Pro/Con: NYU Professor


In October 2022, New York University professor Maitland Jones Jr. was terminated from his role teaching Organic Chemistry after 82 of his 350 students signed a petition claiming that he was at fault for their poor scores in the class. The termination was justified, as Jones’ incredibly unrealistic standards negatively impacted students’ motivation and caused much more harm to their futures than good.

Though Jones had taught the subject for over 50 years, the 85-year-old’s students claimed his class was “too challenging” and many had a hard time passing. Jones has received awards for his contributions to science and founded the nationally recognized textbook “Organic Chemistry,” but this does not mean he possessed the necessary skills to teach constructively. In their petition against him, his students stated he was not an effective teacher due to his “dismissiveness, unresponsiveness, condescension and opacity about grading.”

Additionally, the course averages, which dropped below the customary 65% for his class, clearly showed that the majority of students were struggling. In fact, in an interview with the New York Times, John Beckman, a spokesperson for NYU, said Jones’ class had “by far the worst [averages] among all the university’s undergraduate science courses.”

Some may argue that Jones was merely trying to maintain high academic standards in his class, and that such standards are vital in STEM-based courses where the goal is to prepare students to become future doctors, engineers and scientists. However, there is a point at which extremely harsh expectations can backfire, inflicting more harm on students than good. This seemed to be the case in Jones’ class, where “single digit scores became common and we even had zeros on exams, something that had never happened before,” according to an editorial by Jones in the Boston Globe.

This extreme level of failure resulting from unrealistic standards like Jones’ can discourage students from wanting to challenge themselves intellectually and pursue higher education in their field of interest.

Jones’ class was a perfect example of the “weed-out” culture prevalent in our education system. Weed-out classes like Jones’ are intentionally structured with impractical expectations in order to supposedly isolate students who are “qualified” to pursue higher education. This system is based solely on disparities in grade point averages. With our hugely GPA-centered educational system, Jones’ astronomical standards could have been destructive to the dreams of many aspiring doctors, a profession that is already witnessing shortages; according to a projection by The Association of American Medical Colleges, there will be an estimated shortage of approximately 46,000 to 90,000 physicians by 2025.

With increasingly unreasonable expectations in education dimming students’ motivation, it is becoming more and more vital to have someone understanding of students’ needs teaching in our classrooms. Jones failed to meet these standards. His dismissal signifies a positive change in the American education system – one where students are in control of their own futures.


Long-time professor Maitland Jones Jr. was fired from New York University in October 2022 after a group of his students signed a petition complaining about the difficulty of his Organic Chemistry class and their unsatisfactory grades.

Although Jones had been teaching at NYU for 15 years and is a renowned figure in the world of organic chemistry, when just 82 of the 350 students in his class signed a petition merely complaining about its difficulty, his contract was terminated. The signatures of under 25% of the students in a class is not nearly enough to justify firing a tenured professor like Jones, who possesses outstanding credentials as an organic chemistry expert.

Jones’ firing raises a number of concerns about the direction in which our education system is heading.

With the currently exorbitant cost of college education in the U.S., schools are increasingly operating as businesses trying to satisfy all the whims and wishes of their “customers”: students. Students are paying large sums of money for a college education and expect satisfactory grades in return, without thought for the value of academic rigor and stimulation. NYU’s dismissal of Jones reveals this commodification of education that is plaguing our educational system today: colleges want to keep their customers happy.

For teachers, the termination of Jones’ contract is unsettling. If students are given the power to decide if they are satisfied with a teacher merely because they are displeased with their grades, this sets a dangerous precedent for teachers in our educational system. They may feel forced to lower their grading standards and course expectations for fear of losing their job.

Furthermore, Jones’ dismissal is worrying because organic chemistry is a class typically taken by aspiring doctors.

As the future of our medical field, we need these students to be well-qualified to excel in their future careers, and teachers must make their classes as rigorous as necessary to ensure this qualification. Jones’ dismissal from NYU seems to reveal just how low the academic standards of our educational system have sunk.

Some claim that Jones’ firing was justified, pointing to the fact that his class did have low averages on many of his tests. It is possible that Jones’ method of teaching did not resonate with many of the students in his class.

It is important to also take into consideration, however, that we are recovering from a post-pandemic world. Students’ attention spans are lower and some are even behind academically due to COVID-19, and this likely played a big part in the disconnect between Jones and his students.

Yet it is unfair to blame Jones for the impacts the pandemic has had on students. Jones should have been given more time to adapt his teaching style to match the new needs of his students.

It is also probable that the unsatisfactory grades of some students were not due to Jones at all; according to an opinion editorial by Jones in the Boston Globe, 60% of his students got A’s or B’s on their exams in his last semester of teaching.

The academic standards of universities cannot be lowered just to keep their customers happy; Jones’ firing has serious implications for educators and society alike.

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