Hot for Teacher

Students rate profs online—and vice versa

It seems as if a tool with the capability to shift the professor-student campus power dynamic has been crafted. In Wisconsin, a derogatory profile of Madison's chancellor showed up on facebook.com; the outraged administration threw punches, but only after the profile had become a hit with students. Rate My Professors gets similar reactions from doctorate holders who are used to expecting their students to only speak when called on and refer to elders by their titles.

One such professor (let's call him Stuart Fairbanks) was shocked upon his first visit to RMP to find his penchant for 7-Up and lasagna discussed at length. "Hardly useful information for future students, unless of course it was a map to my heart," says Fairbanks, a tenured professor from a small liberal-arts college in the South.

He admits to checking his listing occasionally for chile peppers, but also became infuriated recently after "one well-intentioned and sweet faculty member was slammed countless times by the football team, a group who posted a wide variety of homophobic rants.

"I don't hesitate to say that RMP's anonymity, and their casual attitude toward hateful remarks, has in part ruined this guy's life," Fairbanks explains via e-mail. In general, he says, over his past two decades teaching, he's seen student entitlement go "way up." So he started a parody site, rateyourstudents.blogspot.com.

Consisting of essay-style submissions from professors across the country, the site doesn't identify students by name; instead, it uses initials or vague descriptions ("jock in the back row"). Thus Fairbanks's site avoids some of the heat RMP takes from professors with negative—or too steamy—ratings.

"We get slander threats every day from professors, but we step in and read flagged ratings every day too," says Nagle, explaining the site's self-policing policy. "We've never had a serious legal issue."

Just wait until Dershowitz logs on.

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