Winter 2023 - This is one of the best geography upper-division classes I have ever taken at UCLA!!!! I have learned a lot from this class. It expands my perspective on human trafficking, slavery, and this world. The class readings are very intensive, and the course is so packed. The lectures are very dense, but I have gained a lot from the lectures and readings. The TA even said that some lessons we had read in the class were grad-level texts—so some were challenging. This class is mainly based on exams, so please study and be prepared for the exams. I would highly recommend this class. Professor Faier is very clear and responsive in the email. She is very helpful during office hours and very organized, which I appreciate. I have never regretted taking this class, and I hope you have a wonderful experience learning in this class as well!
Winter 2020 - As a Black woman and a gender studies minor, I was genuinely excited for this class. However, from week 1, I began to feel skeptical due to the comments she would casually make that were blatantly offensive. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but after all that I experienced in the class this quarter, I felt I had to fill out a very thorough review in case other students like me—i.e. from historically marginalized communities—were interested in taking the class. Truthfully, the work was not that difficult; all you really have to do is start early so you can work on it a bit every day because there are four assignments: a take-home midterm essay, an article reading response, a book reading response, and a final take-home essay. Honestly, if you just give yourself plenty of time to complete the work, you’ll be completely fine, and that’s all you really need to know about the work aspect because everything is always take-home. However, I’m here to discuss more of the experience of the class rather than just the assignments because truthfully the assignments are really not a big portion of the time invested in the class in comparison to the learning that is meant to take place during in-class discussions. The overarching message and main take-away I would like someone to get from this review is that despite the topics we touch on during lecture regarding race, class, etc., the irony of it all is that the logistics of the class shows that the class as a whole is clearly catered towards rich white students. I cannot discuss the logistics of the class without acknowledging the physical and financial strain that must be contributed towards this class. For starters, her absence policy only allows less than 4 absences before a student gets a zero in attendance. Personally, I found this extremely classist and ableist because not all students have the financial privilege to make a 10-minute walk from their dorm to class without paying a penny. The professor did not acknowledge that some students don’t have the financial privilege of living on or near campus, either. I was unable to afford UCLA housing, so my only option was to commute from home (which is 53 miles away), which put SO much unnecessary stress on me financially. Also, the fact that parking permits are so expensive—thus rendering them inaccessible to poor students—and such a limited resource meant that I had to pay out of pocket for UCLA parking every time I had to come to class. I also had a friend in this class who was disabled and told me about how the campus was so inaccessible that they struggled every day to get to class, knowing the professor’s absence policy did not allow them to prioritize their health properly. To touch on a related point, the fact that the readings from this class ALONE cost almost $200 was extremely unnecessary. Academia should NOT be this inaccessible to poor and working-class students. For these reasons, the class was physically, emotionally, and financially draining—way more so than it needed to be. Again, an example of how the class only keeps in mind financially privileged, abled white students; anyone who did not fit into that category was forced to accommodate, no matter how inconvenient it was. The readings revolved around the experiences of various historically marginalized communities on the basis of class, race, sexual orientation, etc., but a majority of these readings were written by privileged white women. The fact that many of these readings are based on oppression and were written by privileged white people feels exploitative and it waters down the true reality and politics of those historically marginalized communities because someone else is telling their story for them. Also, there was blatant erasure of Black issues and Black feminist discourse from the class; it doesn’t make sense to teach a feminist geography class and exclude Black women from the feminist narrative. The one Black author we read was from bell hooks, but even still, the work we read from her was “feminism is for everybody” which was a VERY palatable version of a Black woman’s contribution to feminist academia. We also read June Jordan, but her reading was literally less than 10 pages long—it was extremely short to the point where the erasure of Black contributions to academia just seems deliberate. I personally found this disrespectful because to whitewash a crucial Black feminist’s work, water down the gravity of Black issues, and basically erase Black issues from the curriculum to make your white students feel comfortable—KNOWING that there’s not much Black representation in academia to begin with—is blatant anti-Blackness. As a Black woman, I found it EXTREMELY disrespectful to my community, and to me, since I had to listen to the whitewashed version of MY history and MY oppression taught to ME from a white professor who clearly did not take it seriously outside of academia. Just because a Black woman’s work is on the syllabus doesn’t mean the reading actually highlights Black issues; bell hooks actually has excellent readings on the Black experience. However, those readings from her are not the ones