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04/03/2017

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Michel X.

On (2) and (3): Sure. I know several people in several fields who openly admit to... managing... their RMP pages a bit, especially to counteract negative reviews. In fact, I've witnessed a few people offering to write positive reviews for candidates worried about their extant reviews.

To be honest, I don't think it's terribly wrong to do so. Even less so if you're plugging in real reviews you got. Search committee members should be relying on the complete teaching evaluations you provide them, not the incomplete and uncontextualized reviews you get on RMP.

Amanda

I will also add that there is a way to erase negative reviews, and hence those who actively manage their page would be at an advantage, if search committees actually use this. I don't know why they would, given RMP does not control and make sure a reviewer actually took the class, and there are the real evaluations which do control for that. (I haven't looked at my page in years, as I don't know what I might get out of it other than good feelings I can get from my real reviews, or the temptation to do something unethical and change any bad reviews.)

Very recent hire

My RMP reviews are also on the not-very-good side, but never bothered too much about them. Interestingly, however, when I went to an on-campus interview this year, a search committee member mentioned them --- also very interestingly, on the positive side. (The review emphasized a negative feature which the search committee member regarded as a positive one.)
As this shows, you never know what will influence things and how. I would have never thought of this particular situation.

Amanda

That's a bit discouraging, because it shows committees do look at them and even consider them. Ugh.

Very recent hire

I should add though that the school was a very teaching oriented school.

Anonymous

I have served on multiple search committees and there is one and only one situation in which I have checked RMP and assigned what I found there any weight. That is the situation where a candidate's teaching portfolio seems 'light' on teaching evaluations, such as if the candidate only provides evaluations for one or two courses or when the candidate only provides 'selected student comments.' In cases like these, one may wonder whether the candidate is trying to hide something. But I would not afford RMP any weight in any other cases.

Kristina Meshelski

Amanda, are you suggesting that changing your RMP reviews is unethical?

I have asked RMP over the years to delete two different reviews. One was good, but it insinuated that I undermined the professor I was TAing for, I figured this would look bad if anyone saw that while I was on the job market, so I asked them to remove it and they did, no questions asked. Another review, years later, was simply weird, it complained I didn't give study guides for exams (in a class in which I did in fact do this) so knowing how easy it was to get them to take down reviews I asked for this one to be deleted too.

Now, I have not had cause to do this, but I wouldn't see anything wrong with someone asking RMP to delete ALL their reviews, just because they didn't like them. In fact, I advise anyone on the market to do that, ask RMP to delete anything bad about you. It takes two seconds and they will do it promptly. Why wouldn't you do this? We are certainly under no obligation to make this company's product accurate or useful.

Amanda

I am curious how many applicants choose to include only "selected" student comments? I include all of mine, but form my small circle of friends they only include selected ones.

Amanda

Hi Kristina,

I don't think it's always unethical. But if one asks to remove bad reviews for no good reason, or writes in good reviews completely out of the blue, this does seem to be crossing the ethical line.

I think the latter is wrong because it is dishonest, and the former is wrong because it is stifling free speech. RMP allows professors to respond to reviews, so to simply erase them for one's own good seems akin to yelling over someone and not allowing them to talk simply because you do not like what they have to say.

Amanda

Also, I find it interesting that you said "it takes two seconds." Is this somehow an ethical defense? It does seem a practical one.

Some might come up with a defense similar to athlete's and cheating: if everyone does it, one is unfairly disadvantaging oneself by not doing it. The problem with that defense in this case, is it does nothing to address the free speech issue which is my main ethical concern. Now if one is erasing false and slanderous speech that is different, for there are good arguments that these types of speech ought not to be protected. Non-slanderous speech on private blogs, on the other hand, should be. Of course, RMP is making the ultimate decision, and my guess is they do it because it is easier than dealing with complaining professors and they don't want to risk a lawsuit.

Tim

Amanda: I'm impressed that you manage some sort of ethical viewpoint while on the job market. I gave that up after my first year. Now anything that looks like it might get me ahead is something I'm willing to do without batting an eye.

Very recent hire

I'm with Amanda on this. Giving up your integrity because of the market might not be beneficial on the long term (or if it is, that should not be the deciding factor anyway).

But it seems that overall, the RMP reviews rarely hurt even if bad. Most committee members seem to know how these things work --- that it's students who are either very angry with you or really like you who post comments. They might try to judge your personality based on the reviews, but I would doubt that they will take all of them literally.

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