Help for picking classes

Ashley Maines

A list of frowning faces was all Staci Miller needed to make up her mind. Faced with the decision to choose which of her registered classes to keep and which to drop, the Harrodsburg sophomore dropped the classes that other students on told her would be the hardest.

Profeval is a Web site that provides information, warnings, recommendations and advice from other Western students. It allows students to foresee if a professor is too hard or expects more than students can or want to give.

Western has over 4,000 evaluations. Students choose a subject area, course number or a professor’s last name and a list of student-posted evaluations appears. Colored faces rate professors: a red face for a poor rating, yellow for OK and green for good.

After clicking on the desired review, the full evaluation is displayed; it consists of the exam content (essay, multiple choice, etc.) and whether there’s a mandatory final, a required textbook, extra credit or required attendance. It also tells the quantity of notes and difficulty level.

In an additional comments box, students write their true opinions of classes. Some are extreme and go as far as to warn against taking a class. Others speak highly of professors:

“(This professor) is a true jackass. He expects you to know everything he knows.”

“Stay away from this class if you know what’s good for your grade point average.”

“This was the easiest class I’ve ever had… I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming! TAKE THIS CLASS!!!”

Many students will not register without first researching others’ opinions on the Web site.

“I use ( every semester to read and post evaluations,” Clay City senior Josh Rager said. “I want to know how teachers teach and if students think classes are worthwhile.”

But not everyone trusts Profeval. Hartford sophomore Sylvia White said she won’t depend on it because she had a bad experience in a class with mostly good evaluations.

Because the standardized evaluations students complete at the end of each semester aren’t available to view, Profeval is seen as a popular alternative.

Miller said she would still rather read the evaluations online.

“People don’t write a lot in the given evaluations,” she said. “Students are more apt to write more nitty-gritty on the Web site.”

Profeval has an abuse/correction report available on each evaluation. If anyone suspects that an evaluation is inaccurate, they can report it. Professors are welcome to correct any abusive reports about their classes, but the Web site states everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Doug Smith, a sociology professor at Western, views the Web site as “comparable to the usual banter about professors.”

“Those usually interested enough to go through the process are students who’ve had bad experiences,” Smith said. “There are generally more negatives than positives.”

For Nasha Karpoukhina, a sophopmore from Mayfield, the opinions make the Web site.

“There is such a wide range of opinions on Profeval,” she said. “Some are bound to be true.”

Reach Ashley Maines at [email protected]