that are on the syllabus because many of the readings chosen are inevitably whitewashed, in order to be palatable versions of historically marginalized narratives in order to maintain the comfort zone of the white feminist environment in the class. Class discussions were skewed due to the environment; a majority of the class was privileged white students. On the first day, she stated that “everyone has to respect each other’s opinion even if they don’t agree”, which is always a red flag for me personally because professors sometimes refuse to acknowledge that not all “opinions” are “harmless”; some are just blatantly violent and oppressive, but these policies ALWAYS allow a pass for violent-enabling students to take up space while students who are systemically oppressed feel extremely unsafe. I was the only Black student in the class—which is obviously nothing new to me—but it definitely played a role in my experience in the class. The curriculum of the class was adjusted to make white students feel comfortable like I suspected—which made them more likely to participate and confidently voice uninformed and blatantly offensive opinions on social/political issues—while students who were not privileged and white did not participate as much, potentially due to the fact that the white students took up so much space. The fact that participation was mandatory along with the consideration of the violence of that classroom space made it that much more difficult for BIPOC students because many of us felt too unsafe to speak up—and I notice the only students that she blatantly told “you’re wrong” or corrected in general were students of color, and they were also the only students who were brave enough to critique some problematic statements made in the readings she assigned. The space of the class discussions also enabled violence due to the fact that the professor was complicit in her failure to correct white students on behalf of the blatantly offensive—i.e. racist, anti-Black, queerphobic, transphobic, classist, ableist, etc.—comments that were made. The professor made blatantly offensive comments herself as well. She literally confessed on the first day that “she even finds herself thinking and saying racist and sexist things” and “just because someone has racist thoughts and does racist actions doesn’t make them a racist”, which I noticed a lot of white students just smiled and nodded in agreement to because she often absolved herself and her students of bigotry and made casual racism seem like nothing but a relatable and quirky personality trait—and that felt very unsettling. As a white woman, she definitely made some of us BIPOC feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable due to the white supremacist violence that was reproduced in the classroom because some of us actually had to live with the consequences of the uninformed “opinions” and “harmless comments” the professor and/or white students would make. To touch on a related point, final exams all happened at the time of the international coronavirus pandemic. On the last week of school—before classes were officially cancelled—professors were cancelling class themselves while we received an email from this professor saying we still had lecture. She told us we were still having lecture, BUT she told us specifically to only turn in assignments digitally so SHE could be cautious. I was very disappointed for this because she allowed potentially sick students still had to come to class and get other students sick, but she did not want to touch our physical assignments—which made me feel like she was more concerned with her own health than the health and well-being of her students. Eventually, the UCLA academic senate sent an email asking all professors to be lenient with our finals—giving them the option to opt out of finals or push it back—and she didn’t allow us to opt out. She assured us that “we’re all struggling the same” so she encouraged us to “put the stress of grades and the coronavirus aside and push through” because she “wanted us to complete the final as way to take a break from everything that’s going on”, without realizing that not all of us had the privilege to do that anyway just because she did. I was disappointed to see this lack of empathy on her behalf, considering that she teaches about issues that affect BIPOC, poor and working-class, disabled people—yet it confirms that she clearly seems to only care about these issues in the context of theory rather than applying it to real life. In conclusion, if you still want to take this class, definitely do so. However, just take from this review what you will and understand how everyone will experience the class differently based on their intersecting identities, backgrounds, and lived experiences. Also, if you don’t come from a historically marginalized community, understand that you can come into this class in a position of privilege that can impact your perspective and it may not affect how you learn in this class as much as it may affect others. Keep this in mind; please be considerate and do not be quick to invalidate and dismiss their grievances on behalf of the institutional and systemic oppressions they experience at UCLA. As an underrepresented Black woman in a systemically racist predominately-white institution, this was my experience in the class, and I definitely felt it was worth sharing in case anyone wanted more insight regarding the class experience.
In my experience, Professor Faier is extremely self involved and condescending. She encourages class discussion but will argue when opinions are not in accordance with hers. These class discussions also seem to veer extremely off topic and have nothing to do with the content. The focus of the class is lost, and I honestly have no idea what I am supposed to have learned from this course. She is not compassionate or empathetic in any way and could care less about her students on a personal or individual level. Don't take her, it's not worth your time.