No Government, No Force

Reconstructing Obama’s Columbia Transcript

from American Thinker then reposted by — 12 February 2013

Obama Panic

 Jason  Kissner recently questioned President Obama’s whereabouts in spring 1982, and  also discussed in passing some of the courses Obama took while at Columbia. In  response, I would like to try my hand at reconstructing the Columbia part of  Obama’s college transcript based on the published record and my own knowledge of  Columbia’s requirements as an ’84 graduate of the college. This reconstruction may be of  interest to those who are curious about this part of Obama’s undergraduate  education, and it may also shed light on where Obama must have been in spring  1982.

 Columbia  College is well known for its rigorous core curriculum. Students must not only  study masterpieces of literature, philosophy, music, and art, but also take  courses in science, a foreign language, and even physical education. These  requirements add up to a total of 48 credit hours. Based on a typical student load of 16 credit  hours per semester, a student would need to spend three semesters taking nothing  but core courses in order to complete the requirement. (In practice, students  typically take most of these courses in the first two years of study, perhaps  getting to a few of them over the course of the next two years.) As will be seen  below, as a transfer student with only two years to complete the core  requirements, most of Obama’s coursework must have been devoted to taking  courses in the core.

The Political Science major at Columbia requires 21 credit hours in Political Science plus  two 4-credit hour seminar classes. A  maximum of 12 credit hours in Political Science are accepted from transfer  students, and since Obama is on record as having taken a lot of Political  Science at Occidental, it is reasonable to assume that he received the  maximum amount of transfer credit. Obama thus would only have needed to take  three Political Science classes at Columbia, in addition to the two required  seminars, in order to graduate as a Political Science major. Finally, a  student needs 124 credit hours to graduate from Columbia with a B.A. If my guess  is correct that Obama would have taken 70 credit hours in his four semesters at  Columbia, Columbia must have accepted a total of 54 credit hours from Occidental  (including the 12 credit hours in Political Science).

As  one reconstructs Obama’s Columbia transcript, perhaps the most striking thing is  how few Political Science classes Obama must have taken while studying there. In  addition to required classes in the core and in Political Science, the published  record of Obama’s coursework (based on recollections from former classmates and  professors), indicates that he took an English class, a class in Comparative  Literature, and a Sociology class. As will be seen below, this does not leave  room for much more than the minimum requirement of three additional classes in  Political Science plus the two seminars.

I  made several assumptions as I reconstructed the transcript. First, I assume that  Obama must have taken the maximum four semesters of a foreign language, in his  case Spanish. Columbia required me to take all four semesters of the language  requirement, even though I had taken a decent amount of French before I got  there. Obama has admitted that he does not speak any foreign languages, so I am assuming that he did not place out of the  requirement. Second, I assume that Obama took between 16-19 credit hours per  semester. This would be a typical and reasonably heavy load for a motivated  student, and Obama is described as having been serious about his studies. He is  also remembered as playing plenty of pickup basketball and soccer, attending  student group meetings, and spending time at local hangouts, so I do not assume  that he took more courses than that. Classes that Obama must have taken as  requirements, but for which there is no written record, are placed in brackets.  Where there is a written record, I indicate the sources in parentheses or by  hyperlink. Finally, where there is no written record of when Obama took a  certain required course, I placed it where it made most sense to me based on my  own experience at Columbia.

A  few concluding thoughts. I was in one of the classes that Obama took at  Columbia, the course in Modern Fiction with Edward Said. It is worth noting that  my recollection of that class does not square with some of the details recounted  by Obama’s friend and roommate Phil Boerner in Maraniss (449-450) and elsewhere.  It is true that the class was held in a large lecture hall, without much  opportunity for interaction with Said, and that Said never spoke in class about  his political views. But Said’s lectures in this course were not devoted to  discussions about literary theory, as Boerner claims: “We didn’t have a good  reaction to the class. Said seemed to be really into literary theory. And I’m  more into, and Obama, too, into judging works by themselves and not getting  caught up in various feminist-leftist-whatever interpretations. And Said seemed  to be really into that” (Maraniss, 449). Very much to the contrary, Said’s  lectures (as I recall) were devoted to a careful analysis of the texts we were  studying, without any reference to literary theory that I can recall. When Said  lectured about Conrad’s Nostromo, he dwelled on the meaning of the  cracks in a vase. When he lectured on Kafka’s Metamorphosis, he  explained that the word that Kafka uses was the same word used in the gospels to  describe Christ’s transfiguration.

The original post continues with calculation of Obama’s likely credits..

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