profs say the darndest things Archive



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img January 20, 20148:55 pmimg 4 Comments

Tomorrow marks the beginning of something new—a new semester, that is. As is tradition, professors will jazz up their lectures and discussion sections with absurdity and mystery galore. Be sure to send your professor’s words of wisdom and wiseassery to, or leave them in the comments.



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img January 23, 20133:00 pmimg 6 Comments

Stoic on the outside, ROFLing on the inside

Your professors are still in that cute “let’s make the class like me” phase, saying the darndest things to get a laugh during the first few days of class. Before they actually assign homework and their jokes become less endearing, send the inspiring/crazy/out-of-context stuff they say to or comment on this post. Here are some of yesterday’s jewels.

Richard Billows, Romans and their Empire

“Judaism, especially in the ancient times, is a particularly hard religion to convert to, especially for adult males, because you had to cut a piece of your penis off. Christianity had all of the intrigue of Judaism without that nasty self-mutilation bit.”

Edward Mendelson, British Literature

“If you’re going to sleep, at least get pupils tatooed on your eyelids so it looks like you’re paying attention.”

Salvatore Stolfo, Artificial Intelligence

“The thing about intelligence is that you know it when you see it. Just like pornography. Very hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.”

Paul Siegel, Calc IV

“Come to my office hours, that way I can tell my mom I had friends over!”

George Saliba, Contemporary Islamic Civilization

Just after attaching his lecture-hall mic: “There are no secrets now. I can’t even whisper. You will hear everything.”




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img December 11, 20122:46 pmimg 3 Comments

remember...who you are...

The sun sets on another semester

The official last day of classes was yesterday–despite the 5 make-up classes you’re taking this week because of Hurricane Sandy.  Take a deep breath and read the words of professors’ end-of-year nostalgia exasperation.

Herbert Sloan, Survey of American Civilization to the Civil War: “Unfortunately, the president during all of this is James Buchanan, who has the backbone of an eclair!”

Anthony Webster, Intro to Accounting and Finance, part 1: “Finance is the second best thing in life. Second only to sex.”

Anthony Webster, Intro to Accounting and Finance, part 2: “If you don’t think this equation is the most exciting thing outside of sex, then you shouldn’t go into finance.”

Gregory Mann, History of West Africa: “The exam will cover material you’ve learned since you quit caring about Ohio.”

Turkuler Isiksel, , : [on course evals] “Dont treat them like a Yelp survey, we are not your local Starbucks.”

Malvin Ruderman, Thermal and Statistical Physics: “This complicated problem is not worth solving, which you know if you tried the homework problem.”

Stephen Scott, Language & Politics: “I’m searching for an example to come up with, since I don’t speak ‘super-standard nerd’ language myself.”

Jian Yang, Neurobiology I: “Fill out the course evaluations. You can say bad things about me. I don’t care… I’m tenured.”

Edward Lincoln, Economic Development of Japan: “I hope you aren’t overwhelmed with how much we learned this semester…I guess we’ll find out with the final.”

Update, 3:45 pm, with one special tip



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img November 27, 201211:00 amimg 4 Comments

A tipster has sent us the following gem uttered by an economics professor explaining off-equilibrium threat:

I don’t want you to get up in the middle of class, and you don’t want to see me naked!”

…we’d appreciate some context.



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img January 19, 20121:00 pmimg 8 Comments

Just as you realize that watching all those Breaking Bad episodes reading all your chemistry textbooks during break still doesn’t shake that feeling that you’re not quite so ready for another semester, your professors made another round of funny comments to get you back into the swing of things.

Couch Potato i.e. I know what you did last summer

Professor Richard Bulliet, History of America in the Muslim World 

“Hitler’s been the gold standard of evilness.”

Eric Blanchard, Gender and International Relations

On why weekend e-mail responses tend not to be so prompt: “Because sometimes we need to go to Tijuana, too.”

