It was a big class but he engages with the audience so its more of a large class discussion (no required participation). It was good that people would participate, or it probably would've been an awkward 75 minutes. The readings were sometimes dense, but he goes over the readings in the lecture. I remember the first reading being really long (Jacobs), but there were only about a few that size throughout the semester. We were constantly referring back to different authors and their reasoning, so I do recommend at least skimming the reading beforehand. I agree with another post, if you're genuinely interested in cities, you should really take the class.
It's 12/4 (second to last lecture and he holds a "virtual meeting" but created a quiz" and I'm just over this man's shit!!!!! But anyways, this man is on CRACK. He's a mess, his lectures are pointless if you do the readings for the midterm and final (he gives you reviews on the information and will select 10 IDs and 5 essays. FUCK THIS MAN AND HIS BS. Anyways, there are two small essays on top of the exams that he gives vague instructions on and tells his TAs that they can only give a certain amount of As. If you're not an urban studies major and don't need this class for the major, DON'T TAKE THIS CLASS to fulfill your requirements. Save yourself from frustration and unnecessary stress from Aaron Passell!! Doing well in the class because I've experienced 10000000 mental breakdowns due to this class since I'm a junior urban studies major, studying abroad next semester. I REPEAT. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. SAVE YOUR SOUL!!!
Passell is a cool guy who teaches cool stuff. But he doesn't really teach this class like an intro class. A lot of his readings are super dense and discouraging. And his papers are super creative and requires you to hit all these marks that you ultimately miss and it is difficult to give him what he wants in regards to his papers.
Professor Passell is an extremely dry lecturer and seminar-leader. His assignments are mostly dull and he does little to illuminate the readings. He has a very singular approach to urbanism which can be frustrating considering the multitude of perspectives that should be accounted for in Urban Studies. He leads you to believe he is an understanding professor with flexibility on assignment material but upon submitting an assignment you will learn he is a harsh grader who is looking for a specific approach and perspective. If you don't hit his nail on the head then good luck!
If you're someone who loves learning about cities, this class is great for you. The readings can be dense but they cover a variety of topics and you'll leave the class with a strong basis of urban studies classics and knowledge. However, many people hate this class because they show up and realize urban studies isn't for them. If you don't find reading about sidewalks cool, don't take this class. As far as the class structure itself, every lecture is spent going over the readings which is nice. It's a large lecture class and Professor Passell tries to make it more discussion based by asking questions and listening and responding to students' opinions. Some people didn't like this teaching style but I think it makes the class a lot more interesting. Also, questions he asks during class appear on the midterm and final so pay attention to discussions on them. The midterm and final are IDs and essay questions that are pretty easy so long as you do the reading. The other assignments are essays that Professor Passell grades kind of harshly, and if I were to take the class again I would definitely take advantage of office hours to talk to him before turning in papers.
This is a very well organized class with a reasonable and consistent workload. The course material provides a integrated and holistic way to view urban studies first understanding neighborhoods, then gentrification and finally environmental degradation. There is creative essay for each unit that are a refreshing approach. Passell provides A LOT of space for open discussion and wants us to engage with each other intellectually. However, it often times felt like he was using discussion to avoid giving a thorough, pre-planned lecture. The discussion often went in circles and led nowhere as a result. The participation grading system made it so everyone felt like they had to put in their two cents even if their answers were uninformed and badly crafted. Passell would entertain all claims, making the class feel impossibly long. Additionally, even though there was probably only around 30 students in the class, we barely received any feedback on our work or ideas. Grades were given with no comments. Despite the organized template of the class, everything else felt like it was kept to minimal effort. I would recommend this class only if you are truly enamored with sociology.
Aaron Passell is one of the best professors at Barnard. He is SO erudite and knows the subject matter incredibly well. I personally prefer him in a seminar-type setting better, but I loved his Intro to Urban Sociology class. You definitely have to pay attention and do the readings, but it is a really great class for a prospective Urban Studies student.
Pros: Seemed to respect students from an intellectual perspective. Often asked students what they wanted to write about for assignments. Cons: Gave the appearance of being flexible with deadlines, but disappointingly turned out to be an excessively harsh, punitive grader and was unreasonable. All in all, would not take a class with him again.