NYU professor fired after his students complained they couldn’t hack it, warns against ‘coddling students about class’

New York University students last month successfully applied to fire a chemistry professor because they found his pre-med course too challenging. This professor is now speaking out about students’ inability to “take responsibility for failure” and the danger of appeasing youthful demands to be coddled.

Fired for expected competence

84-year-old Maitland Jones Jr. is a chemistry professor. Before teaching at NYU for fifteen years, he was taught at Princeton University from 1964 to 2007, where he worked on over 200 articles, monographs and books. According to Princeton’s office of the dean of faculty, the lab in which he experimented was “an incubator of scientific and cultural exchange at all levels.”

Jones has a reputation as an academic who “teaches the very knowledge he creates” and whose teaching, at least at Princeton, has received rave reviews. In 2017 he was still there celebrated as one of the “coolest professors at NYU”.

The New York Times reported Last spring, 82 of his 350 students signed a petition against Jones, claiming his “high-stakes course” was too tough and going so far as to personally blame Jones for their poor test scores.

the petition said“We urge you to recognize that a class with such a high percentage of dropouts and low grades has failed to make student learning and well-being a priority and reflects badly on the chemistry department as well as the institution as a whole throws.”

According to the Guardian, the petition did not specifically call for Jones’ firing. Despite this, the NYU deans canceled Jones’ contract in August before the fall semester.

Jones later wrote that “the deans never revealed to me the content of the petition, so I could not refute it in any way. After several months of silence on their part, the deans fired me on August 2 because of the chemistry objections. The administration dismissed the complaint I had filed without notice.”

Paramjit Arora, a chemist and colleague of Jones, said The New York Times: “The deans are obviously looking for a bottom line, and they want happy students who say great things about the university so that more people apply and the US news rankings keep rising.”

Jones explained that while his “reputation as a chemist and educator has not been seriously damaged,” without “fair support from faculty and university leadership,” teachers will not be able “to pass on their knowledge and experience to the next generation of transferred to”. students and teachers.”

Appease the complainants

The New York Times written down In addition to firing Jones, NYU officials sought to placate his former students by allowing them to retrospectively withdraw from his classes — which Mark E. Tuckerman, the chemistry department chair, described as a “one-time exception” — while simultaneously offering to do so to do this check their grades.

Marc A WaltersDirector of undergraduate studies, wrote to Jones prior to his resignation, advising that NYU would “extend a gentle but firm hand to students and those who pay tuition.”

Jones took up this remark, inter alia, in a last opinion piece he wrote for the Boston Globe.

The veteran academic suggested that such interventions on behalf of students who are unwilling to address their deficiencies highlighted by test scores have a “dissuasive effect … on teaching overall and on unprovided professors in particular.”

Jones suggested that unsecured faculty would not dare “give real grades” and risk their careers “at the risk of complaints from students and deans who seem willing to turn students into nothing more than tuition-paying clients.” close”.

The problem, according to Jones, isn’t just anti-confrontational administrators who see students primarily as customers. The complaining students are also to blame.

In his comment, Jones claimed that during the pandemic, when face-to-face classes were suspended, he “commissioned and paid for a series of 52 videos to replace the canceled face-to-face sessions. The students rarely looked at them. They continued to perform abysmal tests that would have seemed too easy just a few years ago.”

Despite the lack of preparation and implementation, many students who demonstrably needed help did not seek it, especially not by participating in zoomed consultation hours.

Zacharia Benslimane, a Ph.D. Harvard student who previously worked as a teaching assistant in Jones’ class, said NYU: “I noticed that many of the students who kept complaining about the classes didn’t use the resources we made available to them.”

However, incompetence among the students was not pervasive, nor did the petition signers get anywhere near a majority.

Jones reported that even though single-digit scores were becoming common, “and we even had zeros on exams… 60 percent of my students were still getting A’s and B’s last semester.”

While underperformers hit rock bottom, top students reportedly did better than ever.

‘Tough Love’

Referring to the underperformers, Jones wrote, “Everyone reaches their limits at some point, and using ‘failure’ to overcome it and improve is a vital skill. Failure should become a ‘teachable moment’ of the class.”

The pandemic may have exacerbated the problem of incompetence and a refusal to address it, but according to Jones, the problem dates back at least a decade.

“About 10 years ago I noticed that students were increasingly misinterpreting exam questions,” Jones wrote. “My careful attention to the phrasing or problems didn’t help much. Exam scores began to decline, as did attending the traditional large lecture portion of the course.”

The solution, Jones argued, was not appeasement but “tough love.”

“Deans must learn not to coddle students for the sake of instruction… They must join the community in times of conflict to create those teachable moments,” Jones wrote.

Aside from adults remaining determined to uphold high standards, Jones emphasized that students “need to develop the ability to take responsibility for failure.

https://www.theblaze.com/news/nyu-prof-fired-because-his-students-couldnt-hack-it-calls-for-tough-love-and-warns-not-to-coddle-students-for-sake-of-tuition NYU professor fired after his students complained they couldn’t hack it, warns against ‘coddling students about class’

Laura Coffey

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