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Faye Flam

An NYU Professor Got Fired. Then Everyone Missed the Point.

When Maitland Jones Jr. lost his job teaching organic chemistry to pre-med students, it seemed to encapsulate something wrong with higher ed.

Hotbed of controversy.

Hotbed of controversy.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The disruption associated with the Covid-19 pandemic is loosening society’s grip on some stubborn assumptions about different facets of life, especially work and education. The latest: that the hardest college classes are the most rigorous, as exemplified in last week’s hullabaloo over the case of an New York University professor of organic chemistry fired after students protested their bad grades.

The general public is rightly nervous about any changes that could degrade the quality of future doctors. Our lives could be on the line here. But where’s the evidence that we get better care by weeding out students who don’t get an A (or at least a B) in this course?