Maitland Jones Jr: NYU professor fired after students sign petition stating his classes were 'too hard'

Dr Maitland Jones Jr has, however, defended himself stating that the intake was 'poor' and that his students were very disengaged during classes

Maitland Jones Jr: NYU professor fired after students sign petition stating his classes were 'too hard'
Dr Maitland Jones Jr taught at Princeton University before NYU and is an acclaimed academician (Wikipedia)
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NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: Renowned experimental chemist and New York University professor, Maitland Jones Jr, has been fired from his position following a petition by a group of NYU students who claimed that his course and tests were too difficult. Altogether 82 of 350 students belonging to Jones' organic chemistry class signed the petition, citing his teaching methods as the reason for their poor performance.

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"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," read the petition, according to a New York Times report. "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," the petition went on to state. Meanwhile, Dr Jones, a leading academic in the field for decades, has defended his teaching standards and said that the quality of intake was to blame. 

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Dr Maitland Jones Jr. (Princeton University)
Dr Maitland Jones Jr has received widespread acclaim for his research pursuits  (Screenshot from Princeton University)

The petition from students comes after in-person classes were resumed. Jones' students alleged that the professor reduced the number of midterm examinations from the usual three to two, and was not offering any extra credits. Further, he has made no provisions for students with Covid to access lectures via Zoom. They also claimed he taught in a "condescending and demanding" manner. 

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The outlet reported that university officials had earlier tried to appease students by offering to review their grades and providing them with the option to withdraw from the class. Chemistry department chairman Mark E Tuckerman said that such an offer was a "one-time exception granted to students by the dean of the college." Mark A Walters, director of undergraduate studies in the same department, explained the situation to Dr Jones in an email before his contract's termination, adding that the plan would help "extend a gentle but firm hand to the students and those who pay the tuition bills," i.e. the parents. 

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A view of New York University sign on the campus building. (Photo by John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Maitland Jones Jr taught organic chemistry at NYU from 2007-2022 (John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In his defense, the Yale alumnus said that he reduced the number of midterms owing to the fact that NYU scheduled his first test after six classes. Furthermore, technological limitations in the lecture hall where Jones conducted his lectures did not allow him to record his writings on the whiteboard. Dr Jones, who retired from Princeton University in 2007, claimed that he had first noticed a lack of focus among his students within a few years of moving to NYU. The pandemic seemed to worsen this problem. "We now see single digit scores and even zeros," he said adding that the students were "really struggling. "They didn't have good internet coverage at home. All sorts of things," he added.

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"They weren't coming to class, that's for sure, because I can count the house,' Dr Jones said, adding, "They weren't watching the videos, and they weren't able to answer the questions." Still, the veteran academic tried to make things easier for his pupils. Together with two other professors, he recorded 52 lectures, spending $5,000 out of his own pockets to publish, reported The Daily Mail. The lectures are still in circulation.

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The news of his firing does not sit well with many. Paramjit Arora, a chemistry professor, said, "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 US News rankings keep going higher." Ryan Xue, a former student of Jones said, "This is a big lecture course, and it also has the reputation of being a weed-out class." While professor Dr Jones asserted he did not want his job back, he simply wants "to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else."


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