Brad Garton, Music Hum

“As you can tell, we’re going to spend a lot of time on avant garde stuff and contemporary music. Why? Because I have tenure! Muahahaha.”

Erik Gray, Literary Texts & Critical Methods

“Have you ever noticed how people pretend to eat babies?”

Norma Graham, Statistics for Behavioral Scientists

”We used to have a heavy contingent from Barnard. They must have learned—they have learned how to teach statistics.”




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img January 17, 201212:53 pmimg 14 Comments

2015 in Lit Hum

Today is the first day of classes and of Columbia’s unofficial two weeks of “shopping.” Accordingly, professors tend to bust out some of their best material in order to sell you the idea that the whole class will be entertaining/worth it/whatever you’re looking for. Sometimes it will be, and sometimes today is simply a masterful bait-and-switch. Either way, we love to hear about our faculty’s sharper moments, so send them to or share them in the comments.

Image via Wikimedia Commons



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img December 19, 20119:40 pmimg 50 Comments

And now for something a wee bit different. In today’s Actual Wisdom, English professor Edward Mendelson teaches us a lesson about breaking the rules. And about the perils of questionnaires. It’s all below, in his personally requested format. It’s kinda like when you take major liberties with an unappealing essay prompt and end up writing something that only tangentially answers the question—professors, they’re just like us!

The questions:


Edward Mendelson

1. Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer.
2. Your claim to fame.
3. What’s your most valuable or unexpected college experience?
4. What’s the craziest student excuse/extension story you’ve heard?
5. Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese?
6. Back in my day…
7. Three things you learned at Columbia.
8. What’s your advice to students/academics/the human race in general?

 The answers:

(a) W. H. Auden wrote in a poem: “Thou shalt not answer questionnaires.”

(b) Never give personal answers to impersonal questions. A questionnaire isn’t like a conversation where anything you say can have an effect on the next thing someone else says. A questionnaire is like a machine that keeps talking but never listens. Other question-asking machines that you should avoid answering include evaluation forms, marketing and political surveys, and anything else that reduces you to a statistic when you answer it. An assigned paper topic is essentially a single-question questionnaire; avoid courses with assigned paper topics, or find a way to make the topic your own instead of the instructor’s.

(c) It’s impossible to give a meaningful answer to any question in the form, “What’s your most valuable experience of this or that?” Every interesting experience is interesting in itself. You can’t measure it or rank it or compare it to any other experience without trivializing it.

(d) Questionnaires simply start and stop. Unlike personal conversations, they don’t have a beginning, middle, or end. Avoid any kind of speech or writing where you can’t choose the shape and structure of what you want to say.



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img December 14, 20111:50 pmimg 8 Comments

This is Achilles, delivering his own closing remarks upon leaving Eretria.

Happy mid-December! Celebrate the end of classes with some pithy phrases your professors say that we call Closing Remarks

Bruce Robbins, Modern Comparative Fiction: “You don’t have to express yourself. People don’t give a shit, they never have.”

Randall Balmer, Evangelicalism: “Thank you so much for being interested and coming to this class. If you didn’t, I’d have to teach something boring, like comparative religion or something.”

Roosevelt Montàs, CC: “After this first semester, God is dead to CC.”

Sam Moyn, Historical Origins of Human Rights: “In times like this, I have to ask myself what would Jesus do, and he had to separate the wheat from the chaff. That’s why I use IDs on the exam.”

Aaron Ritzenberg, University Writing: “When you see me on campus, don’t just pull out your iPhone and pretend not to see me. It’s more embarrassing for me if I don’t remember you.”

Elizabeth Keenan, Music Hum, regarding what kind of spring Stravinsky was composing about: “A shitty one!”

Casey Blake, US Intellectual History since 1865: “Kurt Vonnegut once said ‘I’ve worried some about why write books, why are we teaching people to write books when presidents and senators do not read them, and generals do not read them. And it’s been the university experience that taught me that there is a very good reason, that you catch people before they become generals and presidents and so forth and you poison their minds with humanity’ … I hope the TAs and I have succeeded in poisoning you.”

