Columbia University science professor Emlyn Hughes made national news last week after his stage performance in front of his class during which he stripped to his boxers, showed clips of the 9/11 attacks, had ninjas slice through a stuffed animal, and other strange acts.
On Monday, he returned to his classroom, where he teaches “Frontiers of Science,” and offered a few more antics, but kept things much more tame.
The Columbia Daily Spectator reports:
Hughes began this lecture, like the previous one, with rap music—“Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio—set to a video of nuclear devastation, and also featured a ninja, who did not return after the introductory sequence.
Clad once again in a black hoodie and sunglasses, Hughes acknowledged the national hubbub over his performance, saying that he had turned Horace Mann Auditorium at Teachers College into “the most famous classroom in America.”
But in spite of his odd attire, he quickly got down to business with a lecture that examined both the physics and politics of nuclear weapons in detail.
Only one other stunt occurred in the course of the hour-and-a-half long lecture. As Hughes discussed the repellent properties of like particles, twin girls walked onstage from opposite sides of the auditorium, sat down at desks, and began to type on laptops in sync.
But as to whether students are paying any attention to the class remains to be seen. Student Alexander Pines, on Bwog.com, offered a scathing review of Columbia’s Frontiers of Science mandate in his post Monday:
I’ll be frank, Frontiers of Science is a bulls**t course. Instead of providing an in-depth exploration of one or two key topics in modern scientific study, it seeks to instead condense incredibly complex subjects (quantum mechanics, particle physics, special relativity, neurobiology, to name a few) into easy to swallow one and a half hour lectures that act as little more than cocktail party fodder. Instead of giving all undergraduates a basic background in science and bridging the “divide between science and humanities in the minds” of college students, Frontiers strips complicated ideas of their nuance and asks students to swallow and regurgitate information instead of considering it critically. It is the anti-Lit Hum, a class of reduction of critical thought instead of expansion. For this reason, it’s one of the most controversial pieces of the Core and is continually being considered for review.
Unsurprisingly, Frontiers is ill attended and students who do show up rarely pay attention–hell, I’m sitting in Frontiers as I write this now. A cursory glance of the crowd will show rows of MacBooks open to Facebook, the New York Times, Oscar night fashion recaps, and shoe shopping on Zappos (and that’s just what I can see from my seat). A friend of mine who had the class last semester told me she sat in the back with her headphones in and watched porn every week. When I tell upperclassmen that I’m off to a Frontiers lecture, they laugh and tell me to take a nap instead. …
An honest glance into the wild world of an Ivy League higher education. It’s worth $40,000 a year, eh folks?