Andrew Nathan

Apr 2021

I really really loved this class. It was a great introduction to the human rights field, and I found Professor Nathan to be very kind and humble considering his impressive resume. Like one of the reviewers down below said, you can spend as much or as little time on this class as you want. The readings for each class are definitely heavy, but I never read more than three of the readings and still finished with a good grade. The lectures pretty much cover all the material you need to know, and Prof. Nathan does a good job of explaining very broad, difficult human rights topics. I'm not surprised that people have left scathing comments about Nathan below; after all, he addresses pretty complex, emotional issues (like migration, public health, religion) that people in my class had very strong views on - views that did not always coincide with Nathan's. But I never once felt like Prof. Nathan was forcing his opinions on me when he expressed them, and he was extremely open to discussion on those opinions with students who disagreed with him. Of course, I disagreed with him every now and then, particularly on gender, but that doesn't mean I think he's a horrible person. Overall, take this class if you want a good, broad introduction to human rights by a professor who has a lot of experience in the field and in academia.

Apr 2021

deeply problematic professor, super outdated and offensive. If he didn't have tenure I would report him for some of the ways he treated students in the class class was super easy if you can get past how deeply outdated his human rights are you don't need to do any of the reading if you're not taking intro to human rights maybe he's fine but there are some topics there that he just was super white savior-y about, which is ironic because he was meant to be teaching us about neo-colonialism easy class, good TAs but be warned, he's problematic as hell

Mar 2021

Prof. Nathan is a pretty easy class, but his view of the world is seriously outdated. I'm really not an intensely liberal person, but Prof. Nathan is just, years behind in terms of Sexism, Religion, the LGBTQ+ community, etc. The class where he defined gender, gender performance, and sexuality was one of the most uncomfortable and cringy moments in my life (I'm straight & even I was starting to get offended). The discussion classes are largely a group of students trying to explain to him modern concepts like equity and all of us from radically different ideologies coming together to disagree with him. The class was not so hard, and was super fair, especially over zoom. If you can put up with the old-white-man-ness of it, the class is fair and the topic is interesting, and he's only a little condescending. The TAs are really qualified and come from all over the world which is pretty cool. The rest of the Human Rights department may not be like this, but he certainly is.

Jan 2020

The lectures were pretty boring, did not have to come to class to do well. Unfortunately I would not recommend this unless you have to do it for a major.

Dec 2018

Most boring class ever. Definitely an easy A. Professor Nathan's voice puts me to sleep. At first I did huge efforts to try to follow lectures but in the end I gave up. I took turns with some friends to go to class and it turned out even that was not necessary. You don't need to go to class for the midterms or papers as the papers are completely independent from class lectures and the midterms is half google and half the posted slides.

Aug 2018

A lot of reviewers misleadingly say that this class doesn't require you to be wholly engaged, but if you want a good grade, you most certainly have to be an active student. The midterm and final need a mastery of the course material, if you don't read the assigned readings, you'll feel behind. I cannot recommend taking this class just for an easy breezy grade, but you should take this class if you are interested in China. I came in with almost no knowledge, and I now believe that I have a great deal of insight and expertise on Chinese politics-- the course is broad. Discussion sections are insightful but can sometimes feel like a drag due to lack of attendance and disinterest from students. Professor Nathan isn't a terrible lecturer either. However, it will feel terrible if you aren't interested in the subject matter. If you are interested in China or want to learn more, I highly recommend this course. Otherwise, you're better off spending your time more productively.

Jan 2018

Andrew Nathan is an incredibly interesting, intelligent man. He is an average lecturer; however, his course Introduction to Human Rights is incredible. You can do as much or as little work as you like and all the material is challenging, but interesting. One can go to all the classes, do all the readings, but you can also skip all classes and not read at all and completely get away with it . I went to 5 classes at the beginning of the semester and then never again and probably did 5% of the readings overall and got an A just from googling and researching my papers and exams online.

Apr 2017

Nathan is a very smart guy but a terrible lecturer. The good thing is you don't have to attend lectures or discussion sections to get a good grade because most of the class does not go including myself. I also only skim the readings for the essays and you pick your own topic on the essay. Would recommend getting his book though. Grades seem to be based on which TA grades your paper more than anything.

