Review Comment

[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

March 03, 2009

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I actually like Professor Smithsimon a lot. I don't really get the whole "smug" critique. I have to agree with the previous reviewer though, if you are not a racist moron then don't bother taking this class, which I refer to as "How not to be Racist 101" The class was filled with little gems like black people can't get jobs because the economy is structured to have unemployment not because they're lazy! WOW! Honestly I thought Smithsimon handled it well considering the heaps of insanely racist questions asked. I would strongly advise people not to take this course if you want to have any respect for the student body at Columbia left. One girl on the last day of class after countless days of attempted reprogramming against cultural stereotypes said "Yea but Muslims are just way too religious to assimilate." My bill for text messages went through the roof because of this class because I was constantly texting all my friends the insanely racist quotes from my classmates that made up this class. One last anecdote, a girl actually raised her hand and said "You know in Crash the scene where Ludacris is like 'oh look those white people are crossing the street because they think we're going to rob them' and then he did. Like what does that mean?" Ah how racism thrives among the enlightened body of this fine institution.

Workload:

Two papers midterm final. If you have any basic knowledge about the world and are not racist you can do all of these things without studying and get an A like I did.

January 07, 2009

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Oh Greggy...
Beware! This class is sort of for people who need an introductory course to reality. In other words, if you already know that Black poverty/underclass is a result of structural problems and not cultural patterns, then you don't need this class, because Greg will just beat the subject like a dead horse and he's some prophet spreading the gospel. The gospel of not being a sheltered pseudo-racist I guess.

I found this class boring and even a little insulting sometimes, because Greg is just so smug. He seems like one of those kids that grew up in some lily-white suburb outside of Boston, went to college and took some sociology class, and is now obsessed with teaching others like himself the plight of African Americans.

Also, he's a novice professor, and he shows all the signs. His midterm was way too long for the amount of time given, plus it was just full of rote memorization-- he's one of those professors who's trying to find out what you don't know, as opposed to testing you on what you know/have learned. (X author cites 9 components of the global city. Please list them and explain their significance in 2-3 sentences. You know? Ugh! How do you explain "The Global City" in 2 sentence?) Plus, the readings come off as kind of outdated, from the late '80s, like maybe he read them when he was in college. Plus, his TAs are obnoxious, and aren't really in touch with what Greg says or the readings, etc. so their grading is frustratingly random. Lastly, winter break is almost over and I still haven't gotten my grade, par for the course as far as this class goes.

Suffice it to say, there are some interesting and enlightening parts of this class, but they're hidden among all the smug, self-congratulatory crap that is Greg Smithsimon.

Workload:

Not too bad. Half a book a week--sometimes interesting, sometimes embarrassingly bad--2 annoying paper assignments, a ridiculously long midterm, a final (exact same amount of material as midterm, double the time). I'm going to make a good grade in this class, but I can't say much of the work was enjoyable or even worthwhile.

December 31, 2008

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Being in the class itself, with all the readings, pressure from doing the field research and the sometimes excessive amounts of readings for his class, was kind of difficult and sometimes very annoying. Overall, though, coming out of the class, I think there were definitely some interesting ideas and concepts that i had not considered before taking this course. This course seems kind of an introduction to the urban studies field, and it did lead me to keep going with the urban studies major track. I wish I had time to read more of the readings; while interesting, a lot of them, I also felt that we had little time, especially during the second half of the course, to really go through all the readings and really critique the theories and ideas that came out of them. At some point, yes, Greg started lecturing, and lectures for less interesting. It was definitely an interesting course, though.

Also, while Greg is quite good at his lectures and knows his stuff, I had a huge problems with the TA system we had this semester. Greg did not read the papers or midterms himself; it was the TAs who did so. I am not at all sure if Greg even made sure they had the same grading rubric, as it was evident in the grading of our papers and midterms that one TA was grading rather generously and one was grading pretty harshly. It was very unclear, the grading rubric, and seeing as how I still haven't gotten the grade back for this class yet, I'm still not sure.

Workload:

Lots of readings, especially at the second half, where we would read chapters from three or four readings for one week. Two papers (this time, one a neighborhood study, another an election day project where we had to stay in the city), a midterm (which was wayy too long, hardly anyone completely finished), and a final. Participation, somehow was put into it. The discussion sections were not helpful at all, but I'm assuming some participation grade went into those.

December 17, 2008

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This was a truly eye-opening class and Greg is an excellent lecturer. He packs a lot of information into one semester. The first half of the class focuses on race in urban America, and Greg does an excellent job of showing the institutional causes of racism in the US. The second half of the semester (which is not as strong) focuses on immigration. The idea of the "global city" is incorporated throughout. Not only does the material feel immediately relevant and applicable, but Greg slowly debunks a lot of common stereotypes about race and immigration. At times he can ramble or trail off in his lectures, but for the most part he is very engaging. His two papers require field assignments that allow you to see real-life examples of what you are studying in class.

Workload:

Weekly readings (about 100 pages, sometimes excessive), two papers with field assignments (easily graded) and midterm/final (reasonably graded).

December 14, 2008

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I greatly disliked this course. The professor's lectures are disorganized and often incomprehensible, and he tends to trail off in the middle of a thought, leaving you wondering what he said and whether it was important. He goes WAY too fast through the notes, but he will repeat things if you ask. Talking to him one-on-one he comes off as standoffish but he generally will help you figure out your paper topic, whatever. The TAs have not actually done any of the readings and thus are unfair graders and unhelpful in sections. Take this class if you want to do somewhat difficult and demanding fieldwork and then be indirectly called a racist.

