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Increasing push back against NYU’s firing of a chemistry teacher for demanding excellence from students

NYU: proud to graduate substandard students!

Since early October, when the story broke about New York University firing organic chemistry teacher Maitland Jones because a student petition claimed his course was too hard, there has been a growing push back from the college’s faculty as well as at least one pro-free speech organization.

The petition itself was signed by 82 of Jones’ 350 students (less than a quarter of the class) and complained that “too many [students] were failing and that this was unacceptable” and that the course’s challenges caused “emotional and mental health” issues.

The course in question however is organic chemistry, traditionally designed as a very tough entry-level course in order to weed out students not capable of becoming doctors or doing the real work necessary in the hard sciences. Under normal circumstances one third to one half of all students who take the course fail, which means this petition was likely signed by those who were failing.

Rather than push themselves, these spoiled students wanted the course made easier. They might then have passed, but if they became doctors later in life their patients would certainly be under risk.

What made Jones’ firing more horrifying however is that the university instigated the action. The students themselves hadn’t asked for his firing, they only wanted his course made easier.

“This article made my skin crawl,” tweeted Alice Dreger, a bioethicist and former professor of medical humanities. “We aren’t going to end up with good doctors by letting undergrad pre-meds pass organic chem because universities want to protect their US News rankings.”

Dreger’s comment came soon after Jones was fired by Jones’ boss, Gregory Gabadadze, NYU’s dean for science. It was quickly followed by a host of objections by other professors at NYU as well as elsewhere, condemning the cowardice of the college. Typical was this comment by NYU Clinical associate professor Elisabeth Fay:

The student petition isn’t the scary thing, it’s the NYU administration’s response: clinical Prof. Maitland Jones was informed of his “non-renewal” less than a month before the start of fall semester — no due process, no opportunity to grieve.

Fay point is that NYU did not simply panic in its response to the petition, its actions apparently violated Jones’ contract.

In his grievance letter, Jones referenced NYU’s Faculty Handbook, which outlines that if a full-time professor’s contract finishes on Aug. 31, they must be notified of their termination no later than one year prior. Jones was informed that his contract would not be renewed on Aug. 2 — less than one month before it was set to expire.

…In addition to Jones’ complaints about how the university handled his dismissal, he also claimed that he was never shown the student petition made to protest his teaching methods. “Despite the assertion made about my teaching, I have never been given the slightest opportunity to know the actual substance, if any, of any complaints about my performance, and I would stress that without giving me that opportunity, the university has no way of knowing whether anything said against me is really true,” Jones wrote. “Whatever evidence might exist for a decision to deny me reappointment, I have been given no chance to see it, refute it, or challenge whether it really entails what one thinks it entails.”

The university’s response was to unilaterally reject Jones’ request for a grievance hearing, claiming his contract allowed it to do so.

[Heidi] White — the faculty member with a senior role in the dispute review process — said that NYU administrators did not provide justification in classifying Jones as “other faculty.” She said that the reasoning remains unclear. White is also a member of the University Senate, serving as a senator on the Continuing-Contract Faculty Senators Council and as chair of that council’s Grievance Committee and its Personnel Policies & Contract Issues Committee. “I confess, I’m baffled as to how the administration could have reached that conclusion,” White said. “To me, it looks like a blunder.”

The bottom line however is that the science department at NYU has decided it must lower its standards because some students threw a temper tantrum. It is now glad to produce incompetent doctors and scientists.

This week the battle escalated. On October 21st, the organization FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) sent a detailed protest letter to NYU, outlining the facts of the case and demanding “a substantive response” by tomorrow that states NYU will “recommit to upholding faculty rights and offer to return Professor Jones to the classroom.”

Since FIRE routinely helps to instigate legal action in such cases when the oppressed do not get immediate satisfaction, this letter is essentially putting NYU on notice. If it does not correct its mistake, it will be sued.

More important, would you want your doctor to be trained at New York University if it does not change path? Right now the school has admitted it has low standards and is willing to pass medical students who can’t handle basic organic chemistry. I certainly wouldn’t want to be treated by such a doctor.

It also seems to me that if NYU does not reconsider, a lot of medical practices should do to NYU what judges are now doing to Yale Law School, refusing to hire its graduates because the university is clearly not educating them properly.

