Our series on professors’ opening remarks continues, because Monday-Wednesday classes have auspicious beginnings too! Send your overheards our way at bwgossip@columbia.edu.

Stats professor Chun Yip wrote the following definition of “independence” (as in variables) on the board:

“Independence: The relatively frequency of one variable are the same when condition on every categories of the 2nd variable”

This is not a bad transcription of a statement.  He wrote this on the board.

Professor Carl Hart, Drugs and Behavior class:

“This is not a class to discuss your drug experiences. Don’t say things like ‘my FRIEND did this drug once and…'”

Michael Shaevitz, Intro to Physics:

“I don’t CARE about significant figures” — HUGE APPLAUSE from the 300 person lecture — “forget about what the book says about significant figures. I know it’s all the rage in high school.”

Major Debates in African Civ., Professor Mahmoud Mamdani

As the projector doesn’t work, the mike sucks and CUIT is nowhere to be found, Mahmoud Mamdani exclaims, “We are the lowest priority on the totem pole at Columbia. Welcome the African perspective.”

Professor Jill Shapiro, “The Human Species: Its Place In Nature”

“I should probably tell you that I make a lot of bad jokes.  They are not for your amusement, they’re for mine.”

(General laughter.)

“Even if you don’t laugh, it won’t stop me.”


Professor Alfred Mac Adam, in a class called Mad Love

“The son kills the father and lops off his penis. Then it falls in the ocean, which foams up…[meaningful pause]…like Alka-Seltzer.”

“If we had time to read Wuthering Heights, we would see that Cathy & Heathcliff don’t even enjoy the physical act of sex. They only share a dark passion. Granted, they are English.”

“Humans, on the other hand, get pleasure from sexual intercourse. Or so I’m told.”

“And since our first reading is Plato, let me leave you with a few very Platonic thoughts, from that most distinguished insurance executive, from that Athens of America, Hartford, Connecticut. Yes, I’m talking about Wallace Stevens.”

Mahmood Mamdani, Debates in the Study of Africa:

“In some former Major Cultures, you have been celebrating this culture and this culture. We will not be celebrating in this class.”

Student whispering to neighbor: Shoot me.”

Michael Stanislawski, Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union:

“There’s nothing that stirs my heart more than a good Red Army chorus”