Douglas Chalmers

Jan 2011

I was only able to take the fall semester with Professor Chalmers. He is a retired professor from the Political Science department with a fascinating history of involvement with Columbia University. Back in 1968, he was here teaching during the riots, and he has some interesting stories. As a professor, he is very nice and very hands off. He is also understanding about conflicts and extensions as long as you have valid reasons. For a class where discussion means a lot, sometimes he could get carried away lecturing. He did try to supply us with a background on whatever we were reading, though sometimes, by the time he finished, the class felt very lethargic and sleepy. He tries to make connections between the readings and modern events. Prime example: Does President Barack Obama have virtù (Machiavelli, The Prince)? When he asked questions along those lines, he produced the best discussions. Also, when assigning paper topics, he tried to include those that would allow students the freedom to bring in subjects that interested them such as current political events or organizations with which the students were involved. Overall, a very easy section of CC. The section came perilously close to being dull at times, but there were occasional, brilliant moments of discussion. Be warned that these will only come later in the semester. Everyone with whom I have spoken from the section who changed into another section for the spring sounded rather apologetic and/or sheepish about the switch. Truth be told, if I could have stayed in the time slot, I would have. He learns who you are as a student, the work load is decent, and you do a decent job of getting to the basic ideas of the texts on the syllabus.

May 2010

I only got to take him in the Spring, but he was phenomenal. He was chair of the Polisci department in the 70s, and his experience certainly comes across in discussion. He's also one of the most genuinely concerned professor's I've come across at Columbia - and one of the most interesting. Really knew everything about every book, but let us guide the discussion. Was very approachable and offered extensions for papers if we needed them. He's the type of professor who when you visit at their office hours to ask about a paper, before you leave he'll make sure to ask you how everything else is going and if you're enjoying yourself and not stressed about anything. There is no comparative politics review like other people have claimed. If you get him, you're lucky.

Dec 2009

Such a great guy. Laid back, but challenges your critical thinking ability. He's not that tough of a grader and he genuinely cares about student welfare, which is saying a lot at Columbia. He postponed the due date of our essays a week when we requested it over midterms. He's very approachable and is willing to meet with students outside of class. Professor Chalmers gives a nice debriefing of the texts prior to the beginning of our discussion and more or less let's us take it from there, guiding discussion when necessary. Truly a caring guy; he's retired so he teaches just because he loves to and that's well-reflected.

Apr 2007

dont listen to what the comparative politics people say, everyone in my cc class this semester loved him, he's sweet, sarcastic, and doesnt expect a lot from his students, he is not overbearing and i really did learn a lot. enjoy him and it was an honor sharing ideas with a professor who knows so much in this subject @

Nov 2006

he's awesome, sarcastic, funny, and an overall nice guy. he really knows the stuff too.

May 2005

If you get Professor Chalmers for CC, don't worry about the comparative politics reviews. He is an excellent CC professor who really has a good handle on the material. He facilitates good class discussion and frequently adds interesting views of his own on the material. He sometimes zones out a bit or forgets what he's talking about during class, but never to the point that it becomes a big problem. His reading load includes a few extra texts, but they're added for a purpose so they're not a waste of time. If you get Professor Chalmers for CC, consider yourself lucky.

Apr 2004

DO NOT TAKE THIS COURSE. Chalmers is the most boring person on the face of the earth. Unless you enjoy watching a confused old man get lost in HIS OWN powerpoint presentations while wandering off track and spouting meaningless polisci jargon like a beast of horribleness - avoid this class at all costs. And the T.A Ben Reames is arrogant and is of little use.

Jan 2004

Chalmers appears to be a nice old man. He is mildly humorous in class and is somewhat absentminded. His lectures are boring and unnecessary because all of the notes are posted online. His grading is slightly unpredictable and haphazard. It's not an easy class simply because his grading is unpredictable and slightly unfair in the context of his introductory-level teaching. This class left me with little motivation, and disappointment.

Mar 2003

This class is overall ok. The subject matter was interesting, if a little broad and overextended. Professor Chalmers is very nice and approachable, dryly humorous at times, but a very boring lecturer. Though his lectures emphasize key points, his incompleted sentences and mumbling make the lectures worth printing out but not attending. Office hours, on the other hand, are definitely worth attending. The professor is extremely helpful--he even joked that all we had to do was come to him with questions that were preferably worded a little differently from those on the exam. I would not say this class is an easy A but it is doable.

