real s— heads.”....

A common thread among the responses was that ratemyprofessors.com contains biased and untrue statements made by immature and unaccountable students, yet the submitted videos themselves display a lot of unprofessional behavior. The show features angry professors swearing, wearing bunny suits for humorous effect, sarcasm, and egotism...

Teaching Assistant Joshua Beall of Rutgers University at New Brunswick (RUNB) was accused of being condescending toward students. He responded “I’m condescending? Well of course I’m condescending. You’re only an undergraduate.” He said that students “transition into an adult by taking on [their] professors and beating them.”..

Some professors seemed to think that ridiculing students for stupid answers or for inadequate performance is acceptable professional behavior....

(Excerpt) Read more at campusreportonline.net ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Political Humor/Cartoons; US: New York; US: Pennsylvania
KEYWORDS: mtvu; professors; ratemyprofessorscom; response

1 posted on 01/28/2008 11:03:53 AM PST by bs9021
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To: bs9021

Ratemyprofessors.com is a good idea! Professors, especially tenured ones, are practically immune from sanction. Let them be rated and defend themselves.


2 posted on 01/28/2008 11:07:27 AM PST by Anti-Bubba182
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To: bs9021

I started taking some courses a couple of years ago (20+ years after getting my degree), and I’ve found this to be an outstanding and very helpful site. Granted, there are some criticisms that seem to be petty but, if the professor is good, they are more than balanced out by positive statements. From what I’ve observed, it’s a pretty valuable tool that I’d recommend to every student....


3 posted on 01/28/2008 11:08:58 AM PST by awelliott
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To: bs9021
“The worst thing about ratemyprofessors.com is that there is no quality control and any disgruntled student can go there and say whatever he or she pleases,” said Boston University Professor Sassan Tabatabai.

Yeah. Dang that whole "free speech" thingy anyhows.

4 posted on 01/28/2008 11:11:48 AM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Anti-Bubba182

This professor has no problem (in practicality) being evaluated by students. I seem to have pulled the wool over their eyes, as they always rate me pretty high. But theoretically, I think it is wrong to have the students evaluate their teachers. But it’s never hurt me.


5 posted on 01/28/2008 11:11:49 AM PST by LS (CNN is the Amtrak of News)
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To: bs9021

It’s the professors who are unaccountable. Most professors are pretty good (especially in the sciences and engineering), but humanities professors often go WAY over the line of professional conduct, conduct that would get ordinary, private company employees fired in short order.

The same applies to public school teachers.


6 posted on 01/28/2008 11:13:00 AM PST by navyguy (Some days you are the pigeon, some days you are the statue.)
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To: LS
".. But theoretically, I think it is wrong to have the students evaluate their teachers. .."

But it does not bother you?

7 posted on 01/28/2008 11:15:09 AM PST by Anti-Bubba182
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To: bs9021

I am a lecturer in Computer Science. I went to ratemyprofessor.com once and saw I had a bunch of positive comments, and was fairly happy about that.

I went back later and it was mostly negative comments. I dismisssed them as the rantings of disgruntled students.

Then it occurred to me that if the unfavorable comments were so meaningless, the favorable ones probably were too.

As a result, I no longer go back to ratemyprofessor. I would advise anyone teaching college not to go there either.


8 posted on 01/28/2008 11:18:51 AM PST by murdoog
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To: Anti-Bubba182

It’s all part of the structure now. Would I give it up if I had to also give up questioning my doctor? No. It’s ok to have the provider SOMEWHAT sensitive to his charges and or patients.


9 posted on 01/28/2008 11:22:58 AM PST by LS (CNN is the Amtrak of News)
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To: Anti-Bubba182
As one of the rated professors, I have my own opinion on this. My experience is that there is inconsistency across professors. My own ratings vary between: “Awesome professor” to “the worst in the department”, and that’s for students in the same class and (evidently) the same semester.

I really don’t care to find out the names of any student. What would be more interesting to me is the correlation between their grade and their comments. In the relatively few cases where I know the student’s ranking of me (we do university-wide student evaluations each semester), there is almost a perfect inverse correlation. That is, the students who don’t come to class, don’t do well on exams, and score badly in the course consistently give me the lowest ranks and vice versa. Given that information and my low ranking by some, it would be nice to see some honesty by the students if, when they bad-mouth a professor, they also point out that they only attended a third of the lectures and never turned in any of the homework.

10 posted on 01/28/2008 11:25:26 AM PST by econjack (Some people are as dumb as soup.)
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To: bs9021
Professor Sassan Tabatabai. He also argued that the “the type of student who leave negative remarks about the professors on ratemyprofessors.com are the real s— heads.”....

A well developed argument and excellent presentation!

His use of the term s-heads trouble me. I may be in error here but this term often refers to a nappy head?

