Earlier this week, Columbia opened registration for two classes through Coursera, an online education startup. Like LeBron's championship season, the occasion was nothing short of miraculous. I'd always thought of Columbia as rigid and traditional in its approach to education. I was, gladly, mistaken. So, while there's still a dialogue about Columbia's approach to education, here's another bold idea for Columbia, borrowed from U.C. Berkeley (go Bears!). Let students teach elective courses.more About two years ago, when I was a news reporter, I covered a push from some students to launch a pilot program for student-initiated courses. The initiative, started by the handsome Isaac Lara, CC '11, was modeled off of Berkeley's DeCal program where students---with the approval of a faculty member---could teach one-point elective classes offered Pass/Fail ranging from 20th century dictators to Rubik's cube solving to the chemistry of cooking. The program had tremendous interest from faculty members, and 85 percent of respondents to a poll CCSC sent out expressed interest, yet the pilot program never launched. What happened? I came to Columbia with the expectation that I would receive an education I would be unable to receive for free. My expectation has been somewhat fulfilled with lively seminars like Humanoid Robotics, yet somewhat unmet with classes like Intro to Physics, which quite frankly, are a waste of my tuition. Student-initiated classes would help achieve that expectation. You get that experience of interacting in a small class setting. You get more course variety. You get to learn and interact with some of the smartest students in the country. If you're brave, you get the unique opportunity of actually teaching a class and with working with faculty. You get, in short, every advantage a private school, ironically, is supposed to have over a public school. Coursera makes the world-class education accessible to the 93 percent that don't get into Columbia (which is great!). Student-initiated classes would add another facet of what defines a world-class education. Mikey Zhong is a Spectrum opinion blogger and former Spectrum Editor. Full disclosure: he's absolutely obsessed with Cal, the center of the universe....
Why write when you can draw?
While glancing through Spec's list of 116 traditions, I paused at tradition #42 "Change your major. Twice.", thinking "is that actually a tradition?" So, like absolutely every Columbian's reaction when their prof. asks a question about David Hume, I mused over that thought for hours, asking and answering my own questions. And here---with the help of a few friends---is what I came up with on the topic. Do many Columbians change their majors? Well, yes. Why? Here are three common reasons. Case 1: Student X had dreams of saving the world. Student X realized saving the world meant uncertainty, hard work, and less pay. Student X gave up. A friend aptly put that changing one's major wasn't a tradition at Columbia, it was selling out on one's dream of saving the world (more on this later). Case 2 (Version 1): Class "blah blah blah" kicked my butt (typically Orgo). I now hate *insert major* (typically Chem). As Spec's residential SEAS kid, I've seen this one happen a lot. For Econ, I'd say that class is Micro with Elmes, for Chem it's definitely Orgo, for Comp Sci it's when you have to learn ugh, theory and pointers and stuff, ew.more Case 2 (Version 2): I hate major "blah" (...Econ), and I love major "blah blah" (...English), but I gotta make some dough when I graduate, so I'm gonna try and stick with "blah." I've never known anyone to successfully stick through Hated Major the entire way... Case 2 (Version 1) and the fact that people typically suck at majors they hate are usually enough to convince said person that 1) money is the root of all evil and as a sequitur 2) Goldman Sachs is the devil (there goes another job opportunity). Case 3: Student enters the 116th St. gates with no clue what he/she wants to do. Two years later, said student is still clueless. I'll blame the Core for this one (yeah, yeah, Columbia heresy, sorry 'bout that). As a CC freshman, you'll take 8-10 courses. Of those 8-10, around 4-6 of them (Lit Hum x2, FroSci, UWriting, and probably either the language, science, or Global Core requirement) are booked, leaving not a lot of time to figure out that major thing. The blue brochures advertise the Core as a way to explore what you want to do, but it's the opposite (for the record, I'm hugely pro Core). So in short, there are many reasons people change their majors, duh. So back to the question: is changing your major a Columbian tradition? It happens a lot at Columbia, but is changing majors distinctly Columbian? Clearly, major hopping happens a lot at other colleges, but it's still distinctly Columbian because of the reasons people change. Even though the above three reasons are common anywhere else, they each have their own Columbia flavor to it. We're busier than most students fulfilling our Core requirements, it's distinctively Columbian to have that save-the-world mentality that influences our choices of majors. And Columbia's proximity to Wall Street/a host of other incredible opportunities makes selling out on that dream just that much more tempting. So...boring but right answer: changing your major is sooo Columbian. Mikey Zhong is a Spectrum opinion blogger and former Spectrum Editor. He's changed majors once, and for none of the reasons above. He's also looking for a job, preferably in Seattle where trout are cheap....