Kevin Newman is young, easy on the eyes, and pretty damn smart, but he doesn't exactly impart a passion for the subject. I'd be more suspicious of him if he did. Columbia just cannot figure out how to develop a truly useful writing class.
Kevin's approach seems to be to dig around the week's pile, select the most comically pitiful student work, and tear into it (in his own delicate sort of way). Complaints: He'll pretend to be interested in the most vapid comments and act like every essay--even the ones written 45 minutes before class--is a revision away from respectability. Uh, no.
Grading is standard, which is to say, merciless. I pulled an A-, which makes me a bit more sympathetic. You'll learn a few invisibly fine points of grammar (which I intend to lord over friends and family) and develop a tremendous aversion to inductive reasoning. My essays did get better, mainly because I was scared out of my mind that my lot would be drawn.