Sam Haselby

Dec 2014

A good, light, enjoyable introduction to the American Revolution. Prof. Haselby is nice, approachable and knowledgable. The class isn't tightly organized, but that's mostly intentional- Prof. Haselby always tried to keep students involved in discussions about the Revolution and its impact today. This often means 30 minute long Q&A sessions, so this isn't a class bursting at the seams with information, but that's just as well. The title is a bit misleading- the class spends a lot of time on the pre-colonial and early colonial period and ends with the Constitution ratification of 1787-1788. I also wouldn't be surprised if Prof. Haselby meant to cover more than he did. The history is well taught, with a lot of quotes and anecdotes sprinkled in. The strongest point of the class is a kind of "myth busting"- Prof. Haselby loves to deconstruct some common misconceptions of the Revolution and to talk about its contemporary perception as a mythological event. This may be a little hard to follow for anyone who doesn't really know American political discourse, e.g. how the Founding Fathers are perceived and how the Constitution is treated. I should note that this class talks mostly about the "bottom-up" part of the Revolution, so this is not a great class to learn about the great figures of the period, with the possible exception of Washington and some Jefferson (through anecdotes and Jefferson's book). This is one of the lightest history courses I've taken, which for different people could be good or bad, but you should know that going in. Readings are light, there's no discussion section, the only paper is short and the two exams are straightforward. So this is not a class you want to take as a challenge or as some kind of total immersion experience. If you're a history major who likes to come out with a very deep knowledge of the material and to read a lot and write a lot, or if you already have a very good grasp of the history, this class might not be for you. But it is rather fun no matter how you slice it.

Jan 2004

Sam is awesome! Reading the negative reviews of him reminded me why CULPA can be so problematic. It is inconceivable to me that anyone could take Sam's class, work remotely hard, and come away with a negative impression of him. He is the best facilitator of seminar discussion I encountered at Columbia. He is genuinely interested in his students and willing to offer advice related to Columbia. Perhaps most importantly, he has an awesome sense of humor, and his class is just fun. Also, and this is especially important for summer classes, he wasn't afraid to let the class go if we'd discussed everything necessary before the end of the class period (which in a 3 hour class is huge). I cannot write enough positive comments about Sam, and if you're even considering taking a summer history seminar and do not at least check out Sam's class, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Apr 2003

Pretty good. Sam has a certain set of interests that he brought to a lot of the books. But I didn't feel like he had an agenda, and it gave a way to relate stuff that on the reading list that wasn't so relatable at first. He also arranged for a couple class meals and had funny ways of admitting when he was wrong. I don't think he's teaching anymore though.

Jan 2003

I'm writing because it's important that someone add a more balanced perspective to the embittered and personal attack above. First of all "we" did not call Sam "Michael Stipe." He was not arguing that Montaigne's leg would break if he saw someone with a broken leg. He sometimes has a droll sense of humor, and he was trying to do what Montaigne was trying to do in that essay, question the body's capacity to express sympathy and how difficult it is to trace the cause of illnesses and physical problems. If you see someone with a broken leg, and right then you fall and break your leg, can you prove that that action had nothing to do with seeing someone with a broken leg? It's the kind of thing Montaigne loved, and Sam obviously did too. All I can say is that when the above reviewer felt it necessary to quote their grades, that says a lot about what's their whole perspective. I got a good amount of comments on my papers, including critiques of my writing. But I was under the impression that it was part of his job to critique writing mechanics. He was also the only prof I had first year who talked to me about classes and majors, and I know I wasn't the only one. I don't like the Core as much as I thought I would, but I liked Sam's class, a lot better than my CC class this year, where the prof lets these three guys who so obviously never do the reading go on and on and on.

Jan 2003

Sam, or to use the nickname we gave him, Michael Stipe, took what could have been a fun class in which great works of literature were analyzed and discussed intelligently and morphed it into what can only be described as a dreadful, demoralizing, boring and frustrating experience. His condescending manner and superiority complex make most students not speak up in class. Those who do are simply asking for... the hand wave. What is the hand wave? It is a reaction designed to let a student know in the rudest possible way that what he or she has said is "stupid." He looks at you, nods skeptically, waves his hand in the air as if to brush away the stench of the comment, and then proceeds to call on someone else. As if that other person is going to fare any better. At the least, this is demoralizing. It would almost be justifiable if he were saying intelligent things. But half the time his comments are just plain dumb. He was convinced that somehow Montaigne, in feeling sympathy pains, was actually being injured. Like Montaigne would see someone with a broken leg and somehow, as if by magic, HIS LEG WOULD BREAK TOO! Two hours of bitter arguing later, Sam was still convinced that we were either too dim to see the obvious, or just hadnt done the reading. Finally, I gave up and tuned out all together. This gave me a lot of time to do something worthwhile, like watching the clock tick towards that wonderful time when class would be over. Of course, his grading is no better. He would consistently give very low grades, and would just as consistently write almost no comments. When asked about changes to be made for the next paper, he simply could not give any. Maybe its just me, but I think that a professor should be able to give at least one reason as to why a paper deserves a C. And sorry, one grammatical error doesnt cut it. Not even my L&R prof was that picky and anal. It is entirely possible that he uses numerology, crystal ball readings or how he likes the shape of your eyebrows to come up with his grades. And believe me, Im not bitter about the A- I got, which was one of the highest grades in the class. But this class took up over 100 hours of my life that I can never get back. Im bitter about that.

Oct 2002

This was a lot better than I expected. It's work though. The one short paper a week isn't so bad, but the sheer volume of reading is heavy. That said, most of the reading is good, and some of it is great. A couple long essays that were assigned seemed deadly, but then in class Haselby made it clear why they were important and did a good job of making them understandable. At first, sometimes you'll not be sure what one reading has to do with the previous one, or the next one. But you'll see they are related. That said, I'm still not sure why we had to read all of Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia. If you want to talk about current politics and the American Revolution, this isn't the place. Haselby's pretty left, but he's not dogmatic and seems more just interested in the subject. We talked a lot about empire, the leading revolutionaries as a distinctive group, how they attracted support, and religion.

Sep 2002

worst class i ever took at columbia. sam sits and lectures about trivial aspects of the texts and then gets mad if you don't participate, whichihe makes nearly impossible to do with the topics he brings up. he is anal when it comes to your papers. he is a tough grader. i recommend that if you find yourself in his class, transfer IMMEDIATELY.