Unwanted Data: Rate My Prof

In the back of my refrigerator I found a Tupperware container labeled RateMyProfessor.com. Perhaps you know the routine of the refrigerator archaeologist: How long has this been in here? Will it kill me if I eat it? Will the odor kill others if I open it, or should it go, Tupperware and all, into the trash?

So I opened it and poked around and found this site: http://rateyourstudents.blogspot.com/ where profs rate students. I ultimately decided it wasn’t to my taste, so I tossed it, though saving the Tupperware to burp another day.

I suspect we faculty take the whole RMP trip too seriously. Of course, since I have my share of blue, this might be what you would expect me to say, but, well, whatever. (What do you know, that is a useful phrase!)

Anyway, in Paragraph City it’s generally acknowledged that people need to blow off steam, and just because a student has screwed up doesn’t mean he can’t make himself feel better with a little professor trashing at RMP. Until promotion committees start looking to RMP for help in making their decisions, I think tolerant-bemused is the right response, at least in Paragraph City.

Confession: I’ve used RMP to look up the ratings of candidates for faculty positions at my college. I can’t say that it’s given me any useful information, but I can see that it might at some time serve to suggest a useful interview question.

But I wonder what would happen if an institution took all the ratings of all their faculty, stripped away the names, and just listed the comments into two pools, one toxic and the other benevolent. Would the aggregate comments that resulted say something about the nature of the institution? Certainly the sample is not representative, certainly it’s a minority statement, certainly it’s perceived reality – if reality at all. Yet, if there’s one grain of truth in the sack of chaff (oh ignore the pool-turned-to-chaff mixed metaphor for the moment), I expect it is a little truth that we would have trouble getting in any other way.

Colleges have a surprisingly difficult time discovering what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong, especially in the classroom. Certainly one contributor to that difficulty is the ego at the podium who both doesn’t want to hear the negative and at the same time over-amplifies anything remotely negative. My point is only this: read through the comments in RMP and you will come across perhaps one in twenty that is a voice which should be heard.

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