Introduction to Human Rights

May 2013

I loved this course although never did any of the readings... because they are not incorporated into his lectures at all, he does not test you on the material. That being said, you MUST go to the lectures because a lot of the short answers he asks on the midterm and final are word for word quotes from what he said in class. By taking decent notes you will do well in this class. The 2 exploration papers I thought were great, no vague poli-sci intro theoretical question, you get to chose exactly what you want to write about. I chose Srebrenica for my first paper, a pretty obvious topic, and got a B+ even though I thought it was a good paper. For the 2nd one I chose the Omar Khadr case (a canadian afghan minor detained in guantanamo and tortured for being accused of working as a terrorist) which was more obscure and also current events got me which got me an A (I think because they hadnt read it 5000 times unlike my first paper). The exams are decent, I went to most of the TA sessions which were really helpful and interesting, but I basically got all my knowledge from the lectures. This class made me want to become a human rights major actually. TAKE IT! You will definitely enjoy it and it isn`t a lot of work, trust.

Dec 2008

Andrew Nathan is by all means a genius. He is a renown scholar in both political science and human rights, with an emphasis on China. However, these classes do not match the enthusiasm surrounding him. While he has many interesting and insightful points to make in class, his lectures are largely disorganized. He does not use slides, and instead, allows for a seeming oral free-for-fall, touching on any topics that seem to come to mind as they concern the topic of the day. As should be expected, he is enlightening, but again, only to a certain extent in his capacity as professor for this class. Form a group and share notes; there is no way any one person can gather all his says in one sitting. On another note, Nathan is amazingly personable. Given his level of domestic and international fame as a scholar, he is nonetheless willing to meet for more than a half hour for first-year undergraduates. If you don't like a grade a TA gives you, he will meet with you to talk it over. And if he finds your arguments legitimate, he will change the grade for you -- that simple! In the end, I would definitely suggest this class. Just do not get your hopes TOO high. He deserves praise, but his mainly disorganized lectures are often a drag.

May 2007

The lectures in this class were split by Tonya and Jack Snyder. Tonya clearly had trouble lecturing which made for terrible lectures and made you enjoy the days when she wouldnt lead the class. Although she seemed uncomfortable away from her notes, studders, and sometimes slipped up and gave wrong information, she's a nice and smart woman.

Apr 2007

In a word: frustrating. She's obviously very smart ? she has a JD from Harvard and a PhD from Stanford and has done a bunch of interesting research. But this does not make her a good lecturer. I found her to be very unorganized, and her lectures scattered. She talked quickly, and it was hard to take down what she was saying and know what the important points of her lecture were (there were no powerpoints). Many times I felt like it was pointless to go to class because I knew I wouldn't take many notes since she was hard to follow, and the time would probably be better spent reading the zillions of articles. If she had given us some sort of outline before her lectures, or highlighted the important points, I probably would have gotten more out of what she was saying. Fortunately, she co-taught this class with Jack Snyder, who was much easier to follow and seemed to know his stuff a bit more (understandably so, because he's been in the polysci world much longer). But if she had been the only professor, I don't think I would have made it through the semester. Good class material-wise, but I would definitely not take another one with her.

Apr 2007

Ugh. I genuinely feel bad for writing a bad review, because Professor Putnam seems to be a smart, well-educated and nice person. However, she is the worst lecturer I have ever encountered. Her lectures are totally unorganized and she cannot even get coherent thoughts across most of the time. She often loses her place and every other word is "ummm..." or "ok....". This class had such potential, but it was often painful to come to class and the workload was INSANE for an intro class. If you want your life to be ruined by the crazy expectations and amounts of reading, by all means take this class.

Apr 2007

Professor Putnam's lectures are so unorganized that her information does not bridge the spatial gap between her lips and the students' ears. Please do not judge Poli-Sci based on this class. A fundamental characteristic of Political Science is that it is an organized and structured method of making sense of world events, and Professor Putnam's ramblings do not do the field justice. Her heart is good but for God's Sake please learn how to write an outline! How can one justify demanding organized and well-written essays from her students' when the very lectures that she provides fail in this very task?

