UP FOR EVALUATION| 1/17/13 12:08am
On the front page of today’s Lanthorn, we looked at the role of professor evaluations at Grand Valley State University. As students, we’ve all filled out our fair share of teacher evaluations, and some of us have even ended up the begrudging across-campus messengers responsible for getting the evaluations to the right department office after our classmates throw them into the world’s most chaotic pile on the front desk. And although we’ve spent considerable time writing, handling and lamenting the logistics of professor evaluations, as students, we don’t typically get to see the results. There’s no on-campus alphabetical file of these evaluations for students to drop in on before committing to a semester with an unfamiliar professor, so a lot of students turn to the closest, most available approximation – RateMyProfessors.com – which offers students a little bit more perspective on the weight and consequence of the opinions of our peers.
For those few who are unfamiliar with RateMyProfessors.com, it’s a website that students can go on, look up their school and a specific professor to rate from one to five in different categories like “helpfulness,” “clarity,” and “easiness,” – and hotness – all averaged into an “overall quality” score. According to their website, RateMyProfessors.com is “built for college students, by college students” and functions to do “what students have been doing forever – checking in with each other – their friends, their brothers, their sisters, their classmates – to figure to who’s a great professor and who’s one you might want to avoid.”
The relationship between a student and a professor can set the tone for students participation, attendance and work ethic in any class, so there’s nothing wrong with students wanting to feel confident about the courses they enroll in from the get-go. But it’s a lot like choosing an old high school buddy as your roommate versus going into the dorms blind; an old friend offers the comfort of knowing it will never be horrible, but a complete stranger has the potential to be something new and transformative.
It’s a subtle but poignant example of communication breakdown for us Millenials, this condition of our youth rivaled only by our place in society’s timeline as we find ourselves flailing about wildly in the Information Age.