Mar 2017

I have mixed thoughts about this class. I would recommend it, however I do not like how TA driven it is. If you happen to get bad Teaching fellow you're screwed, however professor Nathan is great and even changed one of my grades when I disagreed with a bad Teaching fellow. The Teaching fellows are somewhat helpful depending on which you get for a particular assignment, however some are great graders, while others extremely harsh, but they cycle so you get one per assignment. Nathan himself is a great professor, write down everything he says for the midterm and final and do not miss class. He clearly enjoys and engages with the material and although class is a bit boring, it feels purposeful for the exams. Do not do the readings they are a waste of time. The Two research papers are so vague and you can write about anything so it is very hard to choose a topic that is a "puzzling human rights question." So ambiguous it's insane. Take this class, I would consider it an easy A.

Jan 2017

I highly recommend this course if you are a human rights major looking to fulfill your introductory course. Andrew Nathan provides a broad overview of the various aspects of human rights. The readings are really interesting, however they are very heavy and I wasn't able to do them all. Nonetheless, I still did well in the class and got an A. If you put in the work, this class is easy to do well in. There are 2 papers and a take-home midterm/final. Different TAs grade each assignment, so the grading can vary-- however, if you adequately and appropriately answer the questions, you should be fine!

Apr 2016

A very interesting topic that is all but ruined by this class. I took this class thinking I might want to concentrate in human rights. Well this class threw that idea right out the window. The professor is next to impossible to listen to (he sounds like the guy from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), the TA’s grade weirdly. On every thing I’ve turned in all the comments say “great!” “awesome point” etc and then at the end you get a B for not acknowledging enough counterpoints. Sorry buddy its only a 7 page paper what would you like me to do? If you’re majoring or concentrating in HR then you have to take it (I’m so sorry) but if not don’t bother. It's not an easy A even though it should be.

May 2015

I literally never did any work for this class. If you're a poli sci major and you don't want to do anything (as in not attend classes, not attend discussion sections, not do readings), this is THE class for you. I had really high hopes for this class given Andrew Nathan's prestige and all, but I found that I was ALWAYS put to sleep by his voice. There's something about it that is so monotonous that it lulls me to sleep and there really was no fighting it. Additionally, Professor Nathan's lecture style is horrible in that the trajectory of his sentences reflect his train of thought. Horrible for taking notes--I gave up and stopped attending classes. I literally didn't attend lecture, discussion section and did not do any readings for a good two months. I completed two papers that were unrelated to things covered in lecture and got no points off on the take home midterm. I have never received a better score on a midterm than I did in Professor Nathan's class (keep in mind that I literally did not attend class). I'm not going to lie and tell you that I learned so much in this class because to be honest, I did not. I think I came out with the same amount of knowledge about China and "Foreign policy" in China as I had when I first entered the lecture with high hopes in January.

May 2013

I loved this course although never did any of the readings... because they are not incorporated into his lectures at all, he does not test you on the material. That being said, you MUST go to the lectures because a lot of the short answers he asks on the midterm and final are word for word quotes from what he said in class. By taking decent notes you will do well in this class. The 2 exploration papers I thought were great, no vague poli-sci intro theoretical question, you get to chose exactly what you want to write about. I chose Srebrenica for my first paper, a pretty obvious topic, and got a B+ even though I thought it was a good paper. For the 2nd one I chose the Omar Khadr case (a canadian afghan minor detained in guantanamo and tortured for being accused of working as a terrorist) which was more obscure and also current events got me which got me an A (I think because they hadnt read it 5000 times unlike my first paper). The exams are decent, I went to most of the TA sessions which were really helpful and interesting, but I basically got all my knowledge from the lectures. This class made me want to become a human rights major actually. TAKE IT! You will definitely enjoy it and it isn`t a lot of work, trust.

