Derrick Higginbotham

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Sep 2012

Derrick was awesome, difficult but interesting. I really enjoyed his class. He did have a tendency to throw temper tantrums and stop class, which was unfortunate. The class was otherwise enjoyable though. I really liked how Derrick would make you question your assumptions, qualify your evidence on each paper. He probably made me a better writer. In my first semester I got a B+, which disappointed me, then I got an A-, which made me happier. Too bad no one else will have him though, he moved to South africa.

May 2012

I came into Derrick's class fully aware of the high demands he places on his students, and I completely agree with the reviews below. After a few weeks, classes became fairly routine but comfortable: rich discussion carried by about 5 people every class (quality drops noticeably when a key member of the class is absent), with occasional writing exercises or group presentations. I will concede that he can be very intimidating; you can tell when he isn't in a pleasant mood at the very start of the seminar, and it will affect the atmosphere for the rest of the class. Nevertheless, when he is truly engaged in the discussion, he will enable you to make the connections between paragraphs and ultimately the various lit hum texts in ways that you could not previously conceive of. Regarding his grading, he does ask for a lot, and it's likely that your midterm/final grade will not be up to your normal standards. Nonetheless, the fact that he is willing to look over his students' drafts reveals his genuine desire to help his students succeed; take advantage of this. Though I rarely attended his office hours due to schedule conflicts, I did commit myself to narrowing a topic and sending him a draft for every paper I wrote. Another piece of advice that I discovered but can't completely confirm is that if you write on the books he enjoys, you get bonus points; this is the only way I can explain his uncharacteristically generous grading on my latter 2 papers of the spring semester. Of course, Derrick is headed off to South Africa next semester, so this review will probably be moot and unseen by future lit hum students. Nevertheless, it was a great pleasure being in Derrick's class, and I wish him the best in his new position at Capetown.

May 2012

Derrick is an incredible Lit Hum teacher. I was so worried about the Core as a first year in the college, but Derrick reminded me why I chose the school and I really appreciate that. He's very charismatic and passionate about literature, and class discussions are often both insightful and entertaining. He's a tough grader (I think most people got C's on the first draft of their first paper), but never unfair and always willing to meet with you for one or two writing meetings if you schedule in advance. A few things to consider -- he can be moody sometimes, especially in the winter. And if he's not satisfied with the class's analysis, he makes no show of hiding it, which can be incredibly intimidating. Sometimes it's frightening to the point where it's hard to speak up in class. Also, you can definitely tell when he does not like a text. Our classes on Montaigne, Pride and Prejudice, To the Lighthouse, and Angels in America were all fantastic, but it was quite difficult to get through Don Quixote. All in all, an incredible Lit Hum experience. Most of the time, I walked out of the class feeling like I had just experienced a literary breakthrough. I tend to be silly like that, but my point still stands.

Jan 2012

I agree with the reviewer below. Derrick is extremely difficult to please and this can be frustrating. He writes extremely in-depth comments on papers, which is both helpful and infuriating. He's also very moody and occasionally throws sulky fits. On the other hand, he really does teach and force you to actually think about what you're saying. Under no circumstance can you spit out something from SparkNotes and expect to get away with it. You need to do the reading- all of it- and you need to be prepared to support and argue everything you say. Meet with him one-on-one whenever you can- in that setting, you realize that he's actually very funny and interesting, and genuinely wants to help you. You just have to do your part, and try not to be too intimidated.

