Like many incoming freshmen, I came into Westmont not knowing anyone and having no idea what my first semester of college classes should look like. Should I stack my classes to get a head start on GEs? Would it be okay to take New Testament before taking Old Testament? Do I really have to take this Fitness for Life class as a graduation requirement? That’s when I stumbled upon ratemyprofessor.com, the largest college review site online that “allows college and university students to assign ratings to professors and campuses of American, Canadian, and United Kingdom institutions.”
Through the site’s ranking system, I settled on taking an 8 a.m. lower-division communications studies course. I assumed it to be a class that would both fulfill the Understanding Society GE, and teach me about the ethics of new media and cross-cultural communication. The course professor has one of the highest ratings on the site (4.4/5), 100% of the reviewers would take another class with them, and boasts taglines such as “inspirational,” “respected,” and “amazing lectures.” It sounded perfect!
And, indeed it would have been perfect — if I had known that the class is essentially a communicative theory course required for all communications majors, and likely not recommended for freshmen history majors like myself looking to get a GE credit. Contrastingly, I decided that same semester to also take Perspectives on World History with a professor that has a much lower rating (4.0/5), no recommendations of taking another class with them, and reviews like “intimidating,” “stubborn,” and “will kick your butt.” This class, though certainly challenging (like all college courses ought to be), has been among one of my favorite classes taken at Westmont. But, if I had I checked ratemyprofessor.com, I likely would not have taken the class with this professor.
This has been an issue that I have encountered several times throughout my three years at Westmont — one of my favorite professors has the lowest rating in their department (3.1/5), and shockingly harsh reviews like “avoid,” “amazing[ly] disorganized,” and “nightmarish.” Inconsistencies among the site have led me to take classes with perfectly-rated professors, but have less-than-optimal experiences.
I urge students (especially incoming freshmen) against using this site, as it does nothing more than serve as a vehicle for unfair prejudice against faculty without giving them a chance to defend themselves. The site, and others like it, deprive students of the opportunity to form their own opinion about the professor, course, or even department in question and hinders the academic process. For more accurate reviews on courses and professors, I would propose that Westmont allow the professor evaluations that are written by students at the end of each semester to be digitized and accessible to the student body for a more fair and holistic evaluation of departments, courses, and professors.