The Columbia Committee on the Core will officially end its controversial “Whoa Dude” seminar requirement. “Whoa Dude” was introduced last spring semester by the committee in hopes of reviving the questionable Frontiers of Science Core requirement.
“I’m just glad to see it go,” Columbia College freshman Chip Forsyth says, referring to so-called “‘Whoa Dude’ Wednesdays.”
“WDW really just made me question the course altogether,” says Forsyth. “I mean, I understand the decision to move away from the lecture-format into small group instruction, but it was just really off from the beginning.”
The “Whoa Dude” Wednesday seminar was meant to accentuate groundbreaking research in the fields of psychology and string theory—staples of the FroSci curriculum. However, first-years tell a different story.
“On the first day of class, I thought we’d talk about the lecture. I, for one, was eager to discuss the corpus callosum,” Columbia College freshman Bianca Moneé says.
But the seminar was far from the scientific discussion Moneé had imagined. Instead, the class was treated to “mind blowing facts,” most of which had to do with the 1960s classic Canadian-American rock supergroup ‘The Band.’”
Copies of the syllabus obtained by The Eye show a curious grading breakdown that calls into question the legitimacy of the seminar requirement. A full 20 percent of the final grade was made up of “sick facts” about The Band’s lead vocalist and guitar player Rick Danko.
“After telling the group that Danko was asked to back Bob Dylan’s band in 1966, the professor made the whole class chant ‘Whoa Dude’ in the same harmony as the chorus in ‘The Weight,’” Forsyth says.
Another 20 percent of the course grade took the form of quizzes, which, students say, consisted almost entirely of back-of-the-envelope calculations about The Band-related questions. Yet another 10 percent was cryptically made up of the phrase "just don’t switch out."
“At one point, in order to really understand the meaning of the word ‘proxy,’ the instructor made us watch videos of audiences cheering at The Band concerts. That way, he told us, we could attempt to ascertain just how skin-meltingly good their live shows were—which would otherwise be unmeasurable by human standards,” Moneé says. “At another point in the seminar, we learned about feedback mechanisms by listening to an ‘awesome jam’ off the album Stage Fright, then sharing it with our friends. I’m still not too clear on the concept.”
At times, students recall, the facts seemed unrelated and somewhat frenetically put together.
“I’m glad I placed into an Etta James-themed University Writing section in the spring. Otherwise,” Forsyth says, “some of these mind-blowing Rock and Roll facts might have taken a toll on my GPA.”
"What really did it in for me was the class trip to the American Museum of Natural History," Forsyth says. "During the subway ride there, the instructor made us sing ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ while asking for spare change. Most of the passengers were not impressed.”