Jan 2012

This is a retroactive review from fall 2011 I don't take issue with any of the reviews on this website, however I will give a significantly different view in perspective. I did not do all of the readings and did not find myself and significantly better writer because of Derrick's teachings. However, I found Derrick to be a very tough if demanding teacher. This class will not be an easy A I will say right now. I an no genius, but with in depth thinking and actual analysis of passages/works i ended up with a B+ average for the two semesters I had with him. I was happy with this for the amount of work I put in, but make no mistake, Derrick will make you work and think for every point you put in so I would not recommend this class for those who just want to squeek by because a few of my friends who were in my first semester ended up sorely disappointed with their grades. That being said I personally loved Derrick's teaching style and felt that even when I didn't complete the reading for the class that I got a lot out of the discussions. He constantly directed conversations in ways that made classmates argue and protect their original views of passages or ideas that further garnered conversations about modern styles of thinking. His focus on how we could adapt the old age of the material to the present made it possible take and interest even if you find the ancient texts outdated. Personality wise Derrick is harsh and has no problems telling you that you are wrong. I personally believe that you had better come with a thick skin to his class because if you are easily frustrated you will have a hard time. Furthermore, Derrick is very very gay, which, while not a bad thing, flavors his opinions on certain subjects and some should be taken with a grain of salt when analyzing works critically. Ultimately, I enjoyed my time in class with Derrick and even when i switched class times my second semester of freshman year purposefully placed myself in Derrick's class. It is no easy grade in any way shape or form, but if you are looking for a teacher that knows what he is talking about and won't take any bullshit from hotshot wannabees then you should enjoy this class.

Jan 2012

Oh, Derrick. This class is not for the weak-hearted. Dr. Higgenbotham knows his stuff and while his demeanor can sometimes be intimidating (he made a girl cry in my class), he definitely challenges you to go above and beyond the usual discussion and analyses over a text. He greatly improved my essay writing because he tore my essays apart. Not to denigrate Derrick by reducing his attitude towards the class in one simple statement, but the man is hard to please. It’ll be clear whom he favors in the class and whom he’s not so keen on. I unfortunately had to switch sections at the semester due to a scheduling conflict and I cannot stress enough how less lenient I found Derrick to be than other teachers. While it’s easy to get away with just reading parts or summaries of the works in other classes, rest assured that Derrick will know if you’ve done so. Derrick is sensible, however. You can take any position you wish in whatever argument, so long as you have textual evidence with which to substantiate. That’s as reasonable as you can hope in a professor. Finally, just a random tip that I remember from my section: never, for whatever reason, argue that Oedipus is about fate. Even if you think it so, best to keep it to yourself.

Aug 2011

After realizing that many people in the academic world are truly brilliant, but that doesn't make them good/great teachers, I am so grateful to have had Derrick for LitHum because that's exactly what he does—teach. This was my favorite class the entire year, and I feel like I learned how to read and write again, which sounds weird until you experience it for yourself. I feel confident in my writing now in a way I wasn't before Derrick's help, and not in my style or voice of writing, but actually in my ability to produce a quality academic paper. And literature is so much more exciting and meaningful now that I feel like I understand what I'm reading, not just the plot or identification of 'literary devices,' but truly seeing a piece of work in depth. Derrick taught me all of those things more than any other class or teacher I've ever had, and especially for a class like LitHum, it's exactly what I wanted and more than I ever expected. He expects a lot out of you, sometimes in a way that might not be clear or might be more than you've ever been asked of before or think you can do. But he also rewards your effort in way that makes you feel incredibly proud of your work, and you truly get the grade you earn. He's completely fair and his guidelines are very clear. If you ever have any questions about what the guidelines mean he's more than happy to answer them, and if he feels like the entire class is missing something, he often will provide examples or take time out of discussion to clarify. He's a tough grader, but he's not out to get anyone. He doesn't treat grading like a game, as is often the case among students. Take class seriously; show up prepared (which means reading! you really need to read the books!) and ready to work/discuss. Class is very much based on discussion, and Derrick acts more like a referee than anything. He'll pose questions or give some brief background info about a text, then it's up to the class to talk it out. And where the being a good teacher comes in is knowing how to control this atmosphere: if a conversation is getting off topic he'll put it back on track, if it's petering out he'll revive it with a new direction. He keeps his own opinions about specific texts to himself pretty much, although sometimes bias comes out, but mostly in an entertaining way and never to intimidate or stifle someone else's thoughts. He can be a little scary the first couple of classes, but I think that's mainly bc students come in scared of him, not bc he's actually scary. One class he talked about where to buy the best rainboots before beginning—I promise he's an incredibly nice guy and friendly. Go to office hours (which is sometimes required for writing assignments) and talk to him about your work! His insight is helpful and he takes the time to individually asses your work term and long term. But do come prepared; if you're asking him to look at a draft, send it to him ahead of time and let him know what you want out of the critique. Go to office hours and talk about the books! Let him know what you think, if you are confused, to continue a thread of conversation that started in class. He'll take or make the time to talk to his students, and is always open to meeting outside of office hours if it's more convenient. Just come prepared to work if you're in Derrick's class. It'll be a fantastic experience if you're willing to put the effort into it and one that will pay off wonderfully. It's hard, but never daunting, and even though you're grades might be less than desirable in the beginning, he'll work alongside you to help you produce better work that will receive the grade it deserves.

