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They Had it Coming

While some of us are snapping out of that movie marathon malaise and contemplating on working on that paper due Monday, or something, a fraction of the student body taking Peter Awn’s Islam class had the pleasure of opening their inboxes to this e-mail:

I hope you all had a wonderful spring break. As I mentioned in the first or second lecture, one of the remaining pleasures left to individuals of my age is the infliction of pain on others. But even I can sense when I have entered the realm of excess . I am hence revising significantly the essay schedule in order to give you more time to complete your work and to have time to make the improvements suggested by your TA’s and me in our corrections of your first essays. Even though I am already feeling a certain remorse at dilluting the pain principle that I hold so dear, I will proceed anyway. Perhaps I have been rendered more humane and benevolent by the extraordinarily articulate and nuanced visions for the future of America being proclaimed by all of our leading politicians.

But, his conclusion is clear:

I hope that you find these changes helpful.  I would ask, however, that you not delude yourself into thinking that this apparent act of kindness indicates a fundamental change in my nature.

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  • IEC says:

    @IEC Man, you really have no idea how hard it is to be really good at “X” in life. Be it science, art, mathematics, whatever — they are all incredibly challenging to be among the best, and almost no one can achieve it.

    While I agree many majors lead to not really adding anything to the world but more professors, saying all Humanities majors are useless is pretty ignorant. I’m sure the greatest writers and artists of history would’ve appreciated a university education (well, those who didn’t have it) to complement their craft.

    Will everyone majoring in art or writing or film be a big deal? No. Some of us are working our asses off to be, though. I could’ve chosen science or math easily, but I chose writing because it’s what drives me. And please believe me, it isn’t easy. I often wish I made a different choice because math was incredibly easy for me.

    1. IEC says:

      @IEC : /

      This was meant to be in response to a comment above, but I got the captcha wrong.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous People on this thread are bad at the internet.

  • I only wish says:

    @I only wish was as awnsome as the real Dean Awn.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Peter Awn is an incredible teacher. Took his class just for a core requirement but he totally changed my life.

    Those cliches being said:

    Go ahead and baby the cute little students! As soon as you get into the “real world” no one will care if the deadline they gave you was a little tight.

    Also you will be overqualified for everything you apply for and there with be no rewarding career paths available.


    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Looks like someone had too many petty middle school teachers. Not everyone in the “real world” will be out to get you, and on the contrary will laugh at the idea of taking on an Awn-sized workload.

  • that was says:

    @that was awnkward.

  • @ TY says:

    @@ TY Ans to your question/comment –
    People who are rich i.e. parents have tons of money can afford to major in these stupid subjects. People like you and me have to major in engineering/medicine/management. I know its harsh but that is the reality.

    1. History major says:

      @History major Hey, asshole,
      If you’re so much smarter than the rest of us then how come you keep making these stupid generalizations? I’m a history major and I’m not rich in the slightest— I simply find it more interesting, and would rather struggle to find a job while doing something I love than choose to do something I have no passion for.

      If you’re so much more useful to society, then why don’t you devote your time to discovering things rather than trolling on your peers?

      1. Ty says:

        @Ty @History major
        Take it easy my friend. When I say rich it is not a generalization, I talk in terms of probability i.e. the probability of parents being rich are much higher for students who major in these stupid areas. But unfortunately you being a history major won’t have the slightest inkling what probability and statistics are. I don’t blame you.

        1. History major says:

          @History major Given your apparent level of intelligence, I’ve decided to respond accordingly:


        2. History major says:

          @History major Given your apparent level of intelligence and emotional maturity, I’ve decided to respond accordingly:


  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous This man is one of the best professors I’ve ever had. I think if many other “educators” held his philosophy and shared his sense of humor Columbia would be a better place.

  • That email is says:

    @That email is right Awn the money!

  • Ty says:

    @Ty WTF people write essays and study history, anthropology, psychology etc. Who gives a fuck. Make/Create/Discover something like engineers and scientists, which improves, the quality of life and helps people save time.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous But have they really done that much to improve your quality of life if you still live under a bridge? (i.e., Stop trolling.)

    2. cc 14, phil says:

      @cc 14, phil why this modern monomania on “saving time” ? Will we ever have enough?

    3. for TY says:

      @for TY Smart people major in engineering/science, dumb people choose other majors.

