professor
Aileen Forbes

May 2021

Avoid at all costs. Most discouraging professor I’ve had in Columbia. Very harsh grader. No amount of effort seems enough for her if she doesn’t like you. She questions your understanding of the material and overall intelligence for not answering a question the way she likes. Condescending and doesn’t even try to be considerate. Makes you feel dumb whenever you disagree. I got feedback for both essays that basically says ‘you need help’. And when I ask her how to improve I got no useful feedback or something like ‘I don’t know, you tell me. I got commented on my essay of being ‘disappointingly careless’ because I used quotes from the passage ID part of the final exam. The truth is I started the essay before the final exam was posted. She just assumed I copied the passage ID quotes without bothering to ask. Having said that though, I learned a lot from her course. She explains the text and background enough so students are sure to understand the material if they pay attention. Discussions are led to her own conclusion, so are 1 on 1 writing conferences, so you always end up writing the paper she wants you to. To sum up: 1) Informative classes if you don’t mind being fed with her own analysis and interpretation. 2) Avoid if you care anything about your grade or self-esteem.

Apr 2021

You're on the fence about whether you should consider the class, and you're looking for a sign. This is your sign to not take this class. She's a super sweet person, and the discussions aren't bad, but the first grade you get in this class will be the grade you get for the semester, and it can be a C. I got this advice ahead of time, still went through, got mopped. Ended up putting more work into this class than AP and was a letter grade better in AP. Don't romanticize high risk, low reward. It wasn't that rigorous, just risky. If you're deadset, play on the critical theory a little more than usual, it'll help you a lot.

Apr 2021

RUNN!!! WORST TEACHER AT COLUMBIA!!! Super harsh grader and assigns way too much work for a core class. She is also a genuine bully so if that's not enough then idk what is. Made me have the worst semester of my life.

Jun 2020

Aileen Forbes is a terrible human being and terrible Professor. Her course on George Elliot is an absolute farce at intellectualism. I was expecting the Columbia level of discourse, and instead received a patronizing high school discussion that could not have been less stimulating. If you do not agree with what Forbes has to say, she will awkwardly gawk at you and make you feel dumb and small. I had a death in the family due to Covid-19 halfway through her course. I had not missed any assignments and had been actively participating in class discussions up until this point. I had to miss a week because of A DEATH IN MY FAMILY DUE TO THE PANDEMIC. Instead of being understanding, she gave me a halfhearted “condolences and basically told me to drop her course. She had no interest in being considerate or accommodating. She basically told me she would grade my work harsher considering “the absences (only 2, mind you). What a absolute abhorrent spit in the face of humanity. Avoid this woman at all costs.

Jan 2020

Genuinely one of the best professors I have had at Columbia. She ensures you have developed essay ideas through mandatory 1 on 1 meetings and spends time to help students with essay topics. Midterms were returned relatively quickly for my section. Discussions are good but can be dominated by certain individuals at times, but that could be due to the specific personalities of people in the class. Overall, a good and caring CC professor for students genuinely interested in the material and not only concerned with getting an easy A.

Jan 2019

I would not recommend this course to any student. While I received an A-range grade, I can't escape the feeling that it was simply due to my writing the essays that professor Forbes wanted to see, and then rolling the dice well. She is very caring, as below, but it feels like cheese in the mousetrap. I had a poor grade on the first essay and had to prioritize this class over several very serious sophomore classes in order not to tank my GPA. In all honesty, I had no idea what grade I was going to get until I saw the letter, and it was incredibly stressful to the point where I considered switching sections to McNamara of all people.

Aug 2018

Perhaps the most discouraging and most condescending professor out there. Nothing is ever satisfactory enough for her, especially on exams.

Aug 2018

Perhaps the most discouraging and most condescending professor out there. Nothing is ever satisfactory enough for her, especially on exams.

Jun 2018

Loves talking about her knowledge of philosophy, diverts from the texts, doesn't finish the material, emphasizes irreverent thoughts, and overall patronizing. The complete opposite of how LIT HUM is presented. A real disappointment.

