Frequently Asked Questions
Which professors should I review?
Really, any honest and thorough review of a professor who you've taken is a help to the site and its user base. But if you want to help as much as possible, do the following:
- Search on our site for all of your recent professors.
- If any don't turn up in your searches, review THEM first: this will be a great help to those who can't find any information about a professor.
- Next, review those professors who haven't been reviewed in the past year. This confirms (or disconfirms, if you disagree with previous reviews) for people looking to find out about those professors that they still teach roughly how reviews have described them in the past.
- Finally, review anyone and everyone else
The bottom line is that we want you to review ALL of your professors. Your classmates don't just want to hear about the professors you hated. They don't just want to hear about the professors you loved. They want to hear about ALL of your professors. Please review them all. Thanks.
CULPA never updates! Why not?
We'd like to say, once and for all, that we update all the time! We get submissions all year and we approve them as fast as we can. It may seem that CULPA never updates because your favorite professor hasn't had a new review for a semester. But there are a couple of factors behind this. First of all, as many reviews as we get, there are in fact thousands of professors at Columbia. As things stand, it's not surprising that not every professor gets a new review every semester. And while it could be different if more people submitted more reviews, we think it's unreasonable to blame CULPA for the fact that we all face this rather unfortunate but strangely familiar dilemma. Only you and your fellow classmates can help to augment the review base you find here. Secondly, many people come to CULPA intending to review a professor, but when they get to the professor's page and read the existing reviews, they think "well, that's pretty much dead on. I guess I don't need to write a review." On the one hand, this response is great because it means you, the students have done your job well, and the reviews reflect the truth. However, on the other hand we would like to emphasize that this is precisely the opposite of the response we want from you. It's completely acceptable review a professor even if you don't have much new to add. In fact, it's great! You can reinforce the existing message by adding your unique voice to the mix, even if the content of your review isn't radically different from the existing reviews. As an added bonus, you can implicitly let your classmates know that people still feel currently the way they have in the past about the professor in question.
If the class was really good or really bad, can't I just say so? Isn't that enough information for CULPA readers?
Please, when reviewing your professors, include lots about what the class was like-- not just your thoughts of it or of the professor. It's easy enough for people to understand from what objective information you give about your experience in a professor's class what you thought of them, so make sure to go ''beyond'' your summary evaluation of your teachers. Tell us what class was like day to day. Tell us how it has compared to the other classes you've taken at Columbia. Tell us, if the course was in a subject in which you're specializing, how it compares to other classes in the field. The concept is not a very complicated one: do more than tell us "This professor was amazing!" or "AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!" Such vacuous comments will help no one. And if you're going to leave it at something like that, other students will (and certainly should!) know to read your comments with a grain of salt... it will be obvious you've got bones to pick, whether over grades or some other issue.
Why is it taking so long for my review to show up on the website?
Chances are that we just haven't gotten round to approving it yet. Hey -- we're students too-- we've got classes and all that jazz. Plus, there are only a few of us. If we haven't posted it after two weeks (or more during peak periods), try writing to us about it. We don't bite. Promise.
Does CULPA censor?
First and foremost, CULPA will remove any reviews deemed libelous. "Libel" is a piece of writing that contains malicious and false things about a person, with the intention of damaging that person's reputation. Also, libel isn't just limited to defaming the instructor -- comments about other CULPA reviewers that cannot be substantiated will also be removed. So basically, "if something isn't true, don't write it". We will also remove (or simply not make public) any reviews deemed (at our sole discretion) misleading. Some examples of misleading reviews include, but are not limited to, multiple reviews of one instructor written by the same student, as well as reviews which are not written by students. We do not publish racist or sexist comments, nor excessive foul language; if you notice that we've let slip anything of the sort, please let us know using the "Contact" link at the top of the page or the "[Comment/Complaint]" link which can be found under every review on the website. Finally, for a variety of reasons we aim to remove reviews of any professor who is no longer at Columbia.
In short: any review which you submit on the CULPA website becomes the sole property of CULPA, and while we will make every effort to preserve the message of every review (indeed, with the vast majority of reviews, we simply do not touch them), we reserve the right to make whatever changes we deem relevant, as well as to make public or take offline any review at our sole discretion.
I'm an instructor who's been reviewed, and some of the things in the review are false!
Please email us about it. Include your full name, the text of the review and the offending statements, so that we can track down the review in question and remove the offending text as soon as possible. We read through every review that gets submitted and do our best to ensure that there isn't anything libelous in them. If we have erred, we can fix things if you simply e-mail us and tell us in a detailed manner what the problem is. However, we're only human -- so please do tell us if we've overlooked something.
Please note: the views expressed in the reviews on this website are those of submitters themselves, NOT of the administrators of CULPA. As a result, if you wish to contact us about removing something false which has been written about you, you should absolutely feel free to, and we will gladly take seriously whatever you have to say, but as the reviews are not expressing the views of the administrators, we are not to be held liable for them.
