A Day in the Life of Harper 130

If these walls could talk, they'd have a lot to say about Tinder, Tolstoy, and televangelists.
A photo of the College New Media Editors taking over Harper 130.
Photo by: 
Gordon Lew, College Visual Media Editor, Class of 2015

165 students. 19 cups of coffee. 107 laptops. A single day in the life of Harper 130 sees a lot of action. On Thursday, May 21st, four of our College Media Editors set out to chronicle the classroom’s goings-on from start to finish, observing six vastly varying courses from all over the disciplinary map. To see the entire day condensed down to 1 minute, 46 seconds, check out the time-lapse video at the bottom of the feature. For our editors' write-up, read on below.

9:00am | SOCI 20208 Internet and Society — Professor James A. Evans

I enter the classroom around 8:55, introduce myself to the TA, and befriend a tall student to help me place the timelapse camera. I prepare to cover the first activities taking place in a day in the life of Harper 130. Students make their way to their desks, making last-minute updates to their social media accounts, probably, and typing that last text before class. A couple stare at me with confused looks, as I sit on my own in an empty section of the room. I briefly explain what’s going on, and chatter begins about how they’ll be the subjects of a video. —Sarah Langs

The timelapse camera has been placed atop the back wall. And away we go!
The TA says “Why don’t we get started?” and class begins. Thursdays are presentation days, so the TA will be moderating, and different groups of students will present on topics related to Internet and Society. The broad topic today is “Online Relationships, Communities, and Cultures.”
The first presentation is about racial preferences in online dating. The student presenting created a survey that she sent around on a few listhosts and Facebook groups asking people, anonymously, about their own racial identity and the preferences they express when dating, both online and in person. Small sample size, of course, but pretty cool that this student just did this!
They are now discussing what types of people use Tinder. Certain students have far more details to offer than others do -- take from that what you will.
Someone just said “A de facto fact of.” Dare you to say that 10 times fast.
I finish my bagel. Honey whole wheat with sundried—shoutout to C-Shop!
The class is getting down into the Tinder details. “Doesn’t Tinder limit the number of right swipes now?” One girl vigorously nods her head “Yes.”
The TA discusses being Facebook friends with his father-in-law who is uber conservative. This class is “Internet and Society,” so it is all relevant.
So far, they’ve discussed Tinder, OkCupid, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. What’s missing? Reddit!
FIRST MENTION OF CATFISHING. We had all been waiting for this moment. Don’t get catfished, guys. Just don’t let it happen.
“I think if someone is still on OkCupid, it hasn’t worked yet,” someone observes.
Next up: a presentation on Gendered Artificial Intelligence. They lost me, but WALL-E was mentioned, so all is right with the world.
Why is R2D2 categorized as male? Seriously. Have you ever stopped and thought about this? I now cannot stop thinking about it. Other examples included the current movie Ex Machina and a discussion of how we tend to categorize those AI figures in movies as female. Also, Siri and Cortana came up. WHY do they have feminine voices? Oh but wait, you can change Siri to a male voice if you want to.
We have reached the “why should we care” portion of questioning—why should we care if we anthropomorphize artificial intelligence and gender them? I do not have an answer.
Time to shut it down. Typical end of class pleasantries. Thanks for having me!

10:30am | NEHC 20503 Islamic History and Society — Professor A. Holly Shissler

By 10:15, I’m creepin’ outside HM 130, trying to catch Sarah Langs’ eye as she dutifully observes Internet & Society. Eventually students start to spill out and I make my way over to Sarah’s seat. It’s time to learn some Islamic history, y’all. —Lindsey Simon

A woman (TA perhaps?) enters the room and raises the window shades using a fancy button on the wall!! It is technological and cool.
Students start trickling in. Some of these people seem like real adults! I check the Course Catalog: though the sequence fills the Civ requirement for College students, it’s also cross-listed as a grad class. Mystery solved.
Dudes in front of me are having a bro-bonding moment. Lots of heartily clapping each other on the back. Heartwarming! Meanwhile, Team Real Adults is discussing whether or not sharks are the most dangerous things on the planet.
Professor Shissler now takes the podium and jumps right in; the students fall silent, but for the quiet rhythm of computer keys clacking. We’re learning about Iran in the early 20th century.
I sneeze. Sorry guys.
Professor Shissler breaks out the chalk to try one of the classroom’s gorgeous new blackboards. She writes Jangali in some pretty swank cursive, referring to an Iranian rebellion from 1914.
Some dude walks in. Better late than never, I guess?
Now we’re talking about Iranian sartorial reform, and it’s totally fascinating. Professor Shissler explains how in 1929, Reza Shah implemented a Western style of dress for men, followed by forced unveiling of women in 1936. All this is a fraught topic about which “oceans of ink” have been spilled—no kidding. Still seems v. relevant in 2015.
We get a question! Sweat-shirted dude in Grad Students’ Row asks if some social mandate to embrace “modernity” was also a factor in these reforms. He has his academic hand gestures down pat.
More changes in Iranian society, this time relating to industrialization: specifically, advances in food processing and textiles. Meanwhile, my phone loudly falls on the floor, and it’s embarrassing.
Folks start packing up. Islamic history and society, I hardly knew ye!