Jan 2013

I had been looking forward to this class since enrolling at Columbia. Never had a chance to formally study human rights before, and since this is one of the only courses explicitly offered by the human rights department it seemed like a showpiece for the new undergraduate major. Nathan is a nice guy, the TAs are all brilliant, and they obviously care about the students. Doesn't matter...Wikipedia scratches the surface of human rights - in theory, real-world practice or academic use - more than this class does. You can skip the lectures if you're not interested in the subject. Nathan lectures, too quickly and without slides. He defines things like women's rights by pointing to the relevant UN treaty and talking about how it is bad to hit your wife or discriminate based on gender because the UN says so. I suspect that if the UN hadn't been able to pass the treaty, he would be okay with skipping it because that would mean it wasn't officially a human right. Rinse and repeat for refugee rights, indigenous peoples, and the rights of businesses. Don't expect something more complicated like delving into the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment or the death penalty. Don't expect a thorough discussion of a framework or terms that will help you in future human rights/polisci classes. I even bought all the books! Not that I had to. Just wanted to ensure that I kicked ass in my major's course. This was a mistake. No one kept up with the readings, including myself. They seemed relevant but weren't integrated into the material at all. None of the previous students or human rights majors in the course with me read anything more than the one main book (Neier) at best. I also only went to one (optional) TA session and never saw the professor because I didn't want to be grilled about untouched readings. As a transfer student, I don't have enough time left to change my major. After taking this class, I would if I could. THIS is the foundation of a top human rights department? An entire semester almost entirely devoted to memorizing different, transient UN bodies and treaties? Not a word about conflict resolution, or peace and justice studies, or the workings of social movements, or...?

Dec 2012

I really took a liking to Professor Nathan, but really for no reason. His lectures were interesting when I paid attention, but I really had no motivation to do so, as they had nothing to do with the readings, and the assignments had nothing to do with the readings or the lectures. The reading list was the longest thing I have ever seen in my life, but was irrelevant to the class. I think I may have done one reading the entire semester. The papers, "Exploration papers," were very fun to do, but again, had nothing to do with what we learned in class. I did the entire midterm by googling the answers, and got an A+. If you're looking for an easy class, take this one. if you're looking to learn a lot about human rights, don't take this one.

Jul 2012

This is one of the most interesting classes I took at Columbia. Professor Nathan is the nicest professor at Columbia and if you approach him with any questions, he would very pleasantly greet you with the answers. If you are not sure about what to write for your papers, ask him! He would help you with the proposal as well as giving you the instructions on how to best write it. Also, the TAs/Grader are nice people too as they reward you with good grades if you have worked hard enough on your assignments and they answered you inquiries (with patience) when you are in doubt. I also find their grading as well as comments for the mid-term and papers very helpful. I improved in other assignments after following their remarks. If you are interested in one of the most important countries in the world, take this class! You will understand China in depth!

Dec 2008

Andrew Nathan is by all means a genius. He is a renown scholar in both political science and human rights, with an emphasis on China. However, these classes do not match the enthusiasm surrounding him. While he has many interesting and insightful points to make in class, his lectures are largely disorganized. He does not use slides, and instead, allows for a seeming oral free-for-fall, touching on any topics that seem to come to mind as they concern the topic of the day. As should be expected, he is enlightening, but again, only to a certain extent in his capacity as professor for this class. Form a group and share notes; there is no way any one person can gather all his says in one sitting. On another note, Nathan is amazingly personable. Given his level of domestic and international fame as a scholar, he is nonetheless willing to meet for more than a half hour for first-year undergraduates. If you don't like a grade a TA gives you, he will meet with you to talk it over. And if he finds your arguments legitimate, he will change the grade for you -- that simple! In the end, I would definitely suggest this class. Just do not get your hopes TOO high. He deserves praise, but his mainly disorganized lectures are often a drag.

Jun 2008

I have no idea how so many of these reviews can be bad -- Nathan's Chinese Foreign Policy class was awesome. In fact, he was awarded a Columbia teaching award this year for the class. He's laid-back, so you might think he's a goofball, but he's a brilliant guy and a superstar in the world of China Studies. And unlike most famous professors, he pours his heart and soul into this class -- you can tell he prepares a lot for each class. Unlike most professors, he doesn't get frazzled if a student asks him a question or even corrects him. He takes in everybody's comments, reflects on them thoughtfully, and gives really valuable feedback. In my three years at Columbia, this was definitely one of my favorite classes.