Jan 2010

As you can tell from all of these reviews, nobody wants to voluntarily take Derrick's class. I was assigned his section and hence had no choice. In the first class, he very proudly announced that all his Culpa reviews are true. I do not understand why no one is taking notice of this, but it is not something to be proud of when no student likes your class. The worst part about this class is that he is a VERY harsh and unfair grader. It is very, very difficult to get a good grade in this class. However, Derrick is very nice as a person because he is helpful and always available when you need his help. He has office hours when you can go meet him to discuss your work, and if he is busy during these hours, he will agree to meet you at another time. In spite of this, those meetings are not very helpful. He will give you various pieces of criticism and comments that he wants you to incorporate in your papers, but when you do, and go meet him again, he will come up with various new pieces of criticisms for the same paper. In short, its very difficult to make him like your work and make him happy. You can edit your paper all you want according to his comments, but he will STILL not give you a good grade. My point: Stay away from his class. It will ruin your GPA.

Jan 2010

Tough grader but interesting class. Don't expect an A unless you are willing to work really hard, but his class discussions and the way he teaches definitely forces you to learn. He definitely knows his stuff and brings a lot to the table. He has an interesting sense of humor and can call you out on your bs. Go to class prepared to talk. Reading quizzes are a little detailed but they force you to really know your stuff. The essays involve ungraded drafts which is a plus. The class discussions and workshops help improve your skills as a writer.

May 2008

Reading the previous reviews I was a little uneasy about the last minute change making Derrick our teacher for second semester lit hum. However, a few weeks in I realized I was in a pretty special class. Derrick is a really fantastic teacher, and I enjoyed the class more than any other I've taken thus far. He comes off a bit harsh at first, especially with grading mainly because he is a little. He expects a lot out of you, but the only reason he does is because you probably have a lot to give (unless you like to bullshit and seem smarter than you are which in that case you'll get what you deserve). He grades papers and exams pretty hard (for columbia anyway) and your going to have to work EXTREMELY hard for an A (A- is easier though). However all this hard work pays off in spades. I personally became a better writer, a better reader, and gained fantastic analytical skills. As far as his teaching style goes Derrick is off the beaten path. However, I think all teachers could do to learn from his style. As said before, Derrick focuses on close reading passages A LOT. Class usually consists of maybe five minutes of discussing broader themes and previous discussions, then he moves on to discussing a close reading done on the WIKI (explained later in workload). After that class is a series of close readings and discussing their relevance to the themes and motifs of the text. This kind of close study really improved my close reading and analytic skills. In the beginning of the class I had no idea where he was getting the things he said from. They made sense after he said them but I could not understand how someone could get something so complex from one passage. By the end of the class I was able to get the same level of analysis he displayed at the beginning of the year (or at least what he expected us to get). On top of this, Derrick does not teach the obvious themes and motifs of the books to death. In fact, he usually opts for the road less traveled by and finds less talked about themes to discuss. He often finds these themes in several books and strings the syllabus together in a fantastic way. His main themes of the class were things I could have never thought of on my own, but once discussed made for great fuel for discussion, papers, and overall discovery in future reading (I'm seeing relations to the syllabus in every book I read). This all prepared us really well for the final. By the time the final rolled around, we had seen almost every quote ID before (in class), and had discussed 2 of the 3 long passages in class or in the WIKI. 2 of the essay questions were main themes of our class, one of which was the very off the beaten path theme. Overall if your a Barnard girl and you just wound up with Derrick for your first year teacher, your very lucky. Just get by the harshness and get ready to have a great class. JUST DO THE READING, YOUR USELESS WITHOUT IT.

