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Teacher accountability or student responsibility

By Jay Li November 10, 2022


Students often dread the day teachers hand back tests, anxiously counting seconds until they see their score. Then, in a jaw-dropping fashion, they see they have failed, seriously threatening their chances of passing the class.

Ellie Kim Art

For Organic Chemistry students at New York University (NYU), this was an all too common occurence. In response, 82 of 350 students signed a petition against their professor, Maitland Jones Jr., resulting in NYU terminating his contract. While students should be able to hold teachers accountable, the NYU administration drastically mishandled this instance; resulting in the loss of a respected faculty member.


Jones was a distinguished chemistry professor, boasting a 43-year tenure teaching at Princeton University followed by 15 years at NYU. In 1997, he authored “Organic Chemistry,” a textbook that fundamentally changed the way universities teach chemistry. Jones’s termination disregarded his expertise and instead favored a petition of only 23.4% of his students.


“I would sympathize with those struggling in the class, but 82 out of 350 signatories is insubstantial to elicit Jones’s dismissal. For such an impactful decision regarding a respected professor, there should have been a greater consensus. If it was this easy to remove teachers, many would not have their jobs,” Sophomore Calista Shih said.

Those 82 students expressed frustrations regarding the class’s difficulty. Their second midterm test had a 30% class average, and because the class did not have any extra credit opportunities, the students identified Jones as the cause of their abysmal grades. The petition began while the university transitioned from online to in-person learning, which Jones cites as the reason for their decline in performance. Mental health declined along with grades, subsequently impacting academic performance further as shown by the National Library of Medicine. Passing Organic Chemistry is essential to entering medical school, so students had all the more incentive to launch the petition. Jones defended himself by stating he had lowered the difficulty of his tests and claimed students were not coming to class or utilizing the resources he provided to score higher.


Notably, the petition never called for Jones’s dismissal—it was only a complaint. Yet, administrators attempted to appeal to the students even further, offering to review their grades and permit them to retroactively withdraw from the class as an exception.

The school’s response to the situation sparked much discourse. Students who supported Jones wrote letters of endorsement and professors from across the nation came to his defense. Others aligned themselves with his termination, stating that Jones’s teaching methods were outdated.


Ellie Kim Art

Colleges are beginning to resemble businesses, offering education as a product with students as their customers. This incident demonstrates how colleges have started to pivot away from professors’ autonomy in the classroom and towards a “customer is always right” mentality, rather than what would genuinely benefit student learning.

Jones’s termination sets a dangerous precedent, potentially emboldening students to petition against any teacher. It also deters demanding courses—as a prerequisite course for a physician, Organic Chemistry’s rigor is justified. Education is not a commodity served on a silver platter; it is a struggle that requires time, energy and commitment.


“Even though students should be able to keep their teachers in check, Jones should not have been fired. NYU made a hasty decision in this case. If students hold the ability to fire their teacher on a year-by-year basis, teachers will not push their students to overcome their boundaries out of the fear that they will lose their job,” Junior Aralyn Connolly said.

Jones’s termination from NYU was an appalling mistake by the administration. If schools continue to dismiss educators because of a mere handful of complaints, the future of the education landscape will be bleak for all students and educators alike.

 

About the Contributors

Jay Li

Staff Writer


Jay is is a sophomore at Leland High school and in his free time enjoys to eat and sleep.










Ellie Kim

Artist


Ellie Kim is a senior at Leland High School and one of the Art Directors for The Charger Account. When she’s not doing schoolwork, she enjoys scrolling through Pinterest, making Spotify playlists, and sleeping.

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