“Students said the high-stakes course — notorious for ending many a dream of medical school — was too hard, blaming Dr. Jones for their poor test scores.”
Professor Maitland Jones Jr. has been teaching organic chemistry for years at Princeton and then New York University.
This past spring, several of his students launched a petition claiming that his course was too hard. NYU ended up firing him, which the students didn’t even demand.
Stephanie Saul reported at the New York Times:
At N.Y.U., Students Were Failing Organic Chemistry. Who Was to Blame?
In the field of organic chemistry, Maitland Jones Jr. has a storied reputation. He taught the subject for decades, first at Princeton and then at New York University, and wrote an influential textbook. He received awards for his teaching, as well as recognition as one of N.Y.U.’s coolest professors.
But last spring, as the campus emerged from pandemic restrictions, 82 of his 350 students signed a petition against him.
Students said the high-stakes course — notorious for ending many a dream of medical school — was too hard, blaming Dr. Jones for their poor test scores.
The professor defended his standards. But just before the start of the fall semester, university deans terminated Dr. Jones’s contract.
The officials also had tried to placate the students by offering to review their grades and allowing them to withdraw from the class retroactively. The chemistry department’s chairman, Mark E. Tuckerman, said the unusual offer to withdraw was a “one-time exception granted to students by the dean of the college.”
Jones noted that many students were struggling before Covid but that the pandemic made things even worse.
“Students were misreading exam questions at an astonishing rate,” he wrote in a grievance to the university, protesting his termination. Grades fell even as he reduced the difficulty of his exams.
The problem was exacerbated by the pandemic, he said. “In the last two years, they fell off a cliff,” he wrote. “We now see single digit scores and even zeros.”
After several years of Covid learning loss, the students not only didn’t study, they didn’t seem to know how to study, Dr. Jones said.
Robby Soave of Reason has more, including a comment from an official at NYU:
His departure is certainly a loss for NYU’s academic caliber. After all, Jones is a lion in the field of organic chemistry, publishing 225 papers in his 40-year career. He literally wrote the textbook, “Organic Chemistry,” which weighs in at 1,300 pages.
“[Jones] learned to teach during a time when the goal was to teach at a very high and rigorous level,” Paramjit Arora, a professor of chemistry at NYU and former colleague of Jones told The Times. “We hope that students will see that putting them through that rigor is doing them good.”
NYU clearly feels differently about the matter.
“NYU had in Professor Maitland Jones a faculty member with a one-year appointment specifically to teach organic chemistry,” wrote John Beckman, a spokesperson for NYU, in a statement to Reason.
The plain truth is that not everyone who wants to be a doctor will be able to become a doctor. New York University did not favor its students by removing Professor Jones.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.