Workload:

Midterm, final, two papers that involved going out and doing "fieldwork." LOTS of dense, uninteresting readings.

December 10, 2008

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor Smithsimon is engaging, but be slightly wary when you take this class.

The TA's this year graded the papers rather easily but the midterm was way too long for the time period given.

My main complaint for this class is although its nice to have a lecturer who makes what he is saying interesting, Smithsimon is really hard to take notes on and get "general points" from. He mumbles a lot. He doesn't do slides and makes diagrams that people "sort of get".

On the other hand go into his office hours and he will talk and listen to you and is very good at taking/giving constructive criticism.

Overall not a bad class but wish I could pull more "concrete" things that I learned from it than I did.

Workload:

The work load is light, lots of reading (not all of which is necessary) 2 paper-projects which mean going "into the real world" and are time consuming but easy and a midterm and final.

March 25, 2007

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Greg is awesome! It was a totally great class. The reading could be a little dense at times, but if you pay attention in class it's not hard. He is very availiable in office hours, and a totally nice and unscary guy. The biggest problem is that Greg doesn't speak very loudly and sometimes can drone on in lecture.

Workload:

Not bad at all. You can get away with not doing a lot of the reading. 2 easyish papers. midterm and a final.

November 30, 2006

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

He's a little scattered, that's definitely true, but all in all I enjoyed this class. He didn't seem nearly as condescending as other reviewers described, in fact, he was very interested in having discussions in office hours. One thing that was annoying was his tendency to mumble during his side comments. It was as if he wasn't talking at all, given that no one could understand him. He acknowledged this habit to us early in the semester, but I haven't seen any improvement on his part. I felt like we could have gotten deeper in discussion with some of the material, but the class was so big it hindered that potential quite a bit.

Workload:

2 essays (3-5pgs), midterm, final

March 29, 2006

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Interesting course and he is a really good teacher and nice guy. If you are looking for a fun and light course you should def. take this.

Workload:

Not bad, the homeworks are field work type assignments and graded easily, a fair amount of reading but its quick reading, midterm and final that aren't too bad

January 24, 2006

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I agree with some of the other reviewers in that the lecture structure was obnoxious or nonexistent and that the field research was a serious and slightly unnecessary commitment. I disagree with the others in that I think they have been too kind to his general style and personality. Although nice and cute, Smithsimon comes off as cocky and disorganized at times. He spent multiple class days talking about his personal research projects which, though interesting, had very little to do with what we were actually trying to cover - more to do with personal petting.

In general, I just didn't like the guy. He plays favorites.

Workload:

field research was a pain, tests were completely unfair, have to do the reading. not too hard, though.

January 16, 2006

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Prof. Smithsimon is one of the greatest prof. this school has to offer. He respects his students and is interested in what the class as a whole has to say about the topics discuss in class. Fellow students, please keep in mind that a good prof. is one that gives you the answers, a great Prof. is one who leads you to find it yourself-to think-this is why we are here-right?.. Ok. Some other reviewers complained about the his exam: I took this class-I did the reading-went to class-and paid attention to his lecture-I did very well- and so my friends from that class. If you do the work and study for the exam -you'll get an A. But you have to think about what he is teaching you. No-one should leave this campus without taking a class with Prof. Smithsimon. He would make you think!.
Once again he is GREAT!

Workload:

Very reasonable. If you do the work and go to class you'll be fine.

January 07, 2006

Smithsimon, Greg
[URBS V3410] Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in Urban America

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I have mixed feelings about this class and this prof. I absolutely loved most of the readings and I found the topics very interesting, but it seemed like we tried to cover too much ground and I would have preferred to just focus on one or two subjects instead of the three we covered (race/segregation in cities, global cities, and immigration in cities). I admire Greg for trying to pull them all together but I dont think it worked too well for our class.

I also felt that, although greg seems incredibly laid back in class, his grading was slightly harsh. Of course, I cant say for sure because it is january 8th and I still have not gotten my grade. Greg says he hates giving tests, yet the tests he gives are extremely hard and sometimes focus on minute terms in the reading that we have discussed in class. The reading and lectures could have been more closely tied together; sometimes Greg would lecture about random things that didnt relate to the topics of the course of the readings. And like another reviewer, I did not think spending time on discussion in our lecture was useful. That's WHY we have discussion sections.

One other (small) complaint is that two of the assignments required in-the-field observations. This is interesting, but time consuming, especially for the second assigment which requires that you observe a neighborhood that is not in Manhattan. Personally, it was a big burden to find time for this field research in my insane schedule. I wouldn't recommend this class if you want to just sit at a desk and write a paper in a few hours. But if you have the time, these field assignments are definetly more interesting and engaging than traditional papers.

Greg is an entertaining and interesting lecturer, and he chose great readings. He is also extremely accessible outside of class and an overall nice guy. Overall, I am glad I took the course. However, there is definitely room for improvement.

Workload:

fair amount of reading, bi-weekly discussion sections, one two page paper, two five page papers (I found them more time consuming than the average 5 pager), midterm and final (both hard)

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
URSB / URBS URSB URBS V3410: Race Ethnicty Immig Urban Amer: Race Ethncty Immig Urban Amer Gregory Smithsimon 2008 Fall MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
URSB / URBS URSB URBS V3410: Race Ethnicty Immig Urban Amer: Race Ethncty Immig Urban Amer Gregory Smithsimon 2007 Fall MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
URSB / URBS URSB URBS V3410: Race Ethnicty Immig Urban Amer: Race Ethncty Immig Urban Amer Gregory Smithsimon 2006 Fall MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1