Evan Neely, CC: “Don’t tell a classicist this, but if you read one book of Plato, you don’t really have to read any others.”

Red figures from Wikimedia



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img December 12, 20113:00 pmimg 11 Comments

Here it is, the last day of classes of the semester. Fun, wasn’t it? We thought so too. As they are wont to do, your professors may end class with a delightful tale, some words of wisdom, or an awkward, abrupt silence. Or if you’re in SEAS, they’ll rush to finish that last example then tell you when the review session is.

Either way, we’d love to hear about some of the more memorable closing remarks. Send yours to or post them in the comments below!

For inspiration:

“The key to holding on to power is kissing the ass of the people one level below you, brutalizing the people three levels below, and hoping the people in the middle don’t notice. See modern America.”

—Nathan Pilkington, Lit Hum



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img December 08, 20119:30 pmimg 9 Comments

Your professors are free of you, now.

Tuesday-Thursday classes for Fall 2011 are done forever. They are in the past. Depending on what you study/believe, the past, and those classes, might not strictly exist anymore.

Passing over that—and any of the impending existential crises that tend to come a’ knockin’ late Thursday night—you should tell us the notable things your professors said to tie off the course. Submit via electronic mail to

A piece of inspiration:

“And they’re still alive, the New Left! Hopefully they’ll all be dead soon.”

—TA, History of the World Since 1500

The fulfilling part of their lives via Wikimedia



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img October 10, 20112:30 pmimg 56 Comments

This weekend, we published a preliminary petition declaring the support of Columbia and Barnard faculty for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The petition has been officially released today on behalf of the Faculty Action Committee with 328 over 350 signatures (and no repetitions this time), by Professor Paige West. You can read the full press release that accompanies the petition, which includes a statement from former Provost Johnathon Cole, by following the link at the bottom of the post.

Many observers have expressed a desire to understand who these protesters are, rather than simply sympathizing with their frustration. Two recent Columbia grads, Victor Suarez, CC’11 and Laura LaPerche, CC’10 made a short documentary, ‘More Than One Demand’ to tackle just that question. It examines the multifaceted messages of the protesters, by asking individuals to explain the meaning of their signs. The doc even includes one of our own! From 2:06-2:41 Columbia Philosophy Professor John Collins describes the inclusiveness of the protests as “a stroke of genius.” The New Yorker recently published a list of some of the signs held up at a recent march, which simply presents the spectrum of opinion.




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img September 12, 201112:45 pmimg 6 Comments

Two diligent students hanging on to their professor's every opening remark. (Or responding to text messages from behind their computer screens.)

Here are a few more quotes from your witty and wry professors. Like, um… Pringles, the, uh, fun of professor remarks doesn’t stop after the first day. Feel free to send in any weird, kitschy, or cute thing your professor says as the year progresses.

Prof. Musatti

”Unfortunately, most societies still believe in…monogamy.”

John Magyar, Inorganic Chemistry

“For the first exam, you’ll need to memorize the periodic table. Otherwise, you won’t know the difference between Ruthenium and Rubidium or be able to understand how the valence electrons can make molecules like CH4 tetrahedral and BH3 trigonal pyramidal. Actually…(glances at periodic table) I guess there’s not a lone pair there so it’s actually trigonal planar.”

Erik Gray, Romantic Poetry

“So Romanticism is a reaction to the Enlightenment, but it’s not just the opposite. Thinking that would be the grandma-is-a-virgin fallacy.”

Emanuel Zur, Financial Accounting

“I know everything about you. I stalked you all on Facebook. Seriously, some of you should take down some of those photos. They’re pretty obscene.”

Peter Kelemen, Earth: Origin, Evolution, Processes, Future

“Until I was 18 I had to look at my hands and remember which thumb I sucked to in order to know which hand was my left and which one was my right.”

