The previous reviewer is correct about the lack of enthusiasm in our class--which is a pity, since in my opinion Professor Schneider Reich is a stand-out teacher with a talent both for covering the major points of each author in an objective manner and for bringing out their stunning political implications. She is always friendly and willing to meet for a good chunk of time to explain essay comments and to help you understand difficult texts. She once gave me her complete lecture in office hours when I missed a class. It's true that she is an uncompromising discussion leader: her attitude is that these books have real arguments, so she doesn't dole out any particular encouragement to people just to comment, but rather to get it right. Take this class if you don't like your CC as philosophical shooting-the-sh*t, if you want to learn your Smith from your Marx, minus the tangent discussions accessible to you whether or not you bothered to read the book. If you make sure you really understand the arguments of the authors you discuss, she's likely to grade you fairly, and if you go and talk to her before and after assignments, she's likely to help you succeed. This is the kind of CC class that will challenge your abilities as a reader and thinker, and radically change your understanding of the world.
I have many mixed feelings about CC with Suzanne, but overall my experience was pretty negative. It's important to mention, however, that the poor quality of the experience wasn't all her fault. This year she taught a 9-10:50 section of CC that was filled with pre-med sophomores who didn't really care about the texts (me included for part of the semester, but I really did put the effort in to learn and understand the material). So if you really want a good CC experience maybe don't choose the 9-10:50 MW slot unless you can't fit it in any other time due to other classes. Because of this fact, the discussions in class were dry; nobody had read the texts/everyone was always too nervous about mowsh bio and physics to care about CC. As for Suzanne herself, she's a young graduate student and recent mother, which clearly affected her teaching by making her super tired and late to some 9 am classes. She is an incredibly intelligent woman, and she explains the material very well. However, she is not great at making students participate, and the feedback she gives on her assignments is limited/not helpful at all. For the essays she wants "arguments" that are basically regurgitations and comparisons of the authors' different views on particular topics. Not to mention she's a tough grader on the essays, and her only criticism is always that "your sentences aren't clear enough." Because, you know, it's easy to write a clear, concrete philosophy-based essay. My writing has not improved at all from taking this class. Don't expect to get anything above a B or B+ on the essays either...maybe an A- on one of the two or three essays if you're lucky. Her midterms were easy, but very arbitrarily graded with ZERO feedback on what you could have improved on. The final was pretty easy first semester but second semester it consisted of two long free-response essays with prompts that were difficult to work with. Based on her teaching so far, I'm going to guess I'll never know how I did on the final paper and final exam since she never gave feedback on them last semester. The workload itself is pretty average for CC even if Suzanne adds a few extra Middle Eastern readings (she studies the Middle East). This CC class probably would have been better if the students were more engaged, but there's no doubt Suzanne was unhelpful and distant from her students. Sheâ€™s probably just teaching CC because she has to, and she doesn't really care about her students or the subject matter unless weâ€™re talking about the oppressive nature of the West. It's a shame because she's definitely smart, and she has interesting ideas. The way she ran her course was just perfunctory and stress inducingâ€”surprising considering she took CC herself as a Columbia student like ten years ago! Maybe a class with her in her own field of study would be better.
Awful. Overly demanding, and too harsh of a grader. She told my classmate that in the three years she has taught CC that she has only ever given out two A's. Outrageous, especially considering that she went to Columbia College and had to take Contemporary Civilizations herself and should take a second to realize how it is not the priority of most students here. Not to say that effort shouldn't be put forth but her workload (outlined below) is unreasonable. She is not great a facilitating discussion, which can be convenient if you haven't done the reading I suppose. I am still wondering what she did with the allocation that core classes get - we never had any sort of outing with the money or "party" like many Lit Hum and other CC classes do.
Suzanne is soooo nice. She was a TA for Islamic Civilization and she made this class so much easier for me. She made a study guide for the midterm and went over a lot of the stuff we needed to know for the final. She didn't seem to care a lot about participation. She was one of the (few) dedicated TAs in this class since she came to class (even though she was pregnant with twins..aww). Also, it's okay if you didn't read the material, since she went over the main ideas anyway but it's very hard to do well in this class without doing the reading. She handled controversial questions in a wonderful way--she didn't put anyone down and opened it up to the class, saying, "What do we think about this?" She's probably the best TA for the class. TAKE HER!!