      1. IEC says:

        @IEC How did you even get into this university.

    4. lol says:

      @lol I’m glad you mentioned psychology. It’s not a science people, none of you psych majors could begin to tell me how the brain works.

      1. @lol says:

        @@lol Retard, neuroscience explains how brian works, not psych.

        1. Happy guy says:

          @Happy guy Its brain not brian – that why you need people like me who major in English :).
          Happy St. Patricks Day

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous I don’t know what your major is, but clearly it didn’t teach you about tracking comments.

            1. Serious question says:

              @Serious question If people post from Butler will they all show up under the same IP address (hence the same tracking no.)? It pains me to think that people really spend their day trolling message boards and then replying to their own inane comments.

              1. Anonymous says:

                @Anonymous I don’t know about Butler, but my roommate and I used to post from our room and it would track us as the same commenter sometimes.

        2. Psych Major says:

          @Psych Major Neuroscience may very well explain away everything that psychology (or at least cognitive psychology) currently studies. However, our current understanding of the brain is so incredibly slim that we are only at the very tip of the iceberg of studying all the things cognitive psychology has studied for the past 60 years. Without groundbreaking work in the psychology of decision making by Kahneman and Tversky, today’s neuroeconomists would have no idea where to even begin. Cognitive psychology includes heavily mathematical theories like Signal Detection Theory, Bayesion Ideal Observer Theory and Probabilitic Bayesian cognition that shape how today’s cognitive neuroscientists think about the brain and there is still much work to be done in developing these theories before neuroscience even enters the picture. Without all of this theory, there is no way for us to interpret the neuron firings we see in single-cell recording or the incredibly dirty, pop-science of fMRI imaging. Psychology and neuroscience combined explain how the brain works. This is a point that I think often gets lost in people’s criticizing psychology today.

      2. Econ major says:

        @Econ major There’s much talk about how neuroscience and biology will replace psychology, but just knowing how neurons fire does not tell you much about what we experience when we are in a certain brain state. It may be that in some future we can hook up people to some computer that will regulate the firing of every single neuron in their brain and heal whatever mental illness they may have, but until then we have psychology because thoughts, words and emotions are how we interface with the human mind.
        But be careful what you wish for. It could be said that all mental problems are biological in nature given that there is a certain “brain state” associated them, but if we ever come to rely on such a computer to treat mental issues that are easily treatable with our conventional means, I would say we would have lost our humanity; so much meaning is lost when we say that our mental worlds are only patterns of neuronal activation in the brain. One might say “why bother with thoughts when I am but a biochemical machine”; “a pill or that hypothetical computer will heal me”.

        1. neuroscience major says:

          @neuroscience major Agreed. I chose the major because I found that a neuroscience-esque approach to philosophy answered a lot of questions for me better than, say, Kant. Now, after a year and a half of actual neuroscience coursework, it seems to me that neurochemicals and complex biological mechanisms will never be able to truly explain duty, justice, or love… i should’ve done an individualized major in neuroscience/philosophy…wups..

          interesting piece in today’s NYTimes

      3. ugh says:

        @ugh brian is such a mystery.

    5. BME Major says:

      @BME Major People aren’t obligated to work to improve the standard of living. People study those subjects because they find them interesting and it makes them happy.

      1. umm says:

        @umm You sure it’s not bc they are looking for an easy way out?

        1. BME Major says:

          @BME Major That probably applies to some proportion of them, sure. But it’s more or less impossible to tell what that proportion is. I can’t read people’s minds so I’ll take them at their word when they say they want to study X and acknowledge that there are people in every department who are there for the wrong reasons.

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous and there are some who might say that majoring in something like engineering or pre-med is also taking the easy way out, in that you’re doing harder content perhaps but you’re just giving into an easy career track cut out for you, without having to cut out your own niche or market yourself or discover what makes you tick.

            is that true about everyone doing hard sciences and such? obviously not. but then, it’s not true that everyone doing “history, anthropology, psychology” is lazy or rich, so it’s just as okay of a generalization to make.

            there IS something to be said, however, to the idea that some people can afford to major in things that aren’t economically viable because they aren’t taking out tons of loans. that’s a basic fact of our job market. but that doesn’t mean that even things like Philosophy or English are easy degrees that aren’t economically viable–it’s about the challenge of finding ways to express your skills and what interests you in a world where there isn’t a clear, defined path from studying A to working on B.

