A chemistry professor at New York University has been dismissed after dozens of students signed a petition complaining that his class was “too hard.”
Professor of organic chemistry Maitland Jones Jr. lost his job after more than 80 of his 350 students signed a petition criticizing his grading, instruction, and support during the pandemic.
Students blamed Jones for their low test scores and claimed the high-stakes course, known for ruining many medical school aspirations, was too challenging.
“We are very concerned about our scores and find that they are not an accurate reflection of the time and effort put into this class,” the petition stated.
“We urge you to realize… that a class with such a high percentage of withdrawals and low grades has failed to make students’ learning and well-being a priority and reflects poorly on the chemistry department as well as the institution as a whole.”
Setting a Bad Precedent?
Jones is credited with altering ways to teach organic chemistry in higher education. In addition to creating the 1,300-page textbook “Organic Chemistry,” currently in its fifth edition, he also invented a new teaching strategy emphasizing problem-solving over rote memorization.
In an interview with the New York Times, Jones said he first noticed students losing focus about ten years ago but that the coronavirus outbreak in 2020 made matters worse.
“They weren’t coming to class,” he said. “They weren’t watching the videos, and they weren’t able to answer the questions.”
The 84-year-old professor expressed concern about the precedent his firing would set. “I don’t want my job back,” he told the newspaper. “I just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
However, NYU disagreed with the way the dismissal of Jones has been portrayed.
According to the university, in addition to the petition, Jones’ class also had a “very high rate of student withdrawals” and “evaluations scores that were by far the worst” among the school’s undergraduate science courses.