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NYU professor fired for being too hard said colleges ‘coddle students’ for tuition money

An NYU chemistry professor who claimed he was fired after students complained that his class was too hard said colleges “coddle” students instead of helping them succeed with “tough love.”

Maitland Jones Jr. taught at the expensive Manhattan private school for 15 years before he was canned ahead of the fall semester after a student petition alleged that his organic chemistry class was too difficult to pass.

“Organic chemistry is a difficult and important course,” he wrote in an op-ed published in the Boston Globe Thursday.

“Those of us who teach it aim to produce critical thinkers, future diagnosticians, and scientists.”

The 84-year-old said he has witnessed a decline in student capacity in recent years as well as administrators bending to the wishes of students more often than not,

“Deans must learn to not coddle students for the sake of tuition and apply a little tough love,” Jones wrote. “They must join the community in times of conflict to generate those teachable moments.”

He said professors now fear teaching demanding material and assigning low grades to students who perform poorly because they worry they’ll face punishment.

“[Young professors’] entire careers are at the peril of complaining students and deans who seem willing to turn students into nothing more than tuition-paying clients,” Jones said.

NYU flag outside one of the college's buildings
Ex-NYU professor Maitland Jones Jr. said students need to learn to accept failure and that colleges need to learn not to coddle them.
Helayne Seidman

The ex-teacher said the students must learn to accept failure and grow from their mistakes. He argued doing so is a vital life skill today’s students aren’t getting.

“Students need to develop the ability to take responsibility for failure,” he wrote. “If they continue to deflect blame, they will never grow… Failure should become a classic ‘teachable moment.’”

Jones, who previously taught at Princeton University, said he watched a decline in students’ attendance and participation in his class over the past couple of years. He said the college kids were simply not studying and working hard enough.

“They weren’t coming to class, that’s for sure, because I can count the house,” he wrote in a grievance to NYU. “They weren’t watching the videos, and they weren’t able to answer the questions.”

Maitland Jones Jr. points to a screen while holding a microphone
Maitland Jones Jr. was fired from NYU after 15 years of teaching at the Manhattan university.
Princeton University

His students said in their petition that Jones often addressed them in a “condescending and demanding” tone and that he “failed to make students’ learning and well-being a priority.”

NYU cited students’ complaints of the professor’s “dismissiveness, unresponsiveness, condescension and opacity about grading” in its decision to fire the professor.

They did not, however, call for his firing.

A spokesperson for the university said his course evaluation was “by far the worst, not only among members of the chemistry department but among all the university’s undergraduate science courses.”

Still, Jones doubled down that universities must hold students to high standards in education.

“Without those standards, we as a nation will not produce those individuals — doctors, engineers, scientists, – citizens! — who will guide us toward a better future,” he wrote in the op-ed.

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