May 2007

Derrick is a really great guy. Like many of the other reviewers have said, I definitely had my doubts about the class. Higginbotham is a really hard grader, and yet, he makes you a better writer. I took University Writing and compared to that class, Lithum with Derrick was so much more instructive. In other words, he's a hard grader but you'll get through it because of how well he teachers and improves your writing. Derrick tends to focus on small passages rather than the cliched and rather obvious themes of the works of the syllabus. Originally, I believed that this pinpointing may have been slightly disadvantageous for studying for the generalized Core-wide Final exam. In actuality, Derrick enhances his students' ability in intensive and accurate close reading techniques. By looking at the small and specific passages, one is able to have not only insightful class discussions but also a sense of the ideas and themes of the text itself. Additionally, he's altogether a really nice guy who's willing to help whenever you need it. Once he even offered to help me with one of my history papers dealing with his specialties. Don't shy away from taking this class even though it's hard. Derrick challenges his students, but in a good way.

Mar 2007

very pretentious- what a previous reviewer said about the strange accent/voice/tone is definitely true. the people in the class gradually became more like him too. derrick is also an extremely harsh grader. however, he works very closely with the text and puts a lot of work into helping you become a better reader. lit hum won't be fun, but you'll learn a lot for your other classes and probably be the prodigiy in them.

Jan 2007

Derrick is a pretty good teacher; he focuses on small passages and actually working with the text rather than the general questions used by other professors (which insult your intelligence, but on the other hand, are real fun to answer!). He forces you to think critically and participate; I felt extremely prepared for the final and was surprised by how easy the passage ID's were. However, I must emphasize the force in this process. This class is painful. It sucks to write papers knowing that you'd get an A anywhere else; Derrick will you give you back a letter that says "this thesis is unoriginal, unjustified. your grammar is poor. you don't know what MLA is, do you? Your essay lacks an introduction. I don't like the way you smell. Fuck you. B. So, work harder next time, Derrick . Plus, although you're working harder, the rest of the class is too. You may hate the rest of your class. I sure did; everyone competes for his favor with increasingly pretentious, specific comments on the text. There will be petty kids who allude to comments they made in previous classes. That kid will probably raise his hand late in lecture to disagree with something he said earlier that day. There will be kids who will say "the most important thing you need to look at is this"; and Derrick will tolerate it. Sometimes though, when someone is exceedingly egregious (a five minute monologue accompanied by foaming at the mouth), Derrick will be funny. He will say flatly, "good times", and move on.

Dec 2006

Oh Derrick... He really really really knows his stuff and if you ask him a question he can't answer he'll answer the next class. I've learned a ton from him but he's a tough one. The first day of class he warned us that he's a tough grader and "everything we read on culpa is true". He'll let you know if he thinks you're bsing or just plain wrong. He makes you draw out points and will often ask "ok, so what?" His sarcasm is HILARIOUS! If you can deal with his attitude you'll love him, he's really a nice guy. Go to his office hours and get to know him. He does grade hard but he'll let you do rewrites and average the grade. My class was somewhat in love with him and I'll miss him next semester!

May 2005

Derrick, as many people have said before, comes off as intimidating at first, but I think that is just his way of making sure everyone knows that they need to do the reading. I was in his class the first semester then switched out because of schedule conflicts, and I can honestly say after having another teacher that Derrick is really amazing. The 9 AM time can be tough, but it is definitely worth it, and if you are thinking of switching out of his class, don't do it! He truly TEACHES...he gives backgrounds of books, lets you know where they fit into the greater history of literature, and he also tells you places to focus on in the readings (which you should pay attention to, because they are helpful.) He basically makes it as easy as possible for you to see what will be on the final. Also, his first paper is graded hard but still, if you work hard you can even get a good grade on the first one. The rest of the papers seemed to be graded a little bit easier. He is a really nice guy when you get to know him and he is extremely smart and presents things in a very clear way. There is no way to make the Lit Hum course a breeze because the syllabus is rather extensive, but Derrick makes it as good as anyone can. I highly reccomend him and think he deserves every bit of credit he can get for doing a great job. Students who have never had another teacher for Lit Hum should not take him for granted!

