Brian Boyd

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Aug 2014

I joined professor Boyd’s class for several reasons: I wanted to know more about archeology and I also wanted to take a more "fun" class alongside my economic requirements.However, I could not predict that I will eventually face a professor who is indeed very knowledgeable but also very, very political and controversial. I honestly do not understand how this professor received a silver nugget. Yes, the class was extremely easy. I missed ALL classes following the midterm and still got an A. I decided to skip the second half of the term and just attend our TA's sessions after some poisonous comments made by Boyd about my home country of Israel during class time. Making various claims, mostly subtle, about Israel and Palestine, Professor Boyd made me as an Israeli student feel extremely uncomfortable. Mostly, Boyd’s comments were not necessarily direct but highly suggestive. Are you teaching archeology or are you using the academic stage you were given for the expression of your own political and anti-Israel agenda? Asking the class about an historical location called Masada, the professor asked the class if we knew what was the location of Masada. I responded with “Dead Sea, Masada” NOT even mentioning a country. Professor Boyd’s response was “Masada, actually not in Israel but in Palestine.” Funny thing is that I didn't even mention a country but it was STILL important for him to make that comment "correcting" me for something I never said. Now, I’ve been used to the liberal nature of Columbia and am obviously ok with that. That's the beauty of our freedom of speech. We're not always going to hear what we like. But to hear your professor suggesting over and over again things that are highly political and have impact on his students – I believe this is the place where the line passes. As I mentioned beforehand, teach was the class is about, not your perverted point of view about an issue which has nothing to do with class material! From all regions of conflict in the world we had an entire class about the historical mapping of Israel and Palestine. Why talk about a million different examples of mappings such as in Africa, the Middle East, Russia or Europe. Let's instead go back to the Professor's apparent agenda regarding Israel and put it under a "legitimate" class material. I imagine most of you don’t really care about the professor’s political views so lets turn to the class itself. Sometimes interesting, sometimes disorganized, the class’s workload is extremely easy. Boyd finished 80% of the classes 20 or 30 minutes earlier and sometimes had these awkward rage outbursts at students who texted. Some of the material is interesting, some not really. Many stopped coming to class, and overall attending class will be a complete waste of your time. Go to Joes and have a cup of coffee instead.

May 2013

I must say this class was a disappointment. I read the culpa reviews, all of which claimed it was a fun and easy class. Yes, this class was very easy - you didn't have to do any of the readings (most people didn't do any), and even if your midterm/final essays were utter BS, you could still get an A. That said, the lectures were boring boring boring! If you take this class, don't bother going to lecture. He let's you out over half an hour early each class. his lectures are completely hollow, as are his power points. He really doesn't give you any information other than telling you what's displayed on the slides. ( "here are some mounds. here's the cover of a book someone wrote. let's think about the way people view time, does anyone want to comment?) The essays I'd say were actually very difficult to write because I had absolutely nothing to work with. even the prompts were shallow and could be answered in a small paragraph or so. I was thoroughly uninspired, and so writing the essays were merely a good exercise in how to make something out of nothing, which was made even more difficult by his 10 pg minimum rule for BOTH the midterm and final papers. discussion section is mandatory, and just a tad more interesting than the lectures. however the TA's were fully aware that there wasn't much to talk about, so most of the section was spent with the TA waiting for someone to answer some bland question. since nobody did the readings, few people were even equipped to answer the questions. I sincerely feel i was cheated of my time and money. I understand that prof. Boyd shines in his other classes, but with this one he really is unprepared to lecture and the whole class is really a waste of time, I'm very sorry to say.

May 2012

Brian is a great professor. He knows his stuff and is genuinely interested in lecturing about it, interspersing his factual information with quirky side notes and fun stories. His attitude is approachable and encouraging. He's not a very harsh grader. He's very open to student ideas and he's ok at generating discussion (this is a lecture but has a component of seminar-style discussion at the end of each class). we discussed the prehistory of the Levant (modern day Israel/Jordan/Palestine/Syria).

May 2010

This was, without a doubt, the easiest class I've taken in my 3 years at Columbia. It was also one of the more interesting classes, and Boyd is an enthusiastic speaker that cuts his class times down so as to minimize/eliminate most of the boredom. 90% of the classes ended WELL before 2:25 (1:10-2:25 scheduled), with many classes lasting just over a half hour. The class structure varies from week to week, and there is no shortage of guest lecturers, films, and even games that keep the feel of the class fresh and unique. That said... attendance is not mandatory, and in a class where participation/paying attention to the lectures earns you an additional 0% for your grade, the # of people who showed up each week dropped substantially. There is a required recitation section for this class, but even that is a term that should be taken lightly. I, for example, had a conflict w/ all of the originally scheduled recitations, as did about a dozen others. So, the TA (Katie, she was awesome) created an optional recitation that would be supplemented and more heavily weighed by weekly posts about the assigned readings. During the very first class, Prof. Boyd laughed/wondered why a class that had only 15 enroll for it 3 years ago now had an enrollment of 100+ with a waiting list and all. While I wish the primary reason would be because of the interesting/contemporary subject matter, it is 150% because of the easy, laid-back, stress free nature of the work and grading. Overall, an enjoyable class that features some more intersting parts/topics than others (as any class does). Take this class for a good grade, interesting subject matter, and 0.00 stress.

Sep 2009

What a great professor! He is down-to-earth, funny, endearing, and definitely knows his stuff. He is a great lecturer as well, who never lapses into any sort of ego-trip while discussing his own adventures in the field. I had him last semester for Intro to 21st Century Archaeology, and while I entered the class knowing nothing (seriously, NOTHING) about the subject, I left in May feeling like I could actually have a higher-level conversation about archaeological digs, controversial findings, techniques, etc. If you have any interest at all in archaeology or anthropology, I highly recommend this professor!

Jan 2008

Brian Boyd is perhaps one of the most excellent professors I have yet to encounter here at Columbia. His course, discussing the topics on what technologies entail and its influences on societies, is made more interesting every class. For an hour of the class, he gives a lecture on the topic then moves into a student presentation followed by a class discussion. He is very organized, and during the few times where he loses his notes, he can improvise very well. Discussions are led by students, and since many grad students take this course, every discussion is intellectually stimulating. I have never had a boring moment in this class. As Brian is a laid back guy, he highly values any opinion students have to offer. He very available, friendly, and welcoming to his students and has a good sense of humor. Although the midterm and final are a bit hefty, he lets you choose whatever topic you wish to write on and grades extremely fairly. I recommend everyone takes a course with him before they graduate. It was the highlight of my semester.