Syllabus of the Month (February)

We’re on a melancholic run for the winter months.  February’s honoree is “The Professor of Longing” by Jill Talbot.

243: The Professor of Longing

Dr. Jill Talbot
Contact: | 426-7060
Office: LA 102 C (a room I share with a broken shelf and three people I never see)
Office Hours: Before and After Class and once in a booth in the Hyde Park Bar & Grill

Course Description: This course is about failed attempts. It’s about me standing in an office two states and two months ago handing over a letter declaring that I was leaving academia indefinitely. It’s about being on the road—Utah, Idaho, Montana—climbing north before having to turn around, scramble south. It’s about the trying months of summer and ending up in a circumstance not on any map. It’s about Boise instead of Missoula, about adjustments instead of adventure, about impediments edging out impulse, bi-monthly paychecks that can’t cover rent and daycare, my last cigarette. It will be writing in a cramped corner on a plastic tv tray in a foldout chair bought at a thrift store. By the end of the semester, the focus will be two am phone calls and bad checks. For the final, look for a bookcase and a loveseat in a living room with the front door left wide open, my four-year-old daughter’s favorite polka-dotted vest forgotten on the kitchen counter.

Texts: We’re not going to read anything beyond my own proclivities. We’ll discuss stories, essays, and poems that remind me of my most recent misgivings, the lingerings I’m unable to yield, the words underlining my past. Our study will include recurring images, my own, of course, as well as the themes of my disposition. The text in this class is me.

Attendance: It’s strange to think I’m even here. Years from now, I will feel as these weeks were nothing more than an interruption, a curve in the story’s road.

Disclaimer: While these aren’t the texts I really used that semester, they most accurately reflect who I was during those weeks when I kept my eyes to the sidewalk.
Continue reading “Syllabus of the Month (February)”

February 16th, 2018 by

Syllabus of the Month (January)

This month’s honoree is:


Instructor: Kevin Temple
Office hours: By text message

Course Description

There is no such thing as the Philosophy of Adjuncting; but rest assured, this course is authentic, for I am being deliriously underpaid to teach it. As the “instructor of record,” I have made the syllabus distinctly my own because that tiny gasp of freedom is to tenure what adjunct pay is to an actual salary. What have I put on it? Nothing of use. It is self-defeating, for that is what a philosophy of adjuncting must be.


Week 1: Marx on alienation

My adjunct friend says, “The irony of adjuncting is being alienated labor while teaching future alienated laborers about Alienated Labor.” Read the Alienated Labor section of Marx’s “Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts.” Alienation happens in a bunch of ways; for example, when instead of doing something great on your own terms, an arbitrarily powerful person forces you to do it his way. He ruins what you do by breaking it down into a series of distinct tasks, automating whatever can be automated, measuring how long each remaining task takes, and then paying you as little as possible per task. That’s how administrators created adjuncting. It’s almost like they’ve read Marx.

Week 2: Adorno saw it coming

We discuss the “culture industry.” Universities as a whole have what Adorno called a “culture monopoly.” As such, he says, “They cannot afford to neglect their appeasement of the real holders of power if their sphere of activity in mass society … is not to undergo a series of purges.” Well, guess what? The purges happened anyway. This is why we commute.

Continued at Adjunct Commuter Weekly…

January 24th, 2018 by

OSP wins a Digital Science ‘Catalyst Grant’

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve won a Catalyst Grant for innovative research tool-building projects, offered by Digital Science.  The grant will support the extension of the OSP into other languages, beginning with German, Spanish, and Japanese (languages in which we have large document collections). 

We’ll begin this process soon after the launch of the next version of the Syllabus Explorer–currently a couple months away.  We think that in 2018 the OSP will grow from a mostly US-based curricular resource to a global one capable of mapping  curriculum across a wide range of countries.

More info on the Catalyst Grants.

September 19th, 2017 by

Syllabus of the Month (June)

This month’s honorees are Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West from the University of Washington for their very ambitious INFO 198 / BIOL 106B course:

Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data

Our learning objectives are straightforward. After taking the course, you should be able to:

  • Remain vigilant for bullshit contaminating your information diet.
  • Recognize said bullshit whenever and wherever you encounter it.
  • Figure out for yourself precisely why a particular bit of bullshit is bullshit.
  • Provide a statistician or fellow scientist with a technical explanation of why a claim is bullshit.
  • Provide your crystals-and-homeopathy aunt or casually racist uncle with an accessible and persuasive explanation of why a claim is bullshit.

We will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be among the most useful and most broadly applicable of those that you acquire during the course of your college education.


May 29th, 2017 by

Job opportunity at the Open Syllabus Project: Web Applications Developer (Javascript and Python)

The Open Syllabus Project is an academic data mining project based at Columbia University that’s analyzing a corpus of 1M+ college course syllabi. We’re building a wide range of tools and services for audiences both inside and outside the university. We aim to:

  • Help instructors discover new resources and design courses.
  • Help university administrators understand the structure of the offerings at their institutions, and to help librarians allocate resources for books, databases, and services.
  • Develop  new scholarly metrics that capture which resources are being used in the classroom.
  • Build book recommendation services for lifelong learning
  • Analyze trends in the sequencing of books and concepts on syllabi, to build a “dependency graph” of knowledge.

We launched a beta version of the project with an op-ed in the New York Times last year.  Since then the project has appeared in Nature, Time, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, MarketWatch, Der Spiegel, Business Insider, Lifehacker, FiveThirtyEight, WNYC, QZ, and elsewhere. It’s also been picked up by major news outlets in Europe, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Ukraine, Egypt, and Mexico. With new funding from the Sloan, Hewlett, and Templeton foundations, we’re working towards second release of the project that will feature much larger collections of syllabi, books, authors, institutions, and publishers.

We’re hiring a full-stack web applications developer to take a leading role in the development of these public-facing web services. We’re looking for a developer who has significant experience at both layers of the web stack – someone who enjoys building large, stateful Javascript applications, and also is able to build and maintain the server-side APIs that feed these client applications.


  • Build a API in Python (Flask or Django) that organizes the results of the metadata extraction pipeline into web-facing data stores (Elasticsearch, Postgres) and exposes well-structured REST endpoints for the client application.
  • In collaboration with designers and contract developers, build a front-end application using React and Redux / MobX that surfaces the data on the web.
  • Work with the data engineering team to define data requirements for the front end application.


  • 3+ years of professional experience in software engineering.
  • Demonstrated ability to build high-quality, performant, maintainable web applications that serve sizable traffic.
  • Experience building large, stateful Javascript applications with React and React-ecosystem libraries like Redux and MobX.
  • Experience with modern Javascript build tools like Webpack or Gulp.
  • Experience with server-side Python development with Flask or Django.
  • Commitment to sustainable engineering practices – automated testing and deployment, continuous integration, and reproducible development environments.
  • An eye for clean, readable, extensible, well-tested code.
  • Experience with remote / distributed collaboration on GitHub.
  • Ability to work in a team environment, but also the initiative to take on difficult, open-ended problems and see them to completion.
  • Committed to building a tolerant, respectful, and safe work environment.

Nice to have

  • Experience with Elasticsearch
  • Experience with infrastructure automation tools like Ansible
  • Data visualization with d3

First and foremost – we’d love to find a collaborator who can contribute new ideas and help drive the project in new directions. OSP is strongly committed to building a diverse engineering team.

Salary: Competitive

Commitment: Full-time for 2 years, renewable.

Location: Remote or NYC
If interested, please send an email and CV to

May 3rd, 2017 by