Risham Majeed

Jul 2009

As opposed to the first previous review that was more of a demonizing rant than a genuine analysis of this instructor, I will attempt to fairly address the pros and cons of Risham Majeed. While many aspects of that review are undeniably true, there are some things that were omitted. I’ve thought long and hard about what I wanted to write in this review so I hope it is effective. Firstly, this instructor is dead serious and will rarely crack a smile. From day one her arrogance is abhorrently cast upon the class as she continually forgets names and/or calls students by other students’ names. (Once she even called a student “Monet”, ha). If you wish to receive a good grade in this class it is vital to ensure that she learns your name quickly. She stresses the importance of participation so be sure to frequently have your hand in the air. She conducts each lesson in seminar style and does succeed in producing interesting discussions between herself and students. While she most certainly likes to hear herself talk, there are ample opportunities to speak up and she is fairly receptive. Even when ideas span as far as someone comparing Jesus in a painting to a Stephen King character, or explaining that Saturn isn’t eating his baby child “effectively”, she rarely will berate such thoughts. However, her lectures are excellent and interesting and she is undoubtedly committed to the material. She is irrefutably very intelligent and knowledgeable when it comes to the course material. If you pay attention many of the units can be engrossing (excluding Amiens Cathedral in particular). One thing Risham didn’t seem to notice is that we are FORCED to take Art Hum and therefore, most of us aren’t genuinely interested in the material. Therefore, its absurd for her to act disappointed when few people show up to her tentatively planned, unscheduled field trips to often majorly inconvenient locations (i.e. the Cloisters and Sotheby’s). The overall classroom atmosphere ranges from those truly unmotivated (some seniors and a few others) to those too petrified of Risham to say a word. Regardless, after a few weeks to a month, a fair amount of the class dismissed their qualms about speaking up in class. Participation is worth a whopping 30% of your final grade so be sure to show up, sign the sign-in sheet, and speak up in class as much as you can. One of Risham’s worst traits is that if you e-mail ANYTHING to her, the likelihood of response is slim. I feel as though she only responds to e-mails that are quick and convenient for her to answer. I can confidently say that she responded to an estimated 33% of my e-mails. Be it a question about the midterm/final/papers/ or trying to schedule a time to come to her office hours, a response is rare. On the note of office hours, she only decided to hold official office hours starting AFTER the midterm exam and she often cancelled them without as much as a simple “unfortunately, I can’t make it” or an old fashioned “sorry.” Furthermore, there is ZERO, I repeat ZERO, direction as to how to succeed on the exams or papers in this class. She held one review session for the midterm that was, at best, mildly helpful and she answered one student’s question “Will we have a review for the final exam?” with a typically phlegmatic “No.” There is a midterm exam and final exam worth 15% and 20% of your grade, respectively. The midterm comprised of 10 slide ID’s (artist, date within 10 years, and title), and three comparative essays. She zips through the slides, often not allowing enough time to think about them and not always telling you when she is switching to the next slide. You are given 15 minutes per essay so scribble everything you know into some coherent manner and be sure to include the proper name, artist and date of the works you are analyzing. The hardest part is citing authors from secondary sources throughout the semester; however, she didn’t seem to grade too harshly if you don’t go into detail on them. The final is a similar format except that there are 15 slide ID’s, 2 comparative essays (15 minutes/essay) and one longer essay which you have 45 minutes to write. Another thing to keep in mind when studying is that she likes to pick obscure slides so study pieces that you may not otherwise expect to end up on the exam. Nevertheless, the essays count for an overwhelming percentage of the exam so in actuality, forgetting a few slides wont be too detrimental to your grade. As for papers, there is a one-page, ungraded writing assignment towards the beginning of the semester that she was pointlessly harsh on, a 4-5 page paper (15% of your grade), and an 8-10 page paper (20%). For the latter two she gives no more than vague, two-sentence note that gives you no substantial idea of what you should be writing about. And before I forget, I need to mention that she actually gave us a pop-quiz one day (I thought this was college, not high school…or middle school for that matter). I assume that when she graded them she realized that there was little point in such assessments. Posting to courseworks and short-medium length readings comprise the rest of the workload for this class. While she doesn’t grade individual postings, I assure you that she takes note of exactly who does and doesn’t post. Risham is not one to shy away from admonishing the class for things such as not posting to courseworks, sleeping in class, or using a cell phone in class. Not to say that it isn’t wholly unreasonable for her to care about such things, but e-mails such as my personal favorite that says “If anyone is caught sleeping, texting or using any other electronic device in class again you will be asked to leave and marked absent for that class. It is not only disrespectful and distracting to me but to your classmates as well.” seem ironic when she will ignore your e-mails but still manage to send hostile ones. And frankly, I don’t know what other “electronic devices” she is referring to here, but I am curious to know… Now here is where some of you might get confused as to my agenda in writing such a verbose review. I have to say that despite the aforementioned downsides, I am overall glad that I took this class with this teacher. While her harsh, atypical idiosyncrasies were hardly necessary, I found myself focused and committed to the class and emerged from it not only more interested in art, but with a working knowledge and understanding of how to analyze artwork. Sure, her irascibility frustrated me at times, if you put in the work and show up to class, you can pull of a good grade and actually learn something. However, if you futz around in class, or just don’t show up, you’ll simply sink beneath the stress and likely end up dropping the class.