Apr 2018

Genuinely a caring professor who cares about her students. Makes herself accessible for questions/feedback and mandates one on one meetings before essays to develop ideas and refine your topic. Would definitely recommend

May 2012

Prof. Forbes should definitely not be counted among the easier Lit Hum teachers. She can be demanding, and it's true: she *will* eventually lead the class towards her own conclusions, and you as a student towards writing the paper she wants you to write. More often than not, you'll come to the individual writing conferences with her and find yourself leaving with a completely new essay and an argument that she has basically laid out for you. Most of the times, all I had to do was find quotes that demonstrated her own argument, write in my own words and expand/analyze a bit, and my essay was done. Having said that though, I think I definitely appreciate all she did for me as a student. I think it a bit arrogant to call a teacher "horrible" because she gives her own input or treats you somewhat "condescendingly". It's true, sometimes I felt a bit uncomfortable, and she would quite openly dismiss our interpretations/ comments with an "okay..." or, even sometimes: "or maybe not"; discussions eventually gravitated towards what she wanted them to, and at one point she *did* admit that she was being a bit harsh in our individual writing conferences. BUT I think in the end she had a good plan and I got a good taste for all the works. More importantly, I left the class with a genuine interest in literature, and a much better approach towards analyzing works. In the end, pretty much every single Lit Hum teacher has a plan they must all stick by; it's part of the class itself. So do not in any way feel discouraged because she doesn't consider your comments extremely valuable or important. She will *always* give you the chance to speak no matter how many stupid comments you've made. In the end, we're all here to learn, not to have our opinions validated or applauded every single time. Sometimes we'll be right, sometimes not. If I knew everything about literature before Columbia I wouldn't be here, and I think in the end Prof. Forbes gave me a great new perspective on all these classic works. In the end, what may seem as condescending attitudes or forced discussions are part of the learning process. It might be a bit unconventional, but at the end of the day, I'm sure I'll look back and miss Prof. Forbes. She always gave helpful comments, was interested in seeing us learn and grow, was *always* available to write recommendations and help out with any applications, baked us sweets and brought food for us sometimes, etc. So to sum up: a. I won't sugar coat it: sometimes you'll feel frustrated with her class, sometimes you'll feel embarrassed or even dumb. She's tough and sometimes you'll consider changing sections. But: b. we're all here to learn and grow, and though she may be a bit rougher or less nurturing than one would like, that's part of the college learning process every new student should quickly get used to. Prof. Forbes is definitely not suited for everyone. If you like to hear your thoughts validated, feel like you're the smartest person in the world who knows how to interpret all of these works already, then you're better off steering away from this class, and--if I may-- steering away from Columbia, period. No one here's going to make you feel adored or particularly intelligent; if you *were* actually that smart, there's no need for you to even be here. However, if you're willing to stand up to the challenge, face this class like any real, dedicated student should face any college class, and come into every discussion with an open mind and an attitude to learn, you'll really grow a lot as a student and as a person with Prof. Forbes. It may be tough love sometimes, but at the end of the day you'll appreciate her work, and the hug you give her when you turn in your final will be genuine.

Dec 2011

Profesor Forbes wins the award for the most discouraging professor at Columbia. The discussions she "led" in class were dry and non-engaging. As far as meeting with her during office hours she was 20-30 minutes late in each of my sessions and then proceeded to rip everything I had worked on to pieces without suppling a reason as to why my work was faulty. If she doesn't personally agree with your interpretations or opinions don't expect to succeed in her class. Professor Forbes takes sick pleasure embarrassing students during discussions. The only thing I learned in this class was how to stress out in more ways. Professor Forbes has quite possibly ruined my experience with the Core at Columbia. Obviously I would NEVER recommend her to any students. In fact, if you are enrolled in her class get out as soon as possible. Do not expect to have a fulfilling experience or enjoy Lit Hum (as much as that may be possible). I feel fortunate to have survived this class with Professor Forbes.

Dec 2011

Prof. Forbes is an unpleasant teacher to work with. Her discussions seem forced, as if she must arrive at her own conclusion if we are to move on. If a student contributes an opinion that she disagrees with, she will often answer with a condescending, "Ok...". I find it very demoting and rude. You will often find yourself trying to find that magic sweet point that she deems is "correct" analysis. Meeting with her during office hours can be a hit or miss. If you can somehow please her with your essay ideas, she will usually agree but then alter it to fit her agenda. If she doesn't like it, however, she will ruthlessly tear it apart. You'll have to come back and give it another shot in a meeting. The best way to learn from Ms. Forbes is to simply let her change your ideas. It is not worth it to risk a paper that she doesn't find satisfying. I honestly would not recommend Prof. Forbes. She is not an inspiring teacher that really wants you to become engaged in the texts. Rather, she likes to adjust things to her own personal agenda without any room for the incorporation of other people's ideas. Take notes about the passages in class and incorporate her analysis, not the one the class you and your peers discussed about, if you want to do well.

