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What’s with the Professors Here?

Congratulations! You’re at Columbia! Now brace yourself for a deluge of substandard teaching practices.

But seriously, what does it take to get some quality education around here? As a senior, I have taken way too many classes where either I or the TA end up teaching me how to pass the test. What’s the point in having a professor if he or she is not going to teach us anything?

Change We Can Believe In

I don’t need technology in my lectures. I know everyone’s excited about bringing Powerpoints and videos into the classroom (my high school was obsessed with SmartBoards), but have you ever taken a Gulati class? The man is brilliant with a chalkboard.

Anyways, if there is technology in a lecture, I demand a copy. Because a) it’s easier to annotate a lecture that’s already written out than copy the whole thing over again, and b) it’s like showing a kid candy and saying you can’t have any.

Post the lectures. Online. Ahead of time. Please and thank you.

Regardless of whether a class has a chalkboard, whiteboard, or Powerpoint, I need my lectures to be organized. I want you to lay out a framework, and talk about each point, in order. I do not need you to skip around, or zoom ahead so fast that no one has a chance to write anything down.

This is not conducive to learning, and it makes the whole room hate you.

Finally, let’s talk about style – public speaking skills and such. Here’s a few don’ts: do not interrupt yourself mid-sentence right when you’re coming to your point. Do not mumble in a way that makes you impossible to understand. And for the love of God, do not speak in a monotone for 2 hours.

Conspiracy Theories

It’s rumored that professors have literally no incentive to teach (other than with grade inflation). That is, tenure at Columbia depends almost exclusively on things other than teaching – we’re assuming this is published research and/or papers. If you win the Nobel Prize, you get tenure. If you have a gold nugget on CULPA, no one cares.

In this kind of system, do the student evaluations even mean anything? Furthermore, do students even mean anything? Or are classes just seen as a necessary evil on the way to a pinnacle of academia? Food for thought.

Moving on, let’s talk hypotheticals. Maybe this is all some dastardly plan to force us to teach ourselves. I mean, if you have to learn it on your own (or risk failing), then maybe students learn it better. Maybe this is supposed to teach us independence, working in ambiguity, and all of those middle school goals we were supposed to achieve.

Maybe professors think that, by handing us things, like clear formulas and logical explanations, they’re making it too easy on us. After all, we are Columbia. We’re one of the best schools in the country – maybe dealing with nonsensical lectures is how we got there.

Maybe not.

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