Sep 2006

There is some good to say about this class, but not much. I did not go to class after the first two or three weeks. I soon realized I might die of boredom if I continued to go, and since he wasn't actually saying anything, it didn't really matter anyway. I did not do the readings. I should have, I know, but they were copious and somewhat intimidating. And I did not go to discussion sections. How could I without doing readings or going to lecture? Anyway, the good is that somehow, without ever having taken a class in human rights before, I managed to pull off an A-. So if you're looking to get an A for under 10 hours of work during the whole semester, take this class.

Jun 2006

Unlike the other reviewer, I don't like Professor Nathan and his A-. Surely this class is considered easy with relatively little work, but it is filled with too much political correctness to be a great class (watch out those annoying people--they love to show off their lack of knowledge and reiterate their random sinophile, perhaps to appeal Nathan). The lectures are best characterized by Nathan's constantly scratching his head saying that his lectures are out of control, and a glance at the syllabus/reading list tells you how little effort Nathan seems to have put into teaching the course. Most of the concepts/arguments are outdated, and there is no topic assigned for the two essays. Instead students are left with several pretentiously ambiguous categories of writing to work on (which sounds nice at first, but actually a waste of time for students to come up with something "interesting" to write...). Choose your topic wisely (because of the whole political correctness thing).

May 2006

Great course. Though DEFINATELY not for the conservatives or realists out there. Especially good after Bernstein's modern chinese politics in the fall. Nathan is really likeable. Easy grader...i would be shocked if 90% of the class didnt pull an A- for turning in their work. And...if you're actually interested in learning, do the reading and you'll be a stud.

Mar 2006

Everyone here has done a pretty good job at explaining Nathan. He's fairly nice, just a little arrogant and doesn't really know how to teach. Assumes that you have a lot of knowledge about political theory that you may not have -- I for example am majoring in human rights but NOT polisci, so had no previous political theory knowledge (not to mention that it's supposed to be an intro course). I am now taking the Barnard colloquium, taught by Peter Juviler, "Human Rights in a Diverse World," which has essentially the same syllabus, except I'm actually learning stuff this time. So my advice is: If you're a polisci major, don't take this class to fill a requirement, find something else. If you're a Barnard student who wants to take this to fill a 9 ways of knowing requirement, I guarantee there are better courses you can find to fill it. And if you're a human rights major and think there is no way around it, you may or may not be right. I'm not sure about Columbia students, but I know Barnard students who avoided taking it by taking the colloquium (taught by Juviler) first and then claiming that they didn't need to take the intro class cuz it would be pointless. It's a small and new department so things like this are easy to get around. My point is, unless you think there is absolutely no way around it, don't take this class. It's not awful, just a complete waste of time and -- especially if you're going to take more human rights classes in the future. Oh -- if you do take it, my one piece of advice is to go to class during the guest lectures. There are a fair amount of these and almost all of them were amazing. It was just Nathan that sucked.

Jan 2006

This class started off interesting, but it was all downhill from there...while many of the guest speakers were really interesting the class is not worth your time...Prof. Nathan's lectures were useless and offered nothing of substance...he gets up in front of the class without a plan and just babbles on, and he will continue to babble until the end of class because he does not believe in ending class even one minute early...This class was just awful and the assignments were even worse...with six TA's and no real standards set, grades are arbitrary and you never know what you are going to's really unclear what the TA's are looking for when grading your work...Overall, although the class may seem interesting when you read about it, stay far away if you is just not worth the frustration

Dec 2005

Overall this was a pretty good class - the lectures are usually engaging, and the readings (when I did them) were great. It's generally not too hard, although if you get Nathan himself and not one of the TA's grading your papers, you'll be graded pretty harshly. He's an interesting guy - and the lunches that he invites students to (randomly) are awesome - definetely go if you get the chance.

Nov 2005

Worst professor ever. The first few times I went to class, I thought he was kind of cute. After that, I just realized that he made cute little remarks to hide the fact that he never makes any points and he keeps repeating himself. Sometimes, it is difficult to keep from screaming, "GET TO THE POINT!" I don't recommend this class. If you are interested in human rights, it will turn you off. If it is possible to take this class with any other professor, DO IT.

Jan 2005

If you want a class filled with hippy, yet dumb students and reading that is far from necessary take this class. Prof. Nathan is a big name in his field and you can tell he knows tons about the material. However, the class is full of guest lectures that mostly tell you of their personal experiences and fail to actually teach the class human rights concepts. The workload is minimal and I know so many people that never showed up to class and did fine.