12:00pm | RLST 21311 Health and the Body in American Religions — Professor Philippa Koch

As one of the first students in the room, I am a conspicuous outsider. The looks I get confirm this. After finding a seat and introducing myself to the professor, I’m ready and excited for my first taste of religious studies! — Gordon Lew

The class kicks off with two student presentations on faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman. A quick Google search brings me up to speed: Kuhlman was one of America’s most famous faith healers from the mid-1900s until her death in 1976. After rising to prominence, Kuhlman was even broadcasted nationally on her own TV show!
From Kuhlman’s Wikipedia page, I obviously have to click the link to the article on faith healers. As expected, faith healing is the practice of treating sickness through religious faith.
One of the students is analyzing a video of Kuhlman doing her thing. It seems that the class has already seen it, so I’m left without a frame of reference.
The term “Jesus Freak” is first used. (I wonder: are you a Jesus freak because you like Kuhlman or do you like Kuhlman because you’re a Jesus freak?)
The class is asked: what made Kuhlman so appealing as a televangelist?
Oh great, we’re taking a look at the video! This’ll help me put this all in context.
Technical difficulties... Shouldn’t these modern classrooms make that stuff easy as — oh, there we go.
In the clip, Kuhlman tells a man to jump on his broken toe. “Don’t you feel a thing?” “Well, I just feel kind of a glow in it.” … Yep, definitely a divine glow, not divine pain.
To compare, we view a clip of a faith healer of a different flavor: Oral Roberts.
In the video, Roberts takes a stab at honesty: “I do not have any healing power… Only God has healing power.”
Whoa, who knew that just a touch to the forehead could cure a kid of a stutter?
One student notes that the audience and healers laugh in both videos. “It makes me uncomfortable…”
“The humor comes from the fact that people are surprised when the healing works,” someone suggests.
We check out a trailer for NBC’s new show A.D.: The Bible Continues. Not gonna lie, it looks kinda awesome.
The class takes a step back: What does healing mean in Christianity? What does it say about the power of God and the power of the healers?
“Are there any healers right now?” a student asks. Prof: “I thought you were going to continue, ‘and where could I find them?’” Laughter ensues.

1:30pm | HIPS 17502 Sci/Cul/Soc: Modern Science — James A. Evans

Hoping to slip in unnoticed, I come five minutes early and find a seat in the back of the room, watching as students slowly trickle in. To my surprise (and slight disappointment), no one checks to see if I severely mixed up add-drop dates or suffer from mid-quarter amnesia. The student in front of me starts eating a donut covered in delicious-looking chocolate sprinkles, so I watch wistfully as I wait for class to begin. —Sindhu Gnanasambandan

The teacher rushes in and asks “who's been to the Adler Planetarium before?” Majority of hands in the room shoot up. Yup, I’m in the right class.
The class, given no audible instruction, seamlessly divides into two groups for discussion. I watch like it’s the Red Sea parting and then scooch my own chair towards the TA-led side. It was closer.
The TA poses a complicated sounding question to his half of the class. Students promptly avoid eye contact. The TA assures them that there are “no wrong answers” but then says, “Well I suppose there are some wrong answers.” A brave student raises his hand.
Terms used within this minute: dynamics, societal structures, bias, secretive, competition-based, purity, community, norms, causation, glory, esteem, cache.
We move to the topic of scientific dishonesty. One student mentions a study about homosexuality that was admitted to Science (prestigious journal) last December, and talks about how a few pesky grad students at Berkeley looked into the data and saw irregularities. Turns out the data was made up. Say whaaat? Science gossip circle continues.
TA thinks I am part of the circle so he asks for my story. I stumble through an explanation of why I am sitting in this class. V. awk.
We’re doing the word things again: prosperity, story, Calvinist notion, rational theology, free will, rationalized clockwork universe, god, heaven, hell, manifest through some other means, market, methodism, accumulation, driving force, capitalism, reorganization of productive forces.
As I give up trying to keep track (kicked off the train ages ago), I will comment on the professor’s style. Super chic. Bow tie with a green checkered shirt, sappy green-grey-brown (can’t place this color at all) well-fitted blazer, matching yellow accents on backpack and glasses. #2 pencil in pocket. Very on point. Much professor.
The chocolate sprinkle glazed donut that was two rows in front of me is now gone. I am inexplicably saddened by this.
Something, something…“ultimate meaning of our own actions”…something. Wait. Did I just miss the meaning of life?
Hold on a second. There are at least four and a half chocolate sprinkles left on what I thought was an empty plate! Don’t you waste, boy.
We are now getting really into Nazi Germany. I am pretty sure more topics have been touched in this class period than ever before in college lecture history.
Professor Evans says “our time is over,” but he clearly yearns to keep talking. Alas! Until next time, Professor?

