The organic chemistry professor at NYU, who was fired after students complained about their grades, was pundit catnip this week. His story became a cautionary tale that proved a host of societal ills: college is now a “consumer product,” declining standards is bad, college is too punitive on students and professors alike, adjuncts are vulnerable, sometimes a weed-out class is an important wake up call.
Who knew that one incident could have SO MANY ANGLES! SO MANY SOCIETAL ILLS! Pundit heaven, for sure. All these pundits felt that Dr. Jones was a canary in the coal mine, but each had him tweeting a different song.
I didn’t touch the story for awhile, beyond a link and little observation on my blog, because at first glance, the story was nothing new. Organic Chemistry has always been super hard. Student evaluations are important, especially for non-tenured professor.The New York Times could write this same story, but with a different professor and a different college, every single day. It’s odd that this one story took off like it did.
The real reason why this story is important is buried a few graphs down in the article, and did not get quite enough attention. (Yet another societal ill!) Professor Jones, the fired organic chem professor, said while student academic performance has declined in the recent years, grades really took a nose dive after COVID. From the New York Times,