Jan 2005

the subject matter is very interesting, and there were many interesting readings, unfortunately it seemed to be somewhat meaningless. every week they'd ask how many people had done the readings and five people would raise their hand. professor nathan's lectures werent that interesting, however it was co-taught by prof. celermajer and her lectures were somewhat better. all in all, not a hellish class but not an amazing one either.

Jan 2005

Prof. Nathans and dany definitely know their stuff. However I must admit that the class was really boring. You can do really well in the class without reading all the materials. For the essays, you can write about anything. If you want an easy class to take, this is it!

Nov 2004

Nathan is a great professor, if a bit disorganized. He's totally approachable, flexible and an overall nice guy. This class will get you aquainted with the basics of international law and give you a good sense of the human rights regime. The other lecturer who teaches with Nathan, Danny Calermajor is also excellent, and they play off eachother very well. With the addition of some very interesting guest lecturers, the class (on a subject which can be dry at times) maintains an interesting dynamic. Very worth it, will make you consider a combined major in Human Rights.

Jan 2004

This is a good class to get you acquainted with the study of human rights. Nathan is approachable and fair, and his lectures are engaging enough. The class isn't hard, but there's a lot you can learn if you choose to do the readings, and it's not a big deal if you choose not to.

Jan 2004

I'll have to disagree with the last review. Yes, Nathan is a little incompetant and disorganized at times, but amusing at the least. Nevertheless, his lectures weren't all that bad. The class is interesting lectures (including Nathan's) were interesting as well. I would reccomend this class.

Dec 2003

This is the second year the course has been given, and this syllabus provided a variety of class experiences. There were lectures twice a week, including many guest lecturers successful in the field. There is a lot of student participation compared to most introductory courses, with discussion in the lecture, some times more than others, and there was a weekly discussion group for each TA (3 of them), not obligatory, but interesting, helpful, and fun. Profs. Nathan and Hertel both provided 2-hour office hours, as well as TAs. There is support from the TAs, profs and the human rights undergraduate staff if you want to take advantage of it. The core of human rights, we learn, is respecting human dignity, which is pretty much repeated in all major human rights documents, Prof. Nathan is an extraordinary professor, he likes to teach and to encourage students, and he started this course, and without him, none of the other political science TAs, who were immensely popular assisting him in this class, and Prof. Hertel, who just obtained her PhD here, would have had an opportunity to show themselves to us. A final point made about the class by a TA was that she hoped students should take away a sense of what human rights are and how they can add to that debate with their own concerns about rights. For that reason alone, It is a very worthwhile class, providing a really rare and desirable academic foundation.

Dec 2003

In response to the previous review about the Fall 2003 course with Prof. Nathan and Shareen Hertel, it was unfair and not in the spirit of the class. Prof. Nathan made the point that in fact, when the UDHR was written, people with handicaps tried to play them down, including the president, and the first drafter. It's a historical perspective. The student in referring to the first drafter who wrote it with only one arm seemed to be referring to the idea that because the first drafter was handicapped, he would naturally include consideration for that. The TAs along with the professors set a great example of freedom of speech and opinion, and sometimes even entertained us with their differing points of view on topics. Students are free to express themselves in class and discussions. It is not appropriate to sound off with pet peeves that the previous critic has, that should, in reality, have been thrashed out first with the students and/or profs in class or groups. The judgments are just as stupid as the projection upon the professor, who is brilliant, kind and friendly. A good class.

Dec 2003

Prof. Nathan is the least intelligent Prof. I have ever had and has no problem displaying his incompetancy at every turn. I will never forget his comment on the Women's Right Movement, which he so eloquently compared to a "child wanting a cookie....if you give the child one cookie they are just going to keep asking for more cookies!" Yeah....uh huh. My roommates and I still laugh about that one. Or, when he was talking about the UDHR he said that the writers did not have in mind any rights being claimed by disabled people, for example. When a student called him on it, he said he had in fact "forgotten about the one-armed Canadian that drafted the darn thing." The list goes on. Although Prof. Nathan is a joke, his co-teacher, Shareen Hertel, is my new hero. She is totally intelligent, and articulate, and saves the class. Prof. Nathan needs three other T.A.'s to cover his verbal blunders, but Candace, Juntao, and Dani are awesome. The class is a winner, definetly take it, just skip all of Prof. Nathan's lectures.