May 2009

IN RESPONSE TO THE REVIEW OF THE 18TH OF MAY, 2009 Now hang on a sec. True, she was not the best teacher, but Risham Majeed wasn't nearly as bad as the previous reviewer made it out to be. Lest there be any doubt, Risham knows her material very, very well. This is obvious, both in her lectures and her feedback to her students' input. I don't think there was ever any malicious intent on her part. I attended office hours often, and she was always very kind and patient with my questions and with her answers. This may have been a clever PR move, but I doubt it. Rather than being a show-off, I feel that Risham did her best to inhibit intelligent discussion. She always always ALWAYS listened to each student's input, no matter how badly or clumsily it was fashioned. And she always made an effort to say something constructive about the student's input. This shows that 1) she actually listens to what we say, and 2) she really wanted us to learn something, whether our input was good or bad. True, we did skip a few artists on the syllabus, but that's probably because Risham was trying to fit everybody in while doing each his own justice - something impossible in a survey course like Art Hum. I mean, you could spend an entire semester on Raphael alone. To spend a mere 3 hours on him must make an art nut like Risham cringe. So you can really blame her for running out of time; she was merely trying to cram as much about each artist into the course as possible, and in the end it proved to be too much. She did whisk through the slides rather quickly and randomly, but she made all the slideshows (with images fully labeled) available on Courseworks. Thus, studying for the final was not a problem. Yes, there are a lot of them to remember, but that THAT many. I personally found her fairly random and laissez-faire style to be a breath of fresh air from the stringent bureaucratic structure which dominates the Columbia academic landscape. She's also an easy grader. I barely studied for the final (started about 5 hours before the exam) and did pretty darn well. There are, of course, flaws. Her class could get extremely...ahem...boring, so clearly she had difficulty transferring her enthusiasm for the subject matter to her students. Sometimes she would say something and I found myself saying "but Risham, I don't CARE." The class was pretty painful, because the entire time I was asking myself, "Why am I here? I don't need to know this $h1t!" The truth is, I was only there so that I could fulfill the Core requirement. Thus, Risham's insistence on emphasizing student input made this class a generally miserable experience. Also, I suspect she is guilty of playing favorites. And I was not paying attention 100% of the time, but she seemed to pick on those who texted or fell asleep in class. So be careful. All in all, despite her flaws I think Risham was genuinely invested in the Art Hum pedagogical project. Too bad I hated the subject material.

May 2009

READ THIS. Its long but you deserve to know. Don't take an class from this instructor (term used extremely loosely) unless you want to be condescended to, criticized in class and even more so in your papers (you choose which is worse), treated like a child, reminded that you know nothing at art (even though you may), and ignored. Don't take a class from this instructor unless you don't mind having the syllabus change more than three times in a semester, being told repeatedly that readings would be available on courseworks only to find out at the last minute that YOU get to track them down and copy them from the one book in the entire library system that has the article, and then get back to your computer to read and post the response. Oh!!! Don't take this class if you actually want to learn about all of the artists listed on the Art Humanities Departmental Syllabus - if you are willing to skip three, hey cool, then take this class. Wait! Don't take this class if you totally don't mind asking genuinely curious questions (either in class or email) and being either completely passed over to hear imaginary-martini-holding windbags talk about the connections of Kant and whatever piece is on the overhead slide, or entirely ignored until after your question is no longer relevant (say, AFTER the paper is due even though you submitted your question five days in advance). This "instructor" is far more interested in showing you what she knows (what exactly that is remains to be seen) than teaching you anything. I used to like museums. I can't stand the thought of a museum now, thanks to her. Do not take this class unless you like totally last minute Response assignments (no particular pattern in these assignments, just whenever she feels like it and remembers to send the email). She is the epitome of stereotypical "art people" that every TV and movie you have seen has profiled. Eew. IF YOU GET STUCK WITH HER in your last semester before graduation: do everything your power to get out of this class. Graduate later. Or go to the department head. Or your dean. Your instinct is correct. She is bad, bad, bad. IF YOU GET STUCK WITH HER, read everything on the syllabus, and memorize it. You will need to know it for finals...because she may hold one review session for the mid-term (which turns out to be completely irrelevant and unhelpful) and NO review session for the Final. See below in "Workload". Also -- TIP -- watch all of Simon Schama's "Power of Art" relevant videos (available on YouTube). They're excellent, and you'll learn a lot. Also read Wikipedia. Seriously. Write down the name of every slide she uses - a challenge considering most of them she does not list on her slides. I wish you the best of luck. MAKE SURE YOU SIGN THE SIGN IN SHEET!!!!!! EVERY CLASS!