After a Professor’s Firing, College Students and Professors Weigh In on the New Landscape of Higher Ed

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When a respected New York University professor was fired after a minority of students complained that the organic chemistry class he taught was too hard, it seemed to reflect a shift in the landscape of higher education.

Was this evidence that college students have become entitled customers, or is the existence of a “weed-out class,” one that many students struggle to pass, an indictment of a professor’s teaching? And if students have more power now, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

We asