What da eff is “Columbia’s anonymous professor and course rating site”?

CULPA, Columbia’s Underground Listing of Professor Ability, is the bread and butter of many students during course registration. It’s the creative mode of the shopping period. Using CULPA falls into the category of things I wish I knew before my first semester, along with the knowledge that registering for the maximum amount of credits gains you absolutely no respect from anyone and you do not need to go to this “awesome bar” called Phebe’s just because your friends are going. 

Columbia’s personal ratemyprofessor.org is owned by the Spectator Publishing Group and is mainly used by students for its extensive database of reviews for both classes and professors. We at Bwog actually have a similar rival interface: a wall of some old sticky notes in the back left corner of Morton Williams next to the packaged cheesecake. Check it out! We’re a newspaper too!!

These reviews are often used as a secondary source of information about classes and professors that can be initially found on the Columbia Directory of Classes. When examining a CULPA review, here’s what to keep an eye out for:

  • The date the review was written
    • Reviews older than 5 years will be noted with the icon below. Pay attention to this! Some can be very outdated. 
  • General information about the professor including the content of the class, lecture and conversation quality, and overall experience.
  • The “Workload” section which often contains the number of assignments (papers, problem sets, discussion posts, etc.), exam format (midterm and final), and weighting. Some reviewers opt to post the final grade that they received. 

CULPA users can navigate these reviews through two channels: professor pages and course pages. Professor pages list every class currently or previously taught by that person, and the collective reviews for any of these classes. It’s a great idea to look at reviews of other classes taught by a professor, as they can give you insight into the their teaching style. It’s also interesting to look at what fields the professor has experience in; it could dictate the lens through which they teach the class.Course pages, on the other hand, are collections of reviews for a particular class that include all professors that teach the subject. Course pages might tell you whether or not the content of a class interests you, even if syllabi between professors might differ.

Some professors might not have reviews for the class you’re taking or any reviews at all. While this seems very scawy, it doesn’t need to be a deterrent! One of the best classes I’ve ever taken was with a CULPA ghost. Look at their LinkedIns and then personal Instagrams and then hometown newspapers like a normal person!

Outstanding professors will be awarded “nuggets”: bronze, silver, or gold icons that appear next to their names. These are assigned through a CULPA algorithm that determines the top-rated professors through continuous positive reviews. You can take a nugget to mean that this professor consistently impresses students. Nugget mm. 

A Final Note: It’s imperative to keep in mind that every student will have a unique professor and class experience. No class should be ruled out or picked solely because of a review on CULPA. While they are moderated, there is no guarantee that your experience will mirror that of another Lion. Taking advantage of the add/drop period to test out classes is highly recommended!

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