Finally, if I was a medical student at NYU, I think it would be wise to reconsider staying there. Not only do you not know if you will truly get a good education there, if you graduate your degree will be forever stained as substandard.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

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  • Col Beausabre

    Actually, what is generally regarded as the toughest course in the Chemistry curriculum is Physical Chemistry – thermodynamics for chemists. It was so tough, that our professor admitted he couldn’t answer some of the problems in the textbook without the aid of the teacher’s manual. He didn’t assign any iof those those problems to us. He even passed out bumper stickers after the final the read “Honk if you passed P-Chem”, At the beginning of the course, he explained the three laws of thermodynamics as follows, “Assume the universe is casino. 1st Law – You can’t win (you can’t get more energy out of a system than you put into it) 2nd Law – You can’t break even (you can’t get as much energy out of a system as you put into it due to losses that must occur when energy changes from one form to another) 3rd Law – You can’t quit the game (this only applies to a closed system. Guess what the universe is?)”

  • Max

    What would be the zeroth law?
    Upon entering the casino, that everyone has equal amount of chips?

    Zimmerman said;
    “The bottom line however is that the science department at NYU has decided it must lower its standards because some students threw a temper tantrum. It is now glad to produce incompetent doctors and scientists.“

    Incompetent scientist and doctors is all that is acceptable to the current administration and world leaders.
    For example, global warming is “junk science” so they just can’t have a credible scientist to lead the charge on the climate catastrophe… (every current crisis has been blamed on the climate) They need credentialed science fiction/Science theology/political science writers to lie effectively because the means justify the ends… (physical science scientist dealing with reality need not apply)

    “Scientists like Dr. Jane Lubchenco, one of the most important scientists in the US government after Dr. Anthony Fauci (Mr. Science himself!).”
    “Served as Barack Obama’s Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) from 2009 to 2013.” “ She’s the new co-chair of the White House Scientific Integrity Task Force.”
    And… she just got kicked out of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for scientific fraud.
    (you can read on this website NOAA falsifying historic records to make the current climate seam warmer)

    “”Effective as of August 8th, Joe Biden’s global warming advisor Jane Lubchenco is on a five-year suspension from being involved in any National Academy of Science publications. She’s banned from serving on or participating in any NAS or National Research Council activities. And she’s banned from receiving any grants or honors from the NAS. The NAS says that Lubchenco’s ban is for “detrimental research practices that are clear violations of the fundamental tenets of research.” For a global warming scientist like Lubchenco, that’s basically like being banned from science itself.“”
    “ The Biden regime needs all hands on deck for the global warming problem. So, they can’t allow a problem like Dr. Jane Lubchenco being exposed as a scientific fraud to slow them down. They’ve come up to a solution to that issue. Social media companies will now ban and censor anyone who mentions that Dr. Lubchenco has been kicked out of Science”

    Interesting website, be warned… The news they report on is so unbelievable to the average thinking person, they report the issues with a strong sense of “sarcasm” because the events so incredulous.

  • Max

    Speaking of events in New York, has it been mentioned yet (concerning the thread about blacklisting nurses) that the Supreme Court of New York has reinstated with backpay everyone fired for not receiving the clot shot?

    As one person said;
    “ The state cannot force you to receive fluids into your body against your will, any more than a boss can tell a secretary to strip down to receive fluids or she would be fired…“

    Col Beausabre

    I like NASA’s observation/Fantasy speculation of the second law of thermal dynamics.
    “We can imagine a system, however, in which the heat is instead transferred from the cold object to the hot object, and such a system does not violate the first law of thermodynamics. The cold object gets colder and the hot object gets hotter, but energy is conserved. “Obviously we don’t encounter such a system in nature”…
    This is practically admitting that the greenhouse theory is impossible! A freezing cold upper atmosphere cannot warm a lower warmer atmosphere or surface. It does not happen in nature.

    And then there is “zero point energy”
    Molecules and atoms continue to vibrate at a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. Where does this energy come from? Why is the vibration of atoms unaffected by entropy? Is it quantum in nature? trans dimensional? Hyper dimensional? inter-dimensional? Wouldn’t it be cool to harness their energy? (Too much Stargate)

  • Richard M

    Actually, what is generally regarded as the toughest course in the Chemistry curriculum is Physical Chemistry – thermodynamics for chemists.

    I’d be inclined to agree, Col, broadly – but I think the context here is for the med school track students. Organic Chem so often really does seem to be the deliberate weed out course for the med school hopefuls.

    Although in the good professor’s case, it sounds like it was turning into a scorched earth course, because the students he’s been getting increasingly over the last decade seem to have something gone badly wrong with their learning skills: “About a decade ago, he said in an interview, he noticed a loss of focus among the students, even as more of them enrolled in his class, hoping to pursue medical careers.” Naturally, the solution was to throw out the professor rather than try to fix the students.

  • John

    There were some tough classes in mechanical engineering, and some pretty low grades. But grading on the curve was a thing, only the worst students actually flunked out. At freshman orientation, they said the bottom third would not make it to graduation.

    I don’t fully get the casino thermodynamic laws analogy, but the zeroth law might be, “your odds are the same as my odds if we play the same game.”