Sunil Gulati, Principles of Economics

“Jeff Sachs is the reason many of you wrote in your college essays that you wanted to come to Columbia. 11 of you did. I checked. I didn’t check, but I’m guessing.”

Stephen Edwards, Fundamentals of Computer Systems

”The number of t-shirts you can understand on is the best indication of your ability as an engineer.”

More Professor hilarity after the jump.



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img September 08, 20111:30 pmimg 11 Comments

Professors say the darndest things. Sometimes it’s unintentional, and sometimes it’s a well planned line that they’ve used for years to break the ice. Either way, we find them funny, and Bwog collects the best quotes at the beginning and end of each semester. Here is a roundup of our favorites so far.

Prof. Lambert, Organic Chemistry

“Seriously, you just spend three years making piss?!”

Sam Moyn, Historical Origins of Human Rights

“Hi, I’m Sam, I work here.”

Evan Neely, CC

“I love reading my CULPA reviews…my favorite one, and I know who it is, we always know, goes, “I’m an athlete, so I don’t have time to do all the reading, and gets it.” No, I don’t get it! I just don’t care if you don’t talk.”

Christia Mercer, Philosophy and Feminism

“What if a penguin walked in the class smoking a cigar and told you to go fuck yourself? … I enjoy saying that too much.”

Gary Okihiro, Intro to Comparative Ethnic Studies

“…and to greet me they presented me with a pineapple, which was funny because I had just written a book about pineapples.”

Professor Simpson, Intro to Native American Studies, talking about one course book’s topic (land acquisition) versus a book involving a lot of ”sexy times”

”Getting killed for your land – SO not sexy”

Laura Kay, Life in the Universe

“We use big numbers in astronomy. You all should be getting used to billions and trillions from Congressional discussions anyway.”

“You guys pay like $5000 a class, so you might as well pay attention.”



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img September 06, 201112:00 pmimg 14 Comments

This prof is really taking it to the next level.

Classes start today! And as you probably already know (unless you’re a wee freshperson), today is noteworthy for two reasons:

  1. You will actually attend all of your classes.
  2. Your lovely profs will say silly/funny/hilarious things to convince you to continue to come to class for the rest of the semester.

We at Bwog enjoy a good giggle every now and then, so send your most ridiculous professor quotes to We’ll post them, your Bwog-reading professors will blush, and everyone will have a wonderful time. Cheers!

Dapper didact via Wikimedia Commons



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img April 29, 20117:52 pmimg 28 Comments


Congratulations, you made it through a whole semester’s worth of classes! Now all that stands between you and summer vacation is…finals. Procrastinate by checking out all of the ridiculous things professors said before ending class. If you forgot to send one in, or we just foolishly overlooked it, feel free to share it in the comments. And when you’re done seeing how funny your professors can be, don’t forget to review them on CULPA!

Judith Russell, Intro to American Politics: “The West Wing is like porn for Democrats.”

Joseph Traub, Scientific Computation: “I appreciate you all being here on such a gorgeous day. If I didn’t have to be here, I wouldn’t.”

Marcellus Blount, African American Literature II: “We’re not going outside today. It’s too distracting. People aren’t wearing a lot of clothes…I didn’t say that.”

Bernard Tamas, Intro to Comparative Politics: “There’s nothing I can teach you about being mad. You sort of just pick that up.”

In Interpretation of Culture:

“You can’t choose your family. You were born this way.”
Class laughs.
“What? Is there something funny about identity politics?”
Class explains that it’s a song.
“There’s a song called Identity Politics?!”

Pascale Crépon, Elementary French II: “It’s amazing how depressing it is on Fridays in this room. I need a mojito afterwards, but I have another class…”

Chris Durning, Transport Phenomena II: “If you go to France and don’t speak French, you’re going to have a hard time finding the toilet.”

Michael Como, Buddhism: East Asian: “Speaking of compassion and karma, your course evaluations…”

Read on to see closing remarks from Core professors and others!

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