Rate My Professor Pushed Stony Brook University to Change Their Teaching Evaluation Policy in 2014

Philosophy professor Anna Sitzmann uses course evaluations to improve her teaching methods.Philosophy professor Anna Sitzmann uses course evaluations to improve her teaching methods.

 

By: Francesca Campione and Jessica Carnabuci 

 

Rate My Professor reviews pushed Stony Brook University to make their course evaluations public in the Spring of 2014, officials said. On Rate My Professor, Stony Brook has a total of 2,693 professor reviews. In 2014 the total number of accounted instructors was 2,602.

Official course evaluations at Stony Brook University in Long Island are sent out at the end of every semester and are administered by the Faculty Center at Stony Brook. The results of evaluations were made public after an overwhelming amount of students said they used Rate My Professor reviews as a reliable source, Patricia Aceves, the Director of the Faculty Center said.

University administered course evaluations provide a more comprehensive, valid source of student input, Aceves said. She hopes to increase student reliance on them over third party systems such as Rate My Professor.

“Students are going to say what they want in the reviews,” Aceves said. “For the most part the reviews are constructive and respectful.”

While some professors dread seeing what kind of reviews they receive, others look forward to it. Kristen Shorette, a sociology professor at Stony Brook University, embraces course evaluations and Rate My Professor Reviews and uses them as a constructive way to improve her course content.

Shorette lectured as a sociology professor at the University of California before teaching on Long Island. Although some reviews were helpful, she also received comments on her appearance.

“They did not like my style,” Shorette said. “I don’t care. I take it as a compliment if the worst thing about my class is my outfit.”

Students may have bias while reviewing professors. Kenneth Feldman, Ph.D, a sociology professor at Stony Brook University, wrote an article titled Identifying Exemplary Teachers and Teaching: Evidence from Student Ratings

Feldman states that bias, in this case, refers to “one or more factors directly and somehow inappropriately influencing student’s judgments about evaluations of teachers or courses.”

“Reviews definitely influence students a lot when it comes to first impressions of professors,” Monica Meas, a junior on the pre-nursing track at Stony Brook University, said. Some of the professors she’s had have made jokes about rate my professor reviews, she said.

According to Aceves, if a professor feels that a comment is irrelevant or defamatory, the comment can be taken down from the public view of the university’s course evaluations, but a record of the data will be kept.

Course evaluations provide a great means to receive constructive criticism from students said Anna Sitzmann, a philosophy professor at Stony Brook, said. Sitzmann, who has been lecturing for two years, remembers ignoring course evaluations when she was a student.

While she appreciates course feedback, Sitzmann said she is glad that she does not have a Rate My Professor page.

Rate My Professor is this weird, uncontrollable forum where people just say the most inappropriate things that they think,” Sitzmann said.

Like Shorette, Sitzmann has received multiple comments on her physical appearance that make her uncomfortable on the university’s course evaluations. “When people comment on my physical attractiveness it is very weird and I don’t really know what to do about it,” she said.

Despite some inappropriate comments on Rate My Professor, students still heavily rely on the website while planning their schedules, including Nusrat Jahan, a junior and Health Science major at Stony Brook University

Nusrat prefers Rate My Professor’s comments about what to expect in classes over the university’s course evaluations, despite its attempt to be a more localized version.

Currently, the amount of students that participate in Stony Brook University’s course evaluations is just under 50 percent. In the past, when evaluations were on paper, the response rate was about 70 percent, Aceves said.

The Faculty Center hopes to keep increasing student involvement by stressing how important students’ voices are to professors, Aceves said.