Sep 2003

I had him for first semester CC. Class usually started with a short presentation of the book, and then a guided class discussion. I found him to have a very good knowledge of the text, and the discussions to be interesting. If the discussion lagged he would take a larger roll, if kids had a lot to say he would let it flow naturally. He was pretty good about keeping the kids who liked to hear their own voice in check though. He clearly liked the material, and enjoyed teaching the class. He is very open minded and won't stiffle your opinion or grade you down just because he disagrees with you. On both my midterm and final he made a point of saying he disagreed with my position, but felt i presented/argued it well and gave me good grades. He specifies pages and sections of books to read. The assignments are usually manageable, although he gets a little carried away with "The City of God" and he assigns huge swaths of the Koran. I slept through some classes with no problem, also enjoyed class discussions. As long as SOME people in the class are talking and discussing he has no issues and lets sleeping dogs lie. The class is obviously better if you actually read the material, but you can get by with just skimming as long as others actually read or are good at BS'ing. Definately a better than average professor.

Apr 2003

Horrendous lecturer who I am doubting whether actually wrote the Tianmenan Papers. Nathan is kept on since he is a beautiful writer. However, as a professor, he failed to provide examples to back up his lectures, if he actually remembered what he was talking about. At the least the TA knows the topic well

Apr 2003

Nathan is rather condesending to his students, and his cc class eentually really is a polisci class. his grading is okay not too stingy and napping time in the second hour of every class is essential...

Jan 2003

This class had the potential to be very interesting...unfortunately, Nathan killed it. There was a lot of reading (some of it actually interesting) which turned out to be completely unnecessary. The lectures wandered and were incredibly boring. Most of the class didn't come, and those who did were often doing other work.

Nov 2002

At first, I was really excited about this class. Then the novelty or something wore off, and i realized how disorganized and almost not fair this class is. the readings are great, but class is part summary of the readings, part Nathan's random thoughts. Class was disorganized, and Nathan always explained the papers after we handed them in. the best part of class was when he had guest lecturers come in. if i had to do it over again, i wouldn't have taken this class.

Sep 2001

Andy Nathan is something of a bigshot in Chinese political scholarship, known for not liking the Communist Party. He got lots of press for publishing the Tiananmen Papers. He's even a nice man and a very nice advisor. Given all that, you'd think he would be a bit more interesting as a lecturer. I fell asleep in every one of his lectures. I expected to learn more about the cryptic and mysterious Chinese side of foreign policy formation, but Nathan teaches essentially a course on American policy towards China and an American view of other countries' policies towards China. He likes to involve student discussion into classes, which is nice, and the EP-3 incident spiced up all our lives. But the lecture content itself is pretty predictable.

Jan 2000

This class is great for those who want to understand the basics of the Chinese view of the world and the Chinese policy goals and methods in interacting with other nations. Andrew Nathan understands the importance of including history when explaining current Chinese policies. His lectures, more often than not, entertain the class and they are almost always clear and informative. There are two 4-6 page papers, one midterm and a final. Both are take home papers. Grading is easy, and the class is a taker.

Jan 2000

An excellent class for those interested in the future of both Chinese politics as well as United States foreign policy. Nathan is certainly one of the big names in the China field, so you get to hear the latest developments from the horse's mouth. As one of the co-authors/translators of the Tiananmen papers as well as writing the introduction to the Mao biography by Mao's doctor, Nathan is someone worth going to class for. It's interesting.

Jan 2000

Many CC professors have that annoying way for you to keep up on readings-weekly responses, questions, whatever. Not Prof Nathan. He is one of the most laid-back professors i have ever had. He is aware of the fact that half of the class is asleep or doing other homework, but he doesn't seem to really care. Since China is his specialty, he often goes off topic, but that just means you, too, can talk about anything when you're discussing the readings. Inviting us to his house for dinner, giving extensions when we whined, I thought he was an all around cool guy.

Jan 2000

As a China scholar, Nathan doesn't know much more about the books than you do. For historical background he may ask some of the smarter looking and sounding students in class for their 'expert' opinions. Doesn't add much too the books, but doesn't destroy the course either.