11 posted on 01/28/2008 11:27:30 AM PST by DUMBGRUNT (Life is Good!)
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To: LS

When I was teaching, we got an eval by the students every class. As a student (which I still am, and have been for over 30 years) I still rate profs for each course... it’s anonymous, and it should remain so. I had no problems with students giving me an eval... Why should it be “wrong” for the students to evaluate them?


12 posted on 01/28/2008 11:35:39 AM PST by Rick.Donaldson (http://www.transasianaxis.com - Visit for lastest on DPRK/Russia/China/Etc --Fred Thompson for Prez.)
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To: LS
But theoretically, I think it is wrong to have the students evaluate their teachers.

Why?

Look at it this way. The students are customers, buying their education. You are a purveyor of that education. Why should you not be evaluated by the customers, for any reason they deem relevant? If they feel that you are not giving them their money's worth, or feel that you gave exceptional value for their buck, does not evaluation literally mean assigning value?

They are simply stating their opinion about whether the product is worth the price.

13 posted on 01/28/2008 11:54:40 AM PST by LexBaird (Behold, thou hast drinken of the Aide of Kool, and are lost unto Men.)
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To: bs9021
Oh, what to do? Hmmm, maybe if the evaluations are backed up by specific examples then they're valuable. And if they're a just rants, ignore them. Perhaps this could issue in a new era of accountability, where professors will suffer if they abuse their positions. An era where the customers actually get to rate the products. A new era where incompetent hacks can't hide behind the veil of B.S. that permeates academia....

NAH!


14 posted on 01/28/2008 12:04:43 PM PST by Dilbert56 (Harry Reid, D-Nev.: "We're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war.")
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To: bs9021

I know of a better site: www.NoIndoctrination.com


15 posted on 01/28/2008 1:12:22 PM PST by Alkhin (Hope looks beyond the bounds of time...)
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To: LexBaird

“... students are customers ...”

IMO, this is the wrong analogy. Learning is a shared activity, and responsibility, in the classroom. Teachers are, at best, learning facilitators. As the old saying goes, you can take a horse to the water trough but you can’t make it drink.


16 posted on 01/28/2008 1:35:37 PM PST by riverdawg
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To: riverdawg
IMO, this is the wrong analogy.

It's not an analogy. All transactions between customers and sellers are shared activities, College students are paying money directly to the college to educate them. They are buying a service. The assumption is that if the horse is paying for the water, he surely wants a good drink of it.

"Learning Facilitator" is merely gobblygook for "teacher"; a semantically null definition. Teaching is a skill describing the ability to transfer knowledge to another person. If no transfer of knowledge is being achieved, then maybe the teacher is a poor "facilitator". Are there poor students as well? Sure, but the nature of the transaction is for the business to satisfy the needs of the customer to the best of their ability, not blame the failure of the transaction on the customer. If the student is ill suited to being educated, then the ethical thing to do would be to council him to drop out, or fail him out, instead of to continue charging him for a worthless transaction.

I once had a Prof enter a CompSci 101 class on the first day and announce that he always failed at least half of the class (around 50 students in the class), and that no more than one student in the class would get an "A", and further, that person would only be a CompSci major. He might as well have said "I am incapable of transferring basic CompSci knowledge to at least half of you, and if you aren't in my department, I don't give a damn." Hardly giving the students their money's worth, wouldn't you say? Had another PoliSci prof who spent a semester railing about inequities to Wymyn (her spelling), instead of covering the curriculum of the purported class. Another waste of money.

Since both these tenured idiots were immune from the consequences of their "teaching" methods, and inflicted their idiocy on semester after semester of classes, how else but word of mouth to protect other students from wasting their hard earned tuition (or at least Dad's)? Students may not have been able to fire the inept, but at least they could avoid "hiring" them personally by taking their courses.

17 posted on 01/28/2008 3:04:38 PM PST by LexBaird (Behold, thou hast drinken of the Aide of Kool, and are lost unto Men.)
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To: LexBaird

Not really. Neither students, nor, actually, patients of a doctor know whether the knowledge/treatment being given or recommended to them is “worthy,” or really what it is worth. That is precisely why I have a Ph.D. and they don’t and why a doctor has an M.D. and I don’t. One of the problems with higher ed has actually been overkill of the “students as consumers,” which has driven from universities necessary and useful courses to be replaced with “feminist studies” and “wine tasting.”


18 posted on 01/28/2008 4:25:24 PM PST by LS (CNN is the Amtrak of News)
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To: Rick.Donaldson
Wrong as in the students aren't capable of really evaluating what a prof's performance is. You don't instantly know, for example, if what someone taught you is what they should have; what you needed to know; what they wanted; or what you wanted. Those may all be different things. Occasionally, I found that teachers I thought were not so hot were dead on, and it was ME who needed the adjustment.

