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Old 10-10-2022, 10:51 PM
 
14,343 posts, read 13,537,665 times
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There are so many disturbing aspects to this, but it caught my attention that the students objected to the professor seeming condescending and demanding. This sounds to me like kids who've been incessantly praised and coddled all their lives and are destined to be jolted by the working world.



At N.Y.U., Students Were Failing Organic Chemistry. Who Was to Blame?
Maitland Jones Jr., a respected professor, defended his standards. But students started a petition, and the university dismissed him.

“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.
And, they said, he had a “condescending and demanding” tone.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/03/u...-petition.html
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Old 10-10-2022, 11:13 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
98,532 posts, read 96,977,370 times
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I could tell you stories, OP. When I was working at a university, I decided to use my free tuition credits to improve my foreign language skills. At different points, I took 3rd year courses in two languages. Both were excellent courses, great instructors, very dedicated to doing a good job. One was some level of professor (tenure track), the other one, I'm not sure, as she was a native speaker of the language, and may have been in a special category for people without advanced degrees, but who were skilled instructors of their native language.

Both got canned after I took their fall trimester course. I didn't even know anything was going on, but I heard later, that in each case the students had complained the courses were too hard. In the Spanish class, I remember a new prof taking over, who taught at highschool level, handing out sentences to translate from English and in class, students took turns writing out their translations on the board. I remember them saying they liked that method better, than being given writing assignments, essays to write in the target language, based on the literature readings we were doing.

IMO translating a list of 10 sentences is not 3rd-year university-level work. And since when do students call the shots, and set the standards for instruction?! The other class was similar; we were reading literary essays, and the homework was to write short stories on themes similar to each reading. Great teacher, but no, the students thought she was asking too much.


It's a good thing none of us had to take organic chemistry!
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Old 10-10-2022, 11:15 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
98,532 posts, read 96,977,370 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cida View Post
At N.Y.U., Students Were Failing Organic Chemistry. Who Was to Blame?
Maitland Jones Jr., a respected professor, defended his standards. But students started a petition, and the university dismissed him.

“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.
And, they said, he had a “condescending and demanding” tone.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/03/u...-petition.html
Here's more on the professor, from the article:
Quote:
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.
You'd think the administration would take the above into consideration...
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Old 10-10-2022, 11:34 PM
 
Location: Sun City West, Arizona
45,038 posts, read 19,726,795 times
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I'm not paying to read the article...so I'll ask this question: are we hearing both sides of the story?
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Old 10-11-2022, 12:29 AM
 
Location: Indianapolis, East Side
2,837 posts, read 1,879,285 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phetaroi View Post
I'm not paying to read the article...so I'll ask this question: are we hearing both sides of the story?
Over at Rate my Professor, students either love him or hate him, and the poor reviews precede COVID (which hasn't been around for "several years," contrary to the prof. blaming COVID for students forgetting how to study). https://www.ratemyprofessors.com/pro...52#ratingsList

I had a few engineering professors who were absolutely unable to explain their subject matter, even though one of them in particular was especially smart. Prerequisites for these courses were two semesters each of calculus and calculus based physics, so it wasn't as if we students were lazy or stupid.

Right or wrong, if enough students avoid a professor, then it's a business decision for a college to either help the professor improve or let them go.
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Old 10-11-2022, 10:53 AM
 
5,298 posts, read 2,584,919 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheerbliss View Post
Right or wrong, if enough students avoid a professor, then it's a business decision for a college to either help the professor improve or let them go.
Organic Chemistry is the weed out class for pre-med. It's always been impossible to pass - even back in the 1980's. Many students failed the course on a regular basis. It made sure only the best students went on to finish pre-med.
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Old 10-11-2022, 11:54 AM
 
3,993 posts, read 2,150,357 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cida View Post
“Students were misreading exam questions at an astonishing rate,”

So were they failing due to poor vocabulary skills?
Your article, as previously mentioned; has a paywall.
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Old 10-11-2022, 11:59 AM
 
Location: Sun City West, Arizona
45,038 posts, read 19,726,795 times
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When I look back to my college years at the state university in NYS and later at the University Of Maryland for my grad degree, and then other courses at the University Of Virginia and George Mason University, I had some pretty great professors, some good professors, and a few that were downright ****ty. And it had nothing to do with if they were too hard or too easy. Just because they're professors -- even in education departments (ironically) -- doesn't mean they're good.

Take my advisor at ... well, maybe I shouldn't say which university... but when I needed to get a document signed to actually get my degree (all coursework had been completed), he kept missing every appointment until I got down to the deadline day, and that day when I went in, he was dead drunk...and I mean unconscious at his desk due to drunkenness. I went to the Dean and told him the issue. The Dean took me over to my advisor's office with me, saw he was literally unconscious from alcohol, put a pen in my advisor's hand, and moved his hand to sign his signature where needed.

Colleges do need to listen to students as at least part of the input.
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Old 10-11-2022, 12:31 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
98,532 posts, read 96,977,370 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunbiz1 View Post
So were they failing due to poor vocabulary skills?
Your article, as previously mentioned; has a paywall.
When I provide a NY Times link, I always post excerpts for people who don't have a subscription (which I assume to be most people). I'll do my best while avoiding potential copyright issues. There's some pretty interesting info and questions raised. 82 out of 350 students in the organic chem course signed a petition to can the professor. After trying to work with the students, deans ultimately decided to not renew his contract.

Some key points from a much longer article:
Quote:
The officials [deans] also had tried to placate the students by offering to review their grades and allowing them to withdraw from the class retroactively.
[...]
The university’s handling of the petition provoked equal and opposite reactions from both the chemistry faculty, who protested the decisions, and pro-Jones students, who sent glowing letters of endorsement.[...]

“The deans are obviously going for some bottom line, and they want happy students who are saying great things about the university so more people apply and the U.S. News rankings keep going higher,” said Paramjit Arora, a chemistry professor who has worked closely with Dr. Jones.
[...]
Should universities ease pressure on students, many of whom are still coping with the pandemic’s effects on their mental health and schooling? [...]
And how hard should organic chemistry be anyway?

Dr. Jones, 84, is known for changing the way the subject is taught. In addition to writing the 1,300-page textbook “Organic Chemistry,” now in its fifth edition, he pioneered a new method of instruction that relied less on rote memorization and more on problem solving.
In addition to students misreading exam questions (the same questions or similar, that he'd used for years), students scored poorly even when he made his exams easier. He said, that during the pandemic, test scores "fell off a cliff", falling to single-digit scores "and even zeros". He said, not only were students not studying, not even preparing for class, they "didn't seem to know how to study".


If students were performing poorly due to Covid, classes going online, etc., why was he the only professor targeted? How widespread was this issue? Did the deans bother to look into that, before dismissing an innovative, popular, and highly qualified instructor? And if less than 1/3 felt the need to complain, that's probably less than the percentage usually sloughed off in organic chemistry under normal conditions, and at most universities, I gather from comments here.

This raises the question: to what extent should universities water down their courses, which risks the loss of their reputation as schools or specific programs with high standards, to chase after high enrollment?

Last edited by Ruth4Truth; 10-11-2022 at 12:46 PM..
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Old 10-11-2022, 01:14 PM
 
Location: RI, MA, VT, WI, IL, CA, IN (that one sucked), KY
41,484 posts, read 33,761,416 times
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Organic is a brutal class. It's the major weedout among serious pre med students. I skated through bio 1/2, chem 1/2, etc, but I had issues with organic. Almost everyone did. The raw scores were abysmal, and the professor graded on a curve at the end. Super stressful.
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