    6. Truth says:

      @Truth The modern (i.e., post-Enlightenment) focus on expanding scientific knowledge and technologies is a product of the times in which we live. Don’t get me wrong, I like my iPad as much as the next person, but it is important to note that professions like those of scientists and engineers are products of a very specific set of values. Humanities majors try to understand that set of values and the other ways of thinking about the world that have come before.

      All of this is, however, besides the point. You are indeed a troll and an asshole and I hope that, by the time you graduate from this place, you find some humility and respect for your peers.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous You want to talk about being a troll and an asshole? The biggest ones I have meet are all humanities majors

    7. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous It may seem irrelevant to you, but humanities majors are what make life worth living. The art, music, literature, film, etc. that these people study and create provides the entertainment and escape needed by everyone in society. And if you’re telling me that you engage in none of this culture that is produced by your “dumber” peers then you’re just a rube.

      1. But yo, says:

        @But yo, Engineers/Pre-Med students are those who make it POSSIBLE for you to live your life and enjoy all those things. They save you time and manage your health so you can live long and enjoy all the things you’ve learned. The work some humanities majors do only affects certain sectors of society which seek intellectual explanation and content. The results of the work Engineers/Doctors almost always affect more sectors of society unilaterally.

        1. Check your premises. says:

          @Check your premises. Your operating assumption is that “saving time” is always better. Is it not possible that a simpler, more human, life could be better than an industrialized society? We have this rush forward for more progress, more production, longer life expectancies, and so on.

          Is it so inconceivable that there might be a level of development beyond which we needn’t progress? At which point we could conceivably consolidate and extend that level of development to all?

          Also, re: engineering/medicine reaching more people—there is a large segment of the (un/under)developed world (and the first world, too!) that are unreached by your improvements, but who do find pleasure in teh Bible/Koran/poetry/literature.

          1. But yo, again says:

            @But yo, again I understand what you’re saying, and I would really like to live in a society like that, but unfortunately we don’t. I think the difference between you and me is that you try to inform your decisions that you make in our society with the goal of moving toward the idealized vision you mentioned above, and instead, I choose to (begrudgingly) accept the tenants of the society I’ve been born into and work within the structure. The truth is this, that our “industrial society”, as you put it, isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. We might as well make the best of the situation we are in, rather than waste efforts thinking of what could have been, or what might be if everyone chooses to accept this visionary society you mention. I also believe that the American public has no interest in intellectual pursuits (there are, of course, more informed and astute nations), and if you are expecting them to understand, agree with, and follow your example of a society … I wish you good luck dealing with the masses who sit on their couches night after night shoving their favorite highly advertised snack into their mouths, slobbering over the next hot reality show or mindless talent competition. I suggest you wake up and look at the people around you (outside of the morningside bubble) and ask yourself if that society you describe would ever come to fruition, given the mess we currently live in.

        2. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous Believe it or not, technology and modern medicine are both incredibly new concepts, as are the professions they created. I’ve been regaled with stories from older generations about people who accidentally chopped part of their finger off and stuck it back on with a piece of tape. If I never go to a doctor do I really rely on pre-med students (many of whom never become doctors, or end up working in very specialized branches of medicine I will never encounter or need)? And while clearly I use technology, there are many who do not.

          And if you’re still going to be bitter and troll message boards (because you’re so much smarter…), just consider this: if we all majored in something “practical” you wouldn’t be able to find a job. And then all of this striving would be meaningless.

        3. IEC says:

          @IEC I hear/see more people blissful, happy, smiling, and generally relieved to be alive from things that come out of the humanities than things that come out of science.

          The technology is at the heart of many things, but it’s the artists who turn it into something enjoyable — film, video games, music, designs, creative concepts, etc, etc.

      2. exactly says:

        @exactly humans are imperfect animals; a perfect system cannot work for us.

        No doubt some SEAS kid’s gateway project could be designing a city in which every person has so many square feet of living space, so many calories allotted per day, so many hours of labor, so many hours of communal recreation, so many hours of physical activity. That would be perfectly efficient, and also perfectly miserable.

        As Lear said, “reason not the need.” What makes us human is our superfluity.

  • fAWNing says:

    @fAWNing damn, he cool

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