It's very close to a patient telling the doctor what is wrong with him, then telling him what to prescribe.

19 posted on 01/28/2008 4:27:29 PM PST by LS (CNN is the Amtrak of News)
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To: LS
Neither students, nor, actually, patients of a doctor know whether the knowledge/treatment being given or recommended to them is “worthy,” or really what it is worth.

I can certainly spot the difference between an MD who uses proper diagnostic techniques and one who wants to heal me with crystals and homeopathy. You can tell when the treatment utterly fails you, if nothing else.

I submit that any student who is not aware of what the relative value of a college level instructor or course is, is probably not bright enough to be a college student. Someone ostensibly learning about a subject vital to his knowledge of the world and/or his particular Major should be able to determine if he got anything worthwhile out of a course. He should also be grown up enough to know if the fault for a blown course was his or the professor's.

Not that I think "X-ethnicity" Studies or "wine tasting" belong on a college campus, outside of Community College "for fun" courses. But that is a whole 'nother ball of wax.

20 posted on 01/28/2008 5:30:19 PM PST by LexBaird (Behold, thou hast drinken of the Aide of Kool, and are lost unto Men.)
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To: LexBaird
"Should be"

"any who" these are catch words that describe most students. And most patients. It's one thing to get a second opinion from another doctor. It's quite another to judge whether your doctor knows his stuff based on whether he's giving you euthromycin or ampecillin.

21 posted on 01/28/2008 5:56:59 PM PST by LS (CNN is the Amtrak of News)
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To: LS
I think we are talking about two different aspects here. The first is “Does the Prof know his stuff?”, which is what you are saying. The other, which is what I am talking about, is “Does the Prof have the skills and abilities to teach what he knows to a student?” Someone might be a whiz-bang genius physicist and have the pedagogical skills of Attila the Hun.
22 posted on 01/29/2008 6:39:01 AM PST by LexBaird (Behold, thou hast drinken of the Aide of Kool, and are lost unto Men.)
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To: LexBaird
Exactly. But I'm not sure in some classes students really appreciate how much they "know" until they get out, and say, "Oh, yeah, we learned about that in history class."

As I say, my evals are at the very top of the department---I've never gotten a perfect, although a couple of my colleagues have, but I've come close. But it does contribute to the mentality that "you are here to serve me," as opposed to, "I am here to learn from you."

This, then, results in curriculum that have certain structures (won't bore you with details) which result in the fact that we only teach U.S. Civil War once a year in the SUMMER, never during the regular school year; and haven't taught the "Age of Jefferson/Jackson" in 10 years.

23 posted on 01/29/2008 7:33:22 AM PST by LS (CNN is the Amtrak of News)
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To: Billthedrill

Was he complaining about students? It sounded as if he were critiquing the tenure system.


24 posted on 01/29/2008 7:36:26 AM PST by Mr. Lucky
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To: riverdawg
Hmmmm... Nope, I'm a college instructor, and I view students as customers. Course, I also believe that if the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught. I've failed in getting through to some students, but if I'm the teacher, it's my responsibility to be the adult in the situation. Part of that involves getting the student to assume responsibility. On occasion, I've asked students, "Why are you here? You're paying me to teach you a subject, then acting like you're getting away with something by not studying. Drop this course and find a subject you like. This isn't high school. You can study the subjects you want and not study the subjects you don't want. If you want to be here, be here. If you don't want to be here, be somewhere else." I also use the Karate Kid two sides of the road analogy a lot.

On the ratemyprofessor thing. Anytime you put yourself in a position where your actions affect the lives of others, they're going to evaluate you on it. Every student I've ever had knows how to run an academy better than I do. Just ask them. If you can't deal with people criticizing you, find a nice safe job where nothing you do matters. Oh, and also, if you keep getting the same criticism, it's probably right. We don't fool these kids. We're like cellophane. They see right through us. (end rant)

25 posted on 01/29/2008 7:46:01 AM PST by Richard Kimball
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To: LS
This, then, results in curriculum that have certain structures (won't bore you with details) which result in the fact that we only teach U.S. Civil War once a year in the SUMMER, never during the regular school year; and haven't taught the "Age of Jefferson/Jackson" in 10 years.

Still, if I were to take a U.S. Civil War course, as a student I could certainly tell if I was being taught about the Civil War or if the teacher had hared off into European Colonial African history and slave trade with occasional references to the Emancipation Proclamation.

I may come away with world history knowledge of the mid-19th century that would serve me later, but did I really learn about the U.S. Civil War? Did the teacher serve the need that I paid for? Yes, I am here to learn, but I am here to learn what I was told you'd teach.