  • cloudy

    It seams that carear choices are now being made on the basis of social class rather than ability. I have met some super intelligent, academically gifted people that never went to college because no one like them did. I have known many others that went to college just because “everyone does”, only to drop out or graduate with some fluff degree.

    Don’t worry too much though. It is still very hard to become a doctor and bad ones are weeded out. One can’t say the same for cops. Or teachers. The majority of those are very hard to fire. US medicine is the envy of the world. Our law enforcement and education are certainly not. To put it mildly.

  • Edward

    You wrote: “Don’t worry too much though. It is still very hard to become a doctor and bad ones are weeded out.

    Anatomy, Zoology, and Organic Chemistry are the early weed-out courses. If they aren’t willing to weed out students early on, then when do you expect them to be weeded out? If they don’t get weeded out, then US medicine will cease being the envy of the world.

  • Alton

    The Supreme Court of New York State is not the Highest Court in the State, so there are a couple more levels the case can go Upward.

    My Organic Chem course was a slug but very nice. The final exam had a time limit of five hours, only two persons left before time was called.
    And I Was not one of them.

    The killer last question was to write all the equations and conditions, which 127 steps later, starting with carbon black and elementally pure feedstocks and complete the given 100 Carbon String molecule.

    The Neat laboratory was to duplicate the identification of an Unknown chemical, it took three years for the PhD Candidate (1950) to complete the first run correctly. He was my professor.
    He went on to a twenty year career with DuPont. The lab usually took eight or nine hours instead of the normal five for most problems.

    DuPont provided the equipment, an Infrared Spectrometer, Gas Chromatograph, Mass Spectrometer. AND the neatest piece a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrograph. Bought by DuPont for the College, a $2.5 million unit. The College’s IBM System 360 which ran the Administration, Research and student + Graduate Students load was $1.5 million fully rigged-out.
    But as an in-state student each year cost about $3.000. I Paid a thousand for a eighteen month old Mustang V8 1970, back then, first car, first car in my Family, since 1963.

    The Professor was the Person who developed Lucite Paint.

  • Edward_2

    Old joke.

    A dentist is someone who couldn’t get into Medical school.

    So… those who couldn’t pass Professor Jonse’s Organic Chemistry class should go to Dental school.

  • James Street

    “I confess, I’m baffled as to how the administration could have reached that conclusion,” White said. “To me, it looks like a blunder.”

    No, the anti-racist NPCs now populating HR departments are actually that stupid.

  • Max

    James Street said;

    “No, the anti-racist NPCs now populating HR departments are actually that stupid”

    And the stupidity seems to permeate all the way down!
    (turtles all the way down)
    It almost seems like a pre-requirement for the position is incompetence. People are hired for social score, political score, and how well they obey their betters without thinking through ramifications or ethics.

    In the new dark age, obedience is rewarded.

    For example, the new digital currency from executive order 4067 will be soon be rolled out. (trial in the spring of 2023)
    What is the major concern of the administration? Quote from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, OSTP;

    “In our climate report, we found that crypto assets consumed between 1 percent and 2 percent of all U.S. electricity each year. We also found that crypto asset activity produces between 0.4 to 0.8 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. That’s similar to the emissions from iron and steel production in the United States by way of comparison.”

    “The crypto asset industry is expanding rapidly using more electricity and producing more emissions. And crypto mining affects local communities with noise pollution, as well as air and water pollution from direct fossil-fired electricity. These local community impacts can exacerbate environmental justice issues for communities that are already burdened by other pollutants. We need to make sure that crypto asset operations do not impede our goals to protect communities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and achieve a carbon pollution-free electricity grid.”

    So they’re worried about power consumption at a time when President Ping of China announced increase of energy output by opening coal mines and power plants which will have carbon emissions as much as nearly all the vehicles on the road in America… At the same time Kamala Harris announced 500 new electric school buses known to catch fire spectacularly.
    So there you have it, to save the planet they must take over all cryptocurrency‘s and institute a public private partnership over our money system. Read it if you want to know the method of your enslavement.

    Entire entire world currency and markets are being inflated an alarming rate, coinciding with ours to fail. (Except for a few like the bricks nations and Russia which is protected by executive order 4068)
    Banks are confiscating funds, FBI is committing open theft and call it asset forfeiture… And PayPal (Who owns Venmo) punishing clients for “improper thoughts” with fines of $2500 without provocation or legal authorization.

    Expect your attention this spring to be diverted by election fraud concerns, extreme actions of a lame duck Congress, new Covid fears, A fifth column imbedded in 5 million new illegal immigrants, or starving, freezing Europeans.

    Interesting times indeed.

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