Dec 2004

Derrick is a cool guy. He likes it when people speak out and share their opinions, and participation counts for a substantial portion of the grade. He will point out logical inconsistencies or biases in your argument, but is welcoming and respectiful of many differring points of view. He once got upset with our class, accusing us of attempting to figure out his viewpoints in our papers, and then writing them to cater to this impression because he wants students to really write what they think, and he won't mark you down if he disagrees with you. I found his grading fair, but others in the class found it hard. I suppose he is tougher than most, but if you put effort into your papers, you'll do well. He likes narrowed down, focused papers with some depth of analysis in them. (If you address the prompt from a slightly odd but interesting angle is perfectly ok) He does a lot of close reading in class, which I found very effective. For instance, it's a smart tactic because it acknowledges that a lot of people either don't do the reading, or get behind on it (though the class will be so much more valuable personally if you do -- the lit hum readings are really really great) and then can still participate because they've just read the passage the class is discussing. Overall, Derrick is a smart and interesting guy, and I thoroughly enjoyed his class.

Nov 2004

At first, Derrick can seem pretty intimidating and really demanding. others have said, he grows on you and is a really really cool guy. He knows his stuff and you can tell that he loves what he's doing...most importantly, he can TEACH. He definitely wants you to make an effort in class, and is always approachable if you wanna talk about a paper or something. Stick with his class. Even if it's at 9 AM...I know I won't change this class next semester, even though the morning time sucks.

Aug 2004

It definitely takes time for Derrick to grow on you. Initially I wasn't sure if I like him or not. He can be amusing, but I definitely think he demands more from you than your average TA. As a freshman, that can be daunting, but you learn to give him what he expects. He's tougher on your first paper, just to show you that you have to put in work to get a good grade, but effort is rewarded in his classes. Beyond that, he's a pretty interesting and opinionated guy, but if you have a differing opinion that you can back up, he'll take interest in what you have to say. A cool guy outside the classroom if you get to know him.

Apr 2003

Derrick is a pretty chill dude. He wears button down shirts open with a wife beater underneath and speaks in an accent thats just plain strange. As a teacher however, Derrick is somewhat lacking. His comments on assignments are only helpful if you actually approach him and review them. Thus, he fails in imparting the key concepts they try to teach you in L and R until the very end of the semester when you kind of stumble across them and think OH, this is what he was saying. On a positive note, his classes aren't boring- he is pretty entertaining and allows great detours and interesting conversations to ensue. The one HUGE problem with Derrick is that every L & R assignment, which, as it is is a huge annoying deal, approachs a catastrophic event because he makes you write about so much damn philosophy! L & R is hard enough without having to worry about how to present Nietzche's thoeries in a lucid and rheotorical (of course) way.

Mar 2003

A nice enough guy and very smart, but his assignments are way out of left field. You get the idea that he's disaffected by the whole process, bored with what he's teaching and just trying to work in bizarre pieces of Western philosophy just to amuse himself. While all of your friends are writing papers about current events, campus issues and college life, you'll be trying to dig through what some obscure philosopher wrote 300 years ago in order to try and make sense of what Mr. Higgenbotham means by his prompts... You could do worse, and if you land Mr. Higgenbotham, I wouldn't suggest running to the dean to complain unless philosophy makes you pull your hair out. Then, you'd better find another teacher.

Nov 2002

He is a really good teacher, and tries to make class as interesting as possible, even at 9 am. The first few papers are usually graded with an iron fist, making sure you all know how pathetic your writing is, but as the course goes on the grades start getting better and better, and you can actually get a couple of A's if you put the work into it. Not as much grammar review as other LnR teachers, which can be good or bad, depending on how much you like grammar. Lots of peer editing, discussion of articles and pieces written by others, etc. Every week someone's paper is workshopped, which includes going through the paper and pointing out the strengths and weaknesses. The only bad thing about this teacher is that his paper topics can make the actual assignment harder that it actually is, and you will end up writing some abstract papers about philosophy, which can get boring after a while.