RateMyProfessor.com is a wonderful way to determine which professors fit your learning style, but it can also harbor something much darker. Like the rest of the internet, RMP can turn into a hive of cyberbullying and attacks against professors. The anonymity provided can serve as a breeding ground for hateful or derogatory attacks, which has affected NEIU.
Like elsewhere, these attacks can be sexually demeaning or plain spiteful. While the site guidelines ask students reviewing professors to “be honest and objective” and avoid personal attacks. However, the same can be said about Twitter, another anonymous posting site that has dealt with an ever-increasing issue of threats.
One of the primary problems with RMP, as anyone who has used the site can attest to, is that the reviews have very little middle ground. Either a professor is excellent or miserable, too hard or laughably easy.
This gives students an inability to accurately assess their future professors, and can even keep them out of classes due to a preponderance of negative reviews. This is a chilling effect, as students are only able to get a piece of the puzzle, instead of the whole.
The assumption that the worst review on the site is indicative of the whole is one of the issues that plague review sites, as consumers don’t typically leave reviews unless they have a miserable or wonderful experience. This can lead to personal grudges about grades or conflicting personalities spilling out onto the internet, where it is nearly impossible for them to be scrubbed.
The categories that students can review on Rate My Professor range from humor to difficulty of the class to “hotness,” which is where things can get thorny. As one would guess, the possibility for sexually explicit messages is readily available.
The same goes for demeaning messages. The problems run deepest for female professors because RMP has become a place for students to objectify and vilify women. This happened to a professor at a Canadian college, who refused to repeat the insult, but said it was “sexually derogatory.”
Another instance came during a Boston University report on the subject, with one review suggesting through insinuation that the professor was sexually harassing his students. These examples are a small drop in an ocean of reviews.
As with most online content, RMP must be taken with a grain of salt. The anonymity of the site provides a platform for disgruntled students to take out their grudges, without repercussions. The site, while useful in small doses, often finds reviews on either end of the extreme, with very little middle ground. The opportunities for harassment are right there, so next time you check a professor’s rating, be wary of what the students are saying.