I don’t know about other students here at the University of Tampa, but the first thing I do after choosing my classes for a specific semester is look up each of my professors on RateMyProfessors.com. Nobody wants to be stuck with a boring or downright mean professor for an entire semester, am I right? Well, a recent study showed that the results on this site may be skewed by gender.
Recently, Benjamin Schmidt, a history professor at Northeastern University in Massachusetts, created a chart that uses data from 14 million student reviews on the Rate My Professor website, according to The Tampa Bay Times. The object of the chart is simple: there is a space where you can type in words like helpful or boring, and the chart will show you how often that word has been used per million words of text. It is also broken down by gender and department. The list of departments is listed down the left side of the chart and colored dots represent the two genders male (blue dots) and female (orange dots). I went on to test it out, and I was quite surprised.
The first word I typed in the box was “funny.” I hit enter, and the chart shifted right there in front of me showing the results. Almost every single blue dot in all departments beat out the orange ones. The male psychology professor received the highest rating while the female engineering professor received the lowest only being used 200 times per million words of text.
Next, I typed “bossy.” Female professors had the males beat on this one. It recorded that the word bossy was used 2,000 times per million words of text when referring to female computer science professors. It was only used about 900 times when referring to male history professors. I looked up a few other words, and it was clear that male professors were clearly thought to be more “brilliant” than female professors.
The chart also showed that the majority of reviews containing comments based on looks were about female professors rather than male professors. Results like that are disappointing, but I am not surprised. Women in the workplace have been treated with bias for a long time now. Clearly, the equality of males and females is still an issue. Because women and men have been treated unequally for so long, feminists are having to change the way people think about men and women. According to this chart, when a female professor walks into a classroom, the first thing going through most students’ heads concerns her looks and not her credentials. I find that to be quite disturbing.
RateMyProfessors.com bills itself as the largest professor-rating website. Users have added more than 15 million ratings, 1.4 million professors, and over 7,000 schools to the site. The user-generated content on the site makes it the highest trafficked site for researching and rating professors, colleges and universities across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Each month, more than 4 million students use the site.
Having a good professor can be vital to succeeding in a class. I have dropped classes based solely on the fact that I did not care for the professor or his or her teaching style. On RateMyProfessors.com, students can choose from a five being the highest rating to a one being the lowest rating. Overall, UT has received a rating of 3.8 on parameters such as Internet access, social life, food, library, campus, etc. We are rated highest for our beautiful campus, which received a 4.4. Our overall professor rating is a 3.78. Our top three professors are Kristen Foltz and Kelly Callahan from the speech department, and Lisa Suter, formerly of the English department.
The process of rating a professor is anonymous and simple. The professor’s overall quality is determined by averaging their received rating for helpfulness and clarity. Other things such as easiness, interest level, textbook use, professor hotness, and average grade can be given a rating as well, but they do not factor into the overall quality rating of the professor. If a professor is rated as good looking a hot pepper will appear next to their name.
It is important to note that RateMyProfessors.com is in no way at fault for these bias ratings as proven by Shmidt’s chart. That is a problem that exists within society today. A study done by fortune.com in February showed similar results: 248 reviews of the employees’ overall performance in their position within the specific company were collected from 180 people. Men made up 105 of the reviewers, and 75 were women. Of the 248 reviews, 71 percent contained constructive feedback. The reviews for women received more negative feedback: 87.9 percent vs. 58.9 percent of men’s. It was also noted by fortune.com that the gender of the manager giving the review did not matter when it came to the results.
When is it going to stop? There is no way the majority of those women were horrible at their jobs and the majority of the men were awesome and didn’t need to fix anything. Looking at the results of that study just makes me — and I hope, many others — want to seek change.
Caitlin Malone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.