I took offense at one of the reviews on this site...
E-mail us and let us know which review you're talking about, and tell us why you found it offensive.
Does CULPA accept reviews of TAs and Grad Students?
Yes, we most certainly do. All you have to do is mark the "TA" checkbox when submitting your review. The only thing we have issues with is incorporating the words 'TA' and 'Grad Student' into the 'CULPA' acronym, because then we'd be 'CULPTAGSA', which sounds seriously uncool.
Is there a way to list ONLY the classes offered this semester?
Not at the moment. But we're constantly working to improve the site, so let us know if you've got any other suggestions.
Why don't you guys have a list of the classes that are easy 'A's?
That's just not what we're about.
How do you decide which instructors are 'Gold Nuggets' / on the 'Recommended List' for a department?
We've got a pretty complicated, super-secret algorithm which computes it for us-- we don't decide directly. It's not perfect, either, so you should be sure to give each and every professor careful consideration. Take everything you read and see here (and, heck, everywhere in life, we think is probably wise) with a grain of salt.
But reading is haaard... can't you just tell me with a few numerical ratings or a big ordered list who the best/easiest professors are?
First of all, we don't accept your premise. Who gets to say what a better professor is like, or what an easier professor is like? Sure, you can start to give some criteria which may or may not be of actual value, but there you're making value judgments already, and we prefer to minimize that on our end. We want just to provide the information judged most pertinent by the students themselves, and keep out of big hairy questions like sufficient conditions for greatness in professors.
Further, even if we were did believe that numerical rating of professors was possible, there are a variety of reasons why we wouldn't do this. Some of them may be self-evident, and we're not even sure we could enumerate them all if we tried, but one of the central ones is that we are simply highly skeptical of the possibility that a professor's abilities can be summarily judged with sufficient accuracy on a single (or even several) numerical scales. And we don't trust that (all of) you will read any accompanying text, if it exists in such a system. Or that as many people will write thorough reviews (or, perhaps, anything at all) if given the option to grade their professors on simple ordinal scales. The information one gets from reading the accounts of one's fellow students is, in the humble opinion of CULPA's administrators, who have most honestly reflected a great deal on such matters, much more likely to provide one with a more accurate picture.
Why does CULPA exist?
Ouch. No, just kidding: it's a good question.
Before CULPA, there was really no efficient way to find out about your potential classes for the next semester. You could ask friends in your major who had taken other courses--in which case you could get opinions on at most one professor per class. You could ask professors for their opinions on their colleagues' teaching styles-- but the help you could get there would be, as you can probably figure, questionably reliable at best. Where else could you go? The economics department publishes the occasional aggregated results of their end-of-semester evaluations. Hmm... still not so helpful. How much can a few numbers tell you, anyway?
The bottom line is that there's really not much else help out there. CULPA was founded to give students an opportunity to speak their minds, and to share the wisdom that they have gleaned from the precious time they've spent in classrooms ahead of you-- and for you to do the same for others. On top of that, we want all students to be able to share about their experiences candidly; only the anonymity available here allows for such frankness. On CULPA, students don't have to worry about the possible repercussions of speaking their minds. Of course, we encourage everyone writing reviews to be as objective as possible, but ultimately we believe that the freely shared information available only in a space where experiences can be shared anonymously is the best way to make ''you'' the student the most informed you can be when choosing your classes each semester.
How can CULPA reviews tell us anything, since opinions are subjective?
Good point. Several of the PhDs at Columbia have hit upon the idea that opinions are not facts. We don't dispute this. Even facts aren't what they used to be. But it still seems a step up from the system which has been in place until now -- nothing.
Who pays for CULPA?
Principally, Google Ads. However, those alone don't cover the cost of hosting CULPA, especially during the semester when our traffic is low (but our expenses stay the same). Whatever we can't cover with ads we have to cover out of pocket. If you have a couple of spare bucks and you can't live without CULPA, think about tossing them our way.
What is the Oracle?
For the last few years, we've been slowly compiling all of the information in the official course directory. And we noticed something interesting: professors tend to teach at the same time, year after year. In other words, a little information about the past can tell you a lot about future sections. This isn't very useful for most courses, but you can probably already guess one place it might really come in handy... CORE courses. With that in mind, we're introducing predictions about who will teach which CORE sections in the semester to come.
The "Professor" and "Time" columns should be self explanatory; the "sections" column lists the section numbers that were associated with that time slot last semester and they conveniently link to the official course directory. The "∗" column is where the magic happens — that's our confidence that the listed professor will teach the given time slot.
WARNING: the Oracle is still a baby and we haven't had a chance to test her predictions in the real world. They may be excellent, they may be mediocre, and they may be very poor indeed. We'd rather she grew up to be Joseph than Teiresias, but it's going to take some fine-tuning before that happens.