department
human rights

(Human Rights)
Mar 2021

I took the online intensive version of this class, but Professor Widney Brown planned it out and executed it so well that it didn't seem exhaustingly intensive. She is extremely intelligent, well-spoken, kind, understanding, and genuinely the best professor I've had at Columbia. She was new to being a sole professor, but she was very composed and organized. She has an insane amount of experience and pays careful and deliberate attention to the words that she uses, such as refusing to call incarcerated peoples "criminals" because "no one should be reduced to the worst thing they've done in the lowest point in their life." The final paper that we wrote for the class was one on a topic of our own choice, and she made sure to individually meet with all 60 students to give feedback on our drafts and advice. She is a fair grader and is just... amazing. I cannot recommend any class that she teaches enough.

Jan 2021

I really enjoyed this class. Widney is a radical, intelligent, and compassionate person who gives great feedback and facilitates really rich discussion. Widney made sure that the discussion was respectful of all people while challenging us to discuss uncomfortable topics. She helped me to redefine the concept of human rights as I understood it and she has an adorable dog.

Dec 2020

(I took intensive and remote 2020) I would definitely recommend this class! Lots of discussion on a variety of topics, Professor Brown always has fascinating anecdotes and is extremely empathetic, and the class was broken up well into lectures, discussion, and break. The final paper worth 50% of the grade was stressful, but she gave opportunities for feedback and discussion so it wasn't that bad.

Jan 2020

This is for the first semester research methods course for the human rights undergrad thesis. Professor Kowalski was a nightmare. As far as her teaching abilities, they are pretty dismal. I don't think I actually LEARNED a single new thing all semester. She's a very smart person but that does NOT translate to being a good teacher. In terms of helping us craft our thesis proposals and supporting us in the overall thesis process, she was terrible. I cried in class multiple times because every week she tore our work apart, and she was very discouraging when it came to pitching new ideas and trying to reframe our research questions. The whole semester was incredibly frustrating. On top of the struggles with our actual thesis projects, we were expected to read 50+ pages of readings for each class, which we then barely talked about because everyone was so stressed about our theses and just wanted to talk about that. If you're a human rights major considering a thesis, I don't want to discourage you from doing so. But figure out if Kowalski will be leading the research methods course. If so, consider finding another professor whom you actually like who will be able to help you along throughout the semester. I ended up tagging along at the graduate students' human rights research methods course halfway through the semester in addition to attending Kowalski's class because I liked the graduate professor WAY better (and it was the exact same syllabus).

Jun 2019

Professor PoKempner did not make International Human Rights Law an enjoyable class to be in. It was difficult to follow her lecture style and she did not present much of the knowledge we were to know for the assignments in order to complete them properly. Additionally, she was constantly changing the syllabus and leaving class early or being late a few times, and had her husband teach instead of her once. Overall, if you do not have to take this class and actually want to learn, avoid it, and if you do have to take it, take it with a different professor. The human rights core classes at this school are a mess!