3:00pm | RUSS 22302 War and Peace — William Nickell

After stopping by the classes that I’m actually enrolled in, I’m back in HM 130. After almost no time at all, the classroom is completely packed: turns out War and Peace (the book and the class) is quite the crowd-pleaser!—Lindsey

Among the soft pre-class chatter, I realize that I’m totally the only person in this room who hasn’t read War and Peace. What a dubious honor. Anyway, the edition they’re using is robin’s egg blue, pretty, and extremely large.
Professor Nickell enters. Real talk, his copy of W&P is about the size of an encyclopedia.
The people in this class are so glamorous! Work it, Slavic Studies enthusiasts.
Guy passes me a sign-in sheet. I pass it to the girl next to me. Guy encourages me to sign in. I whisper that I’m not in this class. Guy gives me a confused look. Friends forever!!!
They’re looking at page 1075. This book has a page 1075. Send help.
The girl next to me has a sky blue keyboard cover that matches her book. I wonder if she switches it up for every one of her classes?
Professor Nickell reads a line in Russian and draws attention to the alliterative quality. Despite not knowing Russian or ever having read Tolstoy, I can tell this is super cool and I like it.
Now Professor Nickell congratulates everyone for having gotten through so much of the book, then encourages the students to reread later on in life—apparently you get something different out of it depending on your current stage in life.
War & Peace apparently gets a little scatalogical; the room erupts in giggles. You can take the kid out middle school but you can’t take the middle school out of the kid.
Guy in front of me leans back so far his neck hits the top of my laptop. OK, guy.
Professor Nickell dislikes a translation in the text: the translator has used the word “happy” for a Russian term that really means “happy and fortunate,” a dual meaning which could hold some cultural significance—what might it say about Russian culture that these two ideas are intertwined? (For the record, that’s Professor Nickell’s question, not me editorializing. I am most definitely not on that level right now.)
Appropriately, we’ve spent the last few minutes of class discussing references to doors in this section of the novel. Things wrap up and people scurry out.

4:30pm | PBPL 28501 Process & State Policy in City and State Gov — Clayton Harris

Everyone from Professor Nickell’s War and Peace class has rolled out, but I’m in this for the long haul: time for my last 90 minutes in HM 130. I dash out into the hall to fill up my water bottle and hurry back so I don’t miss any inter-class action. Seated again, I settle in for my first-ever Public Policy lecture.—Lindsey Simon

Some stranger says “how you doin” to me! This class is so friendly already!
Professor Harris is drawing some sort of body of water on the board. This will eventually become significant, but for now it just seems like he’s having fun expressing himself before class.
Some guy near me has a RazrTM scooter. “I haven’t seen a RazrTM scooter since the early 2000s!” a girl exclaims delightedly.
“Did we have the nuclear power plant?” “No, that wasn’t us.” It appears that different groups of students are responsible for various entities in a made-up city called Metropolis. Professor Harris fills in names and places on the board—turns out the blob is a map!
Professor Harris leaves the room for a sec and the TA instructs everyone to look at a document about police brutality. Apparently CAPS stands for “Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy” as well as the predecessor to Career Advancement. Huh!
TA stubs his toe. TA is a trouper.
Students start debating the cause-and-effect relationships involved in police brutality. “You got it backwards, man,” says a guy in my corner of the classroom.
Professor Harris removes his outerwear, revealing a big Superman logo on his t-shirt! Everyone oohs and aahs.
TA asks, “Does anyone else have a problem with the problem?” What a UChicago question.
OK, we’re back to Metropolis, somehow. Professor Harris has students propose ways to distribute resources and space to the different wards drawn on the board. They’re talking about placing the university, armory, and marijuana dispensary all together. Sure!
“Corrupt, fine, or politically corrupt?” Professor Harris points at random students and asks them to assess the corruptness of various city planning decisions.
OMG, I get cold-called! Professor Harris wants to know if I think it’s corrupt, fine, or politically corrupt for Metropolis’s alderman to build a casino in a certain part of town. I go with my gut and say “politically corrupt,” but students who seem to know what they’re talking about say “fine.” I think I’ll defer to them for today.
After we wrap up with Metropolis, Professor Harris lays out the overall thrust of the class, which just so happens to be the process of doing public policy out in the real world. Check it:

Step 1: Clearly define the problem

Step 2: Identify your players: who will influence what happens?

Step 3: It’s time for policy! Set the agenda, form your options, and then get to implementation.

Whoa, Professor Harris has another job working on local policy problems involving vehicular transportation! No wonder this class has such a holistic mix of theory and practice. Drawing from his extensive experience in the field, Professor Harris explains that in a nutshell, public policy is all about knowing where you are and where you want to go.
Professor Harris ends with what appears to be his motto: the repeated refrain, “questions, comments, concerns?” Looks like there are none for today, other than “Thanks for having me!”

A Day in 1 Minute, 46 Seconds