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NYU Fires Organic Chemistry Professor Over Failure Of Students

New York University professor, Maitland Jones Jr. has been fired after a group of students who failed his course (organic Chemistry) signed a petition against him suggesting his course was too difficult.

Gatekeepers News reports that 82 of his 350 organic chemistry students signed the petition citing Jones’ teaching methods and course outline as reasons for their poor grades.

According to a New York Times report, the petition said, “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.

“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.”

Accusations made against the 84-year-old professor include: reducing the number of midterm exams from three to two; no offering of extra credit; no Zoom access to lectures for those with COVID-19; and, Jones taught with a ‘condescending and demanding’ tone.

Jones, however, defended accusations made via the petition, adding that he reduced the number of exams because NYU scheduled his first test after six classes.

Technology in the lecture hall in which Jones taught prohibited him from recording his writing on the whiteboard.

He added that the problem with students emerged a decade ago, just a couple of years after he moved from Princeton to NYU in 2007, as he noticed a loss of focus in his students.

As students returned from virtual learning as a result of the pandemic, that problem only got worse. According to the Professor, students were not studying and, they seemingly did not know how to.

Jones said “We now see single digit scores and even zeros.”

In an effort to help students, Jones and two other professors taped 52 lectures, which Jones says he paid $5,000 of his own money to publish. They are still used.

In 2020, an estimated 30 students out of 475 signed a petition saying they need more help.

Jones said, “They were really struggling. They didn’t have good internet coverage at home. All sorts of things.”

He was not alone in the pushback from students in the return from pandemic learning.

Another organic chemistry Professor, Kent Kirshenbaum said he discovered students cheating during online tests.

Citing poor conduct in Jones’ decision to reduce grades, students protested by saying “they were not given grades that would allow them to get into medical school.”

On his part, Jones said students were increasingly disengaged while entering 2022.

Jones said, “They weren’t coming to class, that’s for sure, because I can count the house. They weren’t watching the videos, and they weren’t able to answer the questions.”

Following the course’s second midterm – a test that resulted in an average score of 30 – several students began to panic about the course as it was a prerequisite for applying to medical schools.

Former student Ryan Xue, who transferred to Brown after completing the class, said he liked both Jones as a professor and the course.

Xue said, “This is a big lecture course, and it also has the reputation of being a weed-out class.”

“So there are people who will not get the best grades. Some of the comments might have been very heavily influenced by what grade students have gotten.”

Other students who most recently took the course told The New York Times that Jones was helpful when they asked for help, but he could be sarcastic.

Zacharia Benslimane, a Ph.D student at Harvard and former teaching assistant for Jones, emailed NYU in his defense.

Benslimane said, “I think this petition was written more out of unhappiness with exam scores than an actual feeling of being treated unfairly.

“I have noticed that many of the students who consistently complained about the class did not use the resources we afforded to them.”

Jones said he fears for other professors at the university who may face the same response from faculty.

He said, “I don’t want my job back… I just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

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