May 2002

I could not disagree more with the previous reviewers. Chalmers is phenomenal. True, he's somewhat disorganized and he rambles, but it's good rambling. Scratch that, it's phenomenal rambling. He's brilliant and though he doesn't always keep to a strict outline, he finishes each lecture having made the important points and filling the rest with fascinating detail. Ok, here's the crucial part: he is head and shoulders above every other Intro to Comparative professor, hands down. The other professors basically just do cursory reviews of german politics, french politics, nigerian politics, etc. Chalmers, on the other hand, does the theoretical stuff: Social movement theory, democracy theory, regime breakdown theory, etc. The thing about Chalmers course that sets him apart is that if you do the readings and go to class, not only will you put yourself easily into the A or A+ range (he's pretty easy), but you'll end up using what you've learned in nearly every other polisci class you take.

May 2002

Do not start off your poli sci career at Columbia with this class. THe readings are boring and nearly impossible to get thru, and there are a lot of them. The lectures are rambling and very hard to follow. The only saving grace is that the TAs are excellent, as they are in most pol sci classes. I came out of this class feeling like I learned a bit about the 4 countries Chalmers used as case studies, but I really learned nothing about comparative politics in general. The class would be better off titled the Fall of Democracy instead of Intro to Comp Pols, since we never really discussed what the heck comparative politics is. Go with IR instead of this, or choose another prof.

Jan 2000

To echo a comment about another professor, Chalmers is not so much boring as bored. I think he's simply been a professor too long to find anything exciting anymore. If you are going to take a class from Chalmers, try to make it a seminar. When Chalmers lapses into lecture mode, the class may very well be crushingly dull. I looked up from my notes in my class at one point and out of the 18 people in my class, two were sleeping, one was staring blankly into space, three were actually taking notes, and literally everyone else was drawing. However, Chalmers is quite worthwhile as long as other people are talking, too. He is very skilled at directing class discussions, and he is frequently funny as hell in an extremely dry, cynical sort of way. On top of that, he's a very nice guy that knows a hell of a lot and is willing to share it with you if you ask. So take his classes at your own risk.

Jan 2000

I came to college fully intending to be a polisci major, but nearly changed my mind after taking this class. Chalmers' lectures were incredibly boring and disorganized, and I found it difficult to retain any semblance of interest while listening to him ramble on at 10:30 in the morning. Some of the readings were really interesting works that hinted that the class might have been great in more capable hands. The recitation (not mandatory) saved my ass in this class. I had a great TA who would go over the material (but not summarize it) and initiate some discussion. Gradually it made sense just to do the reading and go for the one hour recitation every week. cos the lectures just confused me and wasted my time. I got an A in the class.

Jan 2000

Despite cryptic references to "Chalmers moves" that no one quite understands, he knows how to teach this class. He leads lighthearted discussions with lots of references to both earlier readings and current events. He encourages people to get involved in the discussion, but doesn't try to catch people off guard and isn't overly hung up on himself. He's an easy grader, too, and you can get away without doing too much reading.

Jan 2000

Boring as hell. B-O-R-I-N-G. His lectures only get mildly interesting when he veers off the subject (or when he makes jokes about the onset of senility, which he doesn't realise are bloody ironic), but then the lectures become worthless with respect to the midterm or final. He distributed questions in advance for the midterm and final, though, so you can get away with not reading a lot of the assigned stuff. Anyway, to make things worse, he's awfully scatter-brained. Lecture organization is non-existent and he often rambles on and is unable to finish what he planned to cover. He managed to get good TAs, who took some lectures (and led the discussion sections, of course). Thank God for small mercies.

Jan 2000

I agree wholeheartedly with the first reviewer. Better yet, I was THIS close to becoming a political science major and following this class, I ran mercifully to the history department and cried tears of joy as I declared my major. The readings were brutal and incredibly boring. Hundreds of pages of assigned readings that were impossible to digest no matter how many times you put the book down and picked it back up. The online journal readings from JSTOR and MUSE were the worst. A good lecturer can make even the driest material come to life. Chalmers's class is the absolute worst class that I have taken while at Columbia. His lectures consisted of a few sentences worth jotting down and then deteriorated into tangential nonsense about his dissertation. Run while you still can! The T.A.s undeniably saved this class. I stopped attending after the midterm and simply went to the discussion sections. I gained more in that one hour a week than I did the entire term under Chalmers's tutelage.