At Columbia, there is the expectation that every professor is brilliant. This, unfortunately, is not true. While many professors are brillant and at the top of their fields (see Eric Foner and Peter Awn), others are awful lecturers and seem to be here just for the research opportunities. I feel that the main divide is between the tenured professors and the associate professors. Those who have been at Columbia for many years tend to be tremendous, and their classes are the most popular. Those who are younger and have yet to prove themselves are often terrible - they grade harder, give way more to TAs, and are less approachable. My word of advice: take the classes with the big-name professors. They really are the best classes here.
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