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How Reviews on ‘Rate My Professors’ Describe Men and Women Differently

Easy or demanding? Boring or engaging? And what about homework?

The student-evaluation site Rate My Professors contains a huge stockpile of information about what college students think of their instructors. And thanks to a new tool created by a Northeastern University professor, those millions of reviews can be mined to reveal students’ biases about male and female professors.

Benjamin M. Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern, spoke to The New York Times about his interactive tool, which allows users to see how often certain words appear in male and female professors’ reviews, across an array of disciplines.

Chronicle readers will recognize the tool’s creator as the same scholar who devised a graphic that lets users see how often presidents have used certain words in their State of the Union addresses. President Obama led the pack with the most mentions of some college-related words.

On his blog Mr. Schmidt posted some answers to frequently asked questions about the new tool. He wrote that the largest fields were “about 750,000 reviews apiece for female English and male math professors.” And he said the database was “heavy on master’s and community colleges” in the most-represented institutions. The University of Central Florida was at the top of the heap.

Here’s more from the Times about the patterns Mr. Schmidt noticed in the Rate My Professors data:

Mr. Schmidt, who made the chart as part of a project called Bookworm for searching and visualizing large texts, said he was struck by “this spectrum from smart to brilliant to genius, where each one of those is more strongly gendered male than the previous one was.” He was also surprised that relatively few people commented on female professors’ clothing or looks, which he had expected to be the case.

And here are a few examples. Notice how male professors are more often described as “arrogant” …

arrogant

But female professors are more often described as “rude” …

rude

Here are the results for “tenure”:

tenure

Try your own terms here.

 

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