A Special 700-Point Lecture Hop: PrezBo Weighs In

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Students in President Bollinger’s Freedom of Speech and Press class were met with a surprise this afternoon when their esteemed preceptor eschewed his normal rapid-fire Socratic inquiry and instead launched into an hour-long elucidation of the ongoing financial and economic meltdown. After warning us that his cell phone might start ringing during the lecture, he first reminded us that he serves on the NY Federal Reserve Board, although he acknowledged that economics was by no means his area of expertise.

After ascertaining that not many students’ professors had been discussing the banking collapse, Bollinger commenced a 45 minute-long history of the events leading up to the current crisis, touching on everything from petrodollars to the wisdom of Warren Buffett, whom PrezBo knows personally, he would have you know.

Students were taking notes and asking questions as if the subject matter were directly relevant to the course. Bollinger commented that the University is “not immune” to the crisis, and looked strained when one pupil mentioned that student loan interest rates had skyrocketed. “That’s major,” he said dejectedly.

As for our futures, he expressed similar pessimism. Many of us, he surmised, would be applying to law and medical school instead of seeking employment. We chuckled nervously. As a glimpse of his perception of student life, he said that we surely were still going “to restaurants, to the bookstore, out in the city” but that we should be wary: ordinary life was “dissolving” all around us. Although, he added, we might emerge from this unscathed, happy we had escaped a “near death experience.” He implied this was unlikely.

But surely his area of expertise had some relevance to the day’s lecture. The press, Bollinger concluded, had failed to foresee and clarify the economic crisis much as it had failed to question officials during the leadup to Iraq. Although, really, are they in any position to perform valiantly?


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  1. Prezbo

    was a philosopher king today. Enough said.

  2. Bollinger's

    class is a great experience. I was in his class the semester of the Minuteman fiasco and he both took time to answer questions about the situation (as far as he legally could), and then turned the issue around and used socratic to push students on the bounds of freedom of expression in similar situations.

    I would've loved to have been there last year when he probably dealt with the Mahmoud issue head on.

    Be warned - it's probably the most harshly graded class at Columbia not on a hard curve at Columbia. It may also have a harder curve than those too...

    • alum

      I took the class last year and he called on me on the Day of Mahmoud. Talk about quaking in my boots.

      Princeton recently had to pay 6% interest on a 30 day loan issue...because it was underwritten by Lehman. They usually pay 2%. Take that, tigers!

      Heed #3's warning - take this pass/fail.

  3. ok but  

    I'm just spending all my money on easily potable things because it won't be worth much soon

  4. ...

    ya, it is harshly graded... on my transcript % A's in that class were 15% (that includes A-'s)...

    i managed to somehow go unscathed after ridiculous amounts of studying but i remember one of my friends got a straight up D- on his midterm... and it's not like my friend was an idiot either... run of the mill average poli sci student...

  5. another alum

    I was the other student called on the Day of Mahmoud. It was definitely an awesome class all-around. I did not pass/fail and it was the lowest grade I got in my major.

  6. yea

    do take bollinger's pass fail. percent a's for that class was like 14%. it was basically my lowest grade in the humanities at columbia.

  7. green

    It's quite silly that they invite people who don't really know that much about economics (a commodity, if you will, that seems to be in increasingly short supply) to sit on a Federal Reserve Bank board, don't you think? I don't dislike Bollinger, but it's idiocy.

    • nah  

      Wisdom and good judgment are real qualities even though they're hard to measure; they can be just as valuable as pure economic knowledge. The current economic crisis was largely created by people who knew a whole lot about economics in great detail

      • boards

        It is simply commonplace, nowadays, to put people with a certain amount of clout on "boards," sometimes in positions of nominal responsibility and sometimes not. It's a means of making important people more important. The NY Federal Reserve Board is just one the many boards with which Bollinger is affiliated.

  8. hmmm  

    maybe he should donate some of his salary to students so we can buy more weed, which in turn would make us buy more food, which in turn would make us need to invest money in people who know how to invest money so we could afford all of the food and then the economy would be AWESOME!

  9. yod  

    prezbo is lookin sharp in that picture...keeping it classy

  10. erudition  

    I've actually had three professors so far waste half of class talking about the financial crisis. Among the more high-falutin' lecturers was Jeff Sachs himself, who, surprisingly, refrained from the namedropping in which PrezBo apparently engaged. Shocking.

    • I was there

      He didn't exactly "name drop." Someone asked a question about how Warren Buffett might view something, and Bollinger thought for a minute and said something along the lines of, "Well, seeing as I know Warren personally, I think he would say..."

  11. PrezBo  

    for all his pro-Free Speech talk, he tried very hard to restrict student groups and their ability to bring speakers to campus after Minutemen. Fortunately that failed.

    • Take The Class

      Actually Columbia is private and does not have to allow student groups to bring speakers to campus unlike a state school.

      • So what

        if it's private? The distinction between private and public insitutitions is evident to anyone with a cursory knowledge of the US Consitution. Yet Columbia is still a University- a place for the free exchange of ideas. Ostensibly, you don't come to a University to be sheltered from all opposing perspectives (and indeed, the only perspectives that are truly bound to differ with your views are those of such groups as the aforementioned).

  12. ...  

    anyone who argues that this was some kind of a surprise is either an idiot or they're lying.

    the writing on the wall was clear and has been for YEARS.

    i think it had more to do with the fact that most were hoping to keep it propped up long enough for *something* to happen. problem is, you can't just expect *something* to happen, you actually have to do...

  13. hmmm

    scared by comments about how harsh the grading is in this class...any tips on how to actually do well?

    • ...

      Weed is probably a better store-of-value in this economy than the US Dollar.

      Oh, and a tip for the class, read your ass off and get to know your TA. After I bombed my midterm I met with my TA about ways to improve my performance. I basically did what he wanted me to do and I ended up pulling through with a good grade.

      The problem with the class is that Bollinger tells you to do one thing with answering the questions and then all the TA's use a different standard to grade your essays... it doesn't make much sense but that's how it is

  14. Since the  

    minutemen Columbia hasn't had any controversial speakers, right? O wait there was that Iranian guy...

  15. Yes,

    but strangely enough, when that little bearded man was invited, most everyone said he was entitled to speak, despite the controversy, whereas, when the Minutemen (and before that, John Ashcroft) came, very few supported that position.

  16. Weed  

    I'm buying by the pound now to save dollars in this crazy economy. for realz. CREAM BITCHES. OUT.

  17. overheard

    guy in suit walking past lerner, talking into cell phone: we've moved past the good times, we're heading INTO DISASTER!

  18. fear of men in suits  

    is the beginning of wisdom

  19. yeah  

    if you want to do well, go to class. i went to class every day and didn't even study that much, and i'm not polisci or anything, and i still managed an A-

  20. Eugene V. Debs

    Your numbers are off for students earning a grade in the A-range. I think it's at least 30% on my transcript and I took the course during in the fall of 2006 (earning an A-). Probably would've gotten an A were not it not for the ridiculous true/false section on the final that made up 1/3 of that exam.

  21. Eugene V. Debs

    Apologies. I actually took the course during the fall of 2005, not 2006. The point still stands.

  22. Eugene V. Debs

    A-range = A range, you idiot.

  23. so...  

    how should we study for the class? I've been keeping up with all the reading. but after reading the comments, I am not sure if reading and take notes in every class would help me at all. I need your words of wisdom!

  24. Math major

    You're all grade wimps.

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