As college students, I assume most of us are relatively well-versed in the art of finding a professor via ratemyprofessor.com. For those unfamiliar with the site, Rate My Professor is a database of most college professors where students anonymously rate them on a variety of criteria. Unsurprisingly, most of the ratings have to do with grading or the mechanics of how the class is run—level of difficulty, whether or not you would take it again, textbook use, attendance and if the class was taken for credit.
In addition to all of these rating criteria, there’s a “hotness” option.
When you initially look at a professor’s profile on Rate My Professor, it appears as a chili pepper icon. If the chili pepper is red, that indicates the teacher is hot, whereas if the icon is grey, it indicates that the teacher is either unattractive or that no one has chosen to comment.
Most professors aren’t exactly thrilled about this rating option. Apart from being an extremely partial opinion, it is the general opinion that it doesn’t have anything to do with the course. Nevertheless, it can still influence students who are perusing the Rate My Professor site for their potential new professor.
“It is not only irrelevant but also a very subjective opinion. What one finds easy might be really difficult for another,” said UH professor Tanja Hellman.
This was unsurprising as it was the opinion I expected to hear. Furthermore, it’s true. Students’ preferred learning styles vary greatly; while some may prefer lectures, others may prefer small, interactive environments. I find this especially problematic on Rate My Professor when ratings don’t include a comments section. Many of the comments have contrasting opinions and it is my belief that the comment section is crucial if the ratings are to be helpful.
As to Hellman’s opinion on the chili pepper, she stated that it is “irrelevant and very problematic.”
From what I have gathered, the main complaint among professors is the chili pepper’s importance. Why would a student need to know how attractive a teacher is when enrolling in a course? In what way would a professor’s attractiveness affect their ability to teach a subject, or the students’ ability to learn?
On the other hand, some professors seem to be impartial on the topic.
“I personally don’t put much thought into it,” said UH professor Kenneth Abbott, who also happens to be the second most-rated University of Houston professor on Rate My Professor.
While Abbott states that some of his colleagues in the past have been uncomfortable with the fact that there even is a chili pepper option on the site, and mentions that he believes the site should remove that option, he doesn’t let it bother him personally.
Moreover, Abbott goes on to mention that he thinks the site gives the students a chance to make a more informed decision about which professors they take.
Abbott goes on to say that “overly vague and subjective comments on the site like, ‘easy’, ‘hard’, or ‘boring'” are not very helpful. As mentioned before, the ratings that deserve the most merit are those that include a comment section with insightful knowledge into the class and the professor’s teaching style.
Overall, Rate My Professor is a controversial topic amongst professors. While some acknowledge the site’s purpose, others would feel more comfortable with students blindly going into a course or simply asking their peers. As for me, I always consult with Rate My Professor before enrolling in a class. It is my belief that it is an essential tool for any college student, especially those trying to balance other priorities and coursework simultaneously.
Both Hellman and Abbott have earned bright red chili peppers in their profiles.