It is the nature of a technical service industry that you are paying for the expertise of a professional, but you wouldn't seek that professional out if you didn't have a specific need to be filled. If a professional insists that your needs are secondary to what he wants to provide, then you are just going to end up with your needs unsatisfied. At some point, you are going to decide that the professional simply isn't providing the service advertised.

26 posted on 01/29/2008 8:39:46 AM PST by LexBaird (Behold, thou hast drinken of the Aide of Kool, and are lost unto Men.)
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To: Richard Kimball

You stated my take more eloquently than I did. Well said.


27 posted on 01/29/2008 8:43:34 AM PST by LexBaird (Behold, thou hast drinken of the Aide of Kool, and are lost unto Men.)
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To: Richard Kimball

P.S. A one armed man? Do you really expect anyone to believe that story?


28 posted on 01/29/2008 8:45:08 AM PST by LexBaird (Behold, thou hast drinken of the Aide of Kool, and are lost unto Men.)
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To: bs9021
I object to anonymous ratings. They can be and have been manipulated. There is also a privacy issue. Unless one is a public figure, personal information should not be disseminated on the Internet. If there are problems, there should be some other means of bringing them to the attention of the chairman or dean of faculty.

I took an art history class and the anonymous ratings for the prof were inaccurate. For example, many marked "dates for exams were unclear." Yet we had a handout stating the dates and they were also announced in class. Also, more student responses were recorded than were enrolled in class. The teacher was relatively conservative and this apparently did sit well with some.

29 posted on 01/29/2008 9:00:05 AM PST by Dante3
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To: LexBaird

It’s a tough sell to Republicans, but the Democrats all believe me.


30 posted on 01/29/2008 9:10:33 AM PST by Richard Kimball
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To: Mr. Lucky
No, THIS is the site that has a burr under his saddle. It doesn't have anything to do with tenure or job performance ratings, it's just people's opinions. I'd be concerned if it did, in fact, due to its anonymous nature.

Accuracy In Academia caused quite a stir by setting up something similar a few years ago. I'm thinking "the lady doth protest too much."

31 posted on 01/29/2008 9:41:50 AM PST by Billthedrill
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To: LS

Well, I disagree with you on both points.

A student worth his or her salt isn’t just listening to the Professor, or reading the associated text book either. That’s what “learning” is all about. They should be reading other sources other than the books that are recommended by the course as well. I suppose that most people are lazy and do not.

However, most people do go to courses with the idea they are going to learn something new to them, about the subject, in depth, and students certainly CAN tell you if a teacher is being lazy about teaching. (Having been an instructor myself for several years at the college level, and going to courses myself at various degree levels, I can tell you for a FACT when a Prof is being lazy).

VERY occasionally, I have run into something where a teacher was, as you said, dead on and I was wrong. I found that out myself by doing the extra legwork. That also means however, you can discover when a prof is NOT DEAD ON and wrong.

But, the evaluations are not on the material usually, but rather how the teacher interacted with the class, how the material was presented, and to what level the student “felt” he/she learned something.

Oh, and for the record, a Doctor DOES NOT ALWAYS KNOW BEST... it’s my body and I have full veto powers over anyone else, including doctors. Sorry - I don’t give someone “rule over my body” because they have a degree and neither should you. I wouldn’t probably tell a doctor he was an idiot, and then let him prescribe anything.


32 posted on 01/29/2008 9:50:06 AM PST by Rick.Donaldson (http://www.transasianaxis.com - Visit for lastest on DPRK/Russia/China/Etc --Fred Thompson for Prez.)
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To: Rick.Donaldson
And you have just stated the precise opposite case to Prof. Alan Bloom when he warned about the "closing of the American mind." When classes become popularity contests, the inmates are running the asylum. Do they know when they are learning? Sometimes. Sometimes not.

And no, there are times when your body or not, you would be clueless as to what is affecting you. "House" makes this point, bluntly, but effectively.

33 posted on 01/29/2008 10:40:59 AM PST by LS (CNN is the Amtrak of News)
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To: LS

It doesn’t matter whether I know what is or isn’t affecting my body. My point is that it’s my body, and just because of that I wouldn’t give a doctor carte blanc to do whatever he/she wished.

That’s not the point.

Professors aren’t “any smarter” than you or I, or the students. They may know more about a particular set of subjects (and I’m sure there are plenty of students that haven’t a clue about the subjects, and in some cases, still do NOT even after they have passed a class).

The POINT is, there isn’t a reason NOT to have evaluations., and I think they are a good thing. They keep professors HONEST - and you can always throw out the extremes from ANY evaluation.

You may get glowing reports and something saying the worst that can be said in the same group, about any particular Prof... throw those out and take the average.


34 posted on 01/29/2008 11:01:01 AM PST by Rick.Donaldson (http://www.transasianaxis.com - Visit for lastest on DPRK/Russia/China/Etc --Fred Thompson for Prez.)
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