Sep 2006

There is some good to say about this class, but not much. I did not go to class after the first two or three weeks. I soon realized I might die of boredom if I continued to go, and since he wasn't actually saying anything, it didn't really matter anyway. I did not do the readings. I should have, I know, but they were copious and somewhat intimidating. And I did not go to discussion sections. How could I without doing readings or going to lecture? Anyway, the good is that somehow, without ever having taken a class in human rights before, I managed to pull off an A-. So if you're looking to get an A for under 10 hours of work during the whole semester, take this class.

Mar 2006

Everyone here has done a pretty good job at explaining Nathan. He's fairly nice, just a little arrogant and doesn't really know how to teach. Assumes that you have a lot of knowledge about political theory that you may not have -- I for example am majoring in human rights but NOT polisci, so had no previous political theory knowledge (not to mention that it's supposed to be an intro course). I am now taking the Barnard colloquium, taught by Peter Juviler, "Human Rights in a Diverse World," which has essentially the same syllabus, except I'm actually learning stuff this time. So my advice is: If you're a polisci major, don't take this class to fill a requirement, find something else. If you're a Barnard student who wants to take this to fill a 9 ways of knowing requirement, I guarantee there are better courses you can find to fill it. And if you're a human rights major and think there is no way around it, you may or may not be right. I'm not sure about Columbia students, but I know Barnard students who avoided taking it by taking the colloquium (taught by Juviler) first and then claiming that they didn't need to take the intro class cuz it would be pointless. It's a small and new department so things like this are easy to get around. My point is, unless you think there is absolutely no way around it, don't take this class. It's not awful, just a complete waste of time and -- especially if you're going to take more human rights classes in the future. Oh -- if you do take it, my one piece of advice is to go to class during the guest lectures. There are a fair amount of these and almost all of them were amazing. It was just Nathan that sucked.

Dec 2005

Overall this was a pretty good class - the lectures are usually engaging, and the readings (when I did them) were great. It's generally not too hard, although if you get Nathan himself and not one of the TA's grading your papers, you'll be graded pretty harshly. He's an interesting guy - and the lunches that he invites students to (randomly) are awesome - definetely go if you get the chance.

Jan 2005

If you want a class filled with hippy, yet dumb students and reading that is far from necessary take this class. Prof. Nathan is a big name in his field and you can tell he knows tons about the material. However, the class is full of guest lectures that mostly tell you of their personal experiences and fail to actually teach the class human rights concepts. The workload is minimal and I know so many people that never showed up to class and did fine.

Jan 2005

the subject matter is very interesting, and there were many interesting readings, unfortunately it seemed to be somewhat meaningless. every week they'd ask how many people had done the readings and five people would raise their hand. professor nathan's lectures werent that interesting, however it was co-taught by prof. celermajer and her lectures were somewhat better. all in all, not a hellish class but not an amazing one either.

Jan 2005

Prof. Nathans and dany definitely know their stuff. However I must admit that the class was really boring. You can do really well in the class without reading all the materials. For the essays, you can write about anything. If you want an easy class to take, this is it!

Nov 2004

Nathan is a great professor, if a bit disorganized. He's totally approachable, flexible and an overall nice guy. This class will get you aquainted with the basics of international law and give you a good sense of the human rights regime. The other lecturer who teaches with Nathan, Danny Calermajor is also excellent, and they play off eachother very well. With the addition of some very interesting guest lecturers, the class (on a subject which can be dry at times) maintains an interesting dynamic. Very worth it, will make you consider a combined major in Human Rights.

Jan 2004

This is a good class to get you acquainted with the study of human rights. Nathan is approachable and fair, and his lectures are engaging enough. The class isn't hard, but there's a lot you can learn if you choose to do the readings, and it's not a big deal if you choose not to.

Jan 2004

I'll have to disagree with the last review. Yes, Nathan is a little incompetant and disorganized at times, but amusing at the least. Nevertheless, his lectures weren't all that bad. The class is interesting lectures (including Nathan's) were interesting as well. I would reccomend this class.

Dec 2003

This is the second year the course has been given, and this syllabus provided a variety of class experiences. There were lectures twice a week, including many guest lecturers successful in the field. There is a lot of student participation compared to most introductory courses, with discussion in the lecture, some times more than others, and there was a weekly discussion group for each TA (3 of them), not obligatory, but interesting, helpful, and fun. Profs. Nathan and Hertel both provided 2-hour office hours, as well as TAs. There is support from the TAs, profs and the human rights undergraduate staff if you want to take advantage of it. The core of human rights, we learn, is respecting human dignity, which is pretty much repeated in all major human rights documents, Prof. Nathan is an extraordinary professor, he likes to teach and to encourage students, and he started this course, and without him, none of the other political science TAs, who were immensely popular assisting him in this class, and Prof. Hertel, who just obtained her PhD here, would have had an opportunity to show themselves to us. A final point made about the class by a TA was that she hoped students should take away a sense of what human rights are and how they can add to that debate with their own concerns about rights. For that reason alone, It is a very worthwhile class, providing a really rare and desirable academic foundation.

