By: Nicole Magas, Opinions Editor
We are over the hump of the semester, so to speak, which for most SFU students means it’s time for course selection. As we drag ourselves out of the carnage of midterm season, a new sort of panic sets it. Will the classes you want fill up before you get a seat? Is that last breadth course you need available in the summer? How do you know this one class or professor won’t absolutely murder your GPA?
That said, it is prime time in the semester for SFU memes to be replaced with questions about classes and professors on social media. And I understand it — fear of the unknown can be just as bad as suffering through a semester with a genuinely bad professor. However, social media sites like Facebook and Reddit aren’t the greatest places to go for information on professors or classes. Honestly, outside of asking friends who may have taken the same class, I rely almost exclusively on RateMyProfessors.com.
There are a number of reasons why RateMyProfessors is a superior source of information to social media — take specificity, for example. You can throw dozens of questions into the wind about this-or-that class or Dr. So-and-so and not get any answers. This is because social media users aren’t going to these sites exclusively to answer your questions about professors. (Also apathy, but there’s not much we can do about that.) RateMyProfessors is all about rating professors, period, and it does so with clear and simple criteria that makes information easily understandable.
The structure of the site is another advantage. I often see questions on social media framed in terms of whether or not this-or-that class is difficult. However, questions like these aren’t likely to yield useful results. How a class is taught — even what material is taught in a class — is subject to change depending on which professor is teaching it. Since professors tend to rotate class schedules depending on availability, asking about the difficulty of a class in any given semester from students who have already taken it is going to give a mix of answers. RateMyProfessors, on the other hand, shows students which classes each professor has taught, so they can get the opinions of students who have been in the same situation.
And speaking of students like you, RateMyProfessors allows users to self-report what grades they received in the class. This is important because we’ve all heard a C-average student who spends more time at The Study than actually studying complaining about what awful professors they’ve had. Like, buddy, are they really that bad, or are you just a shitty student? By comparing reported grades to professor reviews, students can take reviews at the extreme ends of the grade bell curve with a grain of salt. Or, they can find reviews with grades that match their own average and read about those students’ experiences.
Finally, let’s talk about anonymity. RateMyProfessors is completely anonymous. On the internet, this always comes with some risk of attracting bad actors, and I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t potentially the case here as well. However, I feel that the anonymity on RateMyProfessors actually helps more than hurts what the site is trying to do. This is because anonymity erases identity, which erases ego. No one is going to get internet points by trashing or exaggerating on RateMyProfessors. If people are salty about a professor, they usually leave their reasons for why. It’s not hard to compare those reviews with others to get a sense of which people are out to get a professor, and which ones genuinely want to leave their feedback.
Of course, RateMyProfessors is only as good as the people who leave reviews, so I encourage everyone to rate their professors at the end of each semester to help fellow students out. But the way I see it, we spend hours filling out bubble sheets of confidential professor feedback in class every semester that students never get to see. RateMyProfessors actually provides a dedicated platform for students to share this valuable information amongst themselves.