Here in England we are having a bank holiday today, but there is no rest for a busy academic; as we rush ever faster towards the new term many lecturers’ thoughts are turning to the classroom again. So it’s very timely that the University Business website have a piece about the controversial website ratemyprofessors.com.
Under the incendiary heading ‘website threatens lazy academics’ the University Business site goes on to explain that there are now over 1000 UK academics who appear on the American website ratemyprofessors. This website gives students the opportunity to comment on the quality of their lecturers, both in terms of their teaching but also their appearance! In many ways this is simply a bit of fun, an extension of the classroom gossip about whether a lecturer can deliver a good lecture or is considered ‘hot’, but more worryingly rumours abound that hiring committees are referring to comments on this site when considering applicants’ suitability. Also the comments from students can be pretty harsh, at best severely knocking the confidence of a young teacher, at worst actually being libelous.
So should UK lecturers be worried about this sort of thing? Well, I personally am not concerned, but then I am not going to enter my name into the site to see if I am featured: I’d rather not know! I believe it’s up to all of us anyway to try to improve our teaching and make our contact with students of the best quality and most use to them and while students don’t always like what’s good for them, most can appreciate an innovative, hard working lecturer. The headline of the original article insinuates that ‘lazy’ academics should now be quaking in their boots because they will be exposed via this website. Perhaps that is true, but almost every lecturer I have met, as a student and an academic, is diligent and dedicated. And as such, they will not be concerned by student remarks on this website and they will pay much more attention to the formal feedback solicited from students on their own courses by their institutions.
What do you think about this? Is ratemyprofessors just another outlet for gossip or could this become a serious platform for student feedback? Should hiring committees check the site to see whether prospective candidates have received good or bad reports? Should we all be worried about our reputations?!