Dec 2003

In response to the previous review about the Fall 2003 course with Prof. Nathan and Shareen Hertel, it was unfair and not in the spirit of the class. Prof. Nathan made the point that in fact, when the UDHR was written, people with handicaps tried to play them down, including the president, and the first drafter. It's a historical perspective. The student in referring to the first drafter who wrote it with only one arm seemed to be referring to the idea that because the first drafter was handicapped, he would naturally include consideration for that. The TAs along with the professors set a great example of freedom of speech and opinion, and sometimes even entertained us with their differing points of view on topics. Students are free to express themselves in class and discussions. It is not appropriate to sound off with pet peeves that the previous critic has, that should, in reality, have been thrashed out first with the students and/or profs in class or groups. The judgments are just as stupid as the projection upon the professor, who is brilliant, kind and friendly. A good class.

Nov 2003

AWESOME PROFESSOR-AWESOME CLASS!! seriously one of the most interesting classes I have ever taken at columbia. shareen is the nicest person i know. she writes e-mails after class to give extra input, is always open to talk to about anything, loves her job and teaching and is the most supportive prof I know. take this class..the reading is really interesting and guest lecturers come in every other week from the UN, Amnesty, the law school etc. plus i would say it can be an easy a..two take-home examinations and 2 short papers-absolutely doable...

Apr 2003

Horrendous lecturer who I am doubting whether actually wrote the Tianmenan Papers. Nathan is kept on since he is a beautiful writer. However, as a professor, he failed to provide examples to back up his lectures, if he actually remembered what he was talking about. At the least the TA knows the topic well

Jan 2003

This class had the potential to be very interesting...unfortunately, Nathan killed it. There was a lot of reading (some of it actually interesting) which turned out to be completely unnecessary. The lectures wandered and were incredibly boring. Most of the class didn't come, and those who did were often doing other work.

Nov 2002

At first, I was really excited about this class. Then the novelty or something wore off, and i realized how disorganized and almost not fair this class is. the readings are great, but class is part summary of the readings, part Nathan's random thoughts. Class was disorganized, and Nathan always explained the papers after we handed them in. the best part of class was when he had guest lecturers come in. if i had to do it over again, i wouldn't have taken this class.

Apr 2002

I am in Prof. Juviler's Colloquia now, and though it is interesting, I wish there was more of a structure. But, if you know Juviler, you'll realize that he can get long-winded and that a strict schedule takes second place to open discussion. I'm not complaining at all-- i had such an easier time with this colloquia than my friends taking Pious' (who scares the crap out of me)-- but now that it's the last week of classes and only now am i doing my paper, i wish i had more guidance. to juviler's credit- he is the most caring professor you will ever meet. he truly cares about his students, even if he mispronounces your name on a daily basis. he is very accessible, and is incredibly intelligent. as long as you have patience with him-- he isn't quite the spring chicken anymore-- you can be rewarded for your experience in his class.

Jan 2002

This class REALLY dissappointed me. It was all very theoretical and never really got into the application of human rights. Juviler's lectures are hard to follow (even with his lecture notes in front of you) and don't seem to go anywhere. He could have done a lot with the class, but it just ended up lacking. TA Danny Celermeyer (or something like that) lectured once and seemed far more qualified to be teaching the class. Lecture once a week, mandatory discussion section once a week (different readings).

Jan 2002

Professor Juviler is one of the most knowledgeable professors I've had. His lectures are very interesting and informative, however only remotely related to the required readings. Discussion sections with the TA's. Exams: two midterm papers, and a take-home final. The exam topics are pretty incomprehensible at first sight, but actually not too difficult to manage provided you have read each and every piece of the reading material. A piece of advice: don't take this course before you have taken the basic intro courses in poli sci. Simply don't be mislead by the "intro" title of the course; it is anything but at an introductory level.