Jun 2010

This was definitely not an easy class and Prof Forbes certainly demands a lot from her students. But she is more than willing to put in extra time to help you improve and overall I think I learnt more from her class than I have from many of my other professors. I also really enjoyed it. I would certainly agree with her statement that you should expect to improve over the semester. My first essay came back with the lowest grade of my academic career so far, but having met with Prof Forbes and discussed her comments I think it was probably a fair reflection of the paper I handed in. And when I asked for help to improve she put in significant amounts of extra time to help me, culminating in two much better essays in the second half of the semester. And the disappointing first grade didn't stop me getting an A overall in the class. Classes themselves are a little more structured than some other lit hum sections, but Prof Forbes knows her stuff and does a good job of pulling out common themes and threads between the different books. The class atmosphere was usually relaxed and for someone who really isn't that confident speaking in public it felt both supportive and encouraging. Overall, if you're looking for an easy A this probably isn't the class for you. But if you're actually interested in the books and want to improve your academic writing style I think you would be lucky to get Prof Forbes.

Jun 2010

Wow, I also had Prof. Forbes last fall (2009), and I am really surprised at the below review she received. I thought most of the class was as sad as I was when Prof. Forbes was moved to a GS section of Lit Hum in the spring, but I guess her grading rubbed some students the wrong way. In my opinion, even though she was literally called at the last minute to teach this course in the fall and spring, she did an excellent job leading interesting and stimulating class discussions. What I most liked about her class was that the discussions were guided half by her and half by the students. She had an outline of what she wanted to discuss, so the discussions were definitely organized. However, she liked listening to different opinions that didn't always correspond with her initial interpretations of the literature, so she always welcomed tangential discussions on concepts that weren't on her outline. Whereas my spring semester professor asked us questions until he heard the answer he wanted and then moved on, she encouraged everyone to continue discussing what details made them agree or disagree with various ideas. My only complaint is that I wish she was a little more willingly to dismiss the occasional absurd ideas that held practically no validity, but I'm glad that everyone's opinions were heard. With regard to the essays, she told us what she wanted before the first essay was due and repeated it before the second one. In brief, she wanted focused thoughts based on a few key quotes from small portions of the text, and she wanted each paragraph to build on the prior one until a conclusion was reached in which something new was learned beyond what was presented in the introductory paragraph and the thesis statement. This "building" was the hard part for me and most other students: she did not want a middle school essay where we present a thesis and then a few supporting examples and then a conclusion that reiterates the intro; she wanted each thought to build on the one before it in a ladderlike progression. Prof. Forbes also went over other details on writing and editing essays for about half of a class period, so we were definitely given more guidance on what to write than most other Lit Hum classes. Moreover, Prof. Forbes made every student schedule a one-on-one meeting with her some time during the two weeks before the essay was due. Although all we "needed" to know was what book(s) we were writing about and a potential thesis, she recommended that we come with an outline of ideas, so that we could discuss where we were going with the essay. During both of my meetings with her, she saw that I gave serious thought to my unique papers, and she, in turn, spent a lot of time telling me which parts of my paper were strong and which ideas needed improvement. Before the second paper was due, she even scheduled an extra meeting with me because I had a lot of great ideas but problems choosing which to include and how to organize them. As a result, I think that "she [is] the model of caring and support" as both an adviser and a professor. She has high expectations, one of which is improvement, but she contributes a lot of her time and energy helping us meet them. If you put in the time and energy to critically read the books, write interesting papers with ideas that go beyond what was said in class, and listen to the advise she gives in class, in the one-on-one meetings, and in office hours, you will emerge as a much better reader and writer (and you will do well in the class too). I really did not find her cryptic or Nazi-esque at all, so do not be afraid to take this class; you won't regret it.

Jan 2010

Professor Forbes had good intentions, certainly. A student advisor by day, she was the mdel of caring and support at the start of the semester. I remember, in her opening spiel, that she casually mentioned that students should expect to improve in her class. That perhaps, they wouldn't be happy with their initial grades, but that they should hope to do much better as the course progressed. This of course was an understatement. Professor Forbes only prescribed two assignments for the entire semester - one 4 page paper due around the time of the midterm, and one 8 page paper due at the end of the semester. At first, you'd think this was great. The problem was, Forbes took a Nazi-esque approach to the grading process. Without any precedent at all, she would grade cryptically and word for word, leaving all of us in her seminar more than a little dazed. To say she was misleading would be an understatement - I myself remember putting points I had discussed to her enthrallment in class in my paper only to have her rip them apart when submitted. I honestly would not recommend Forbes. At all. Her class was frustrating at best, and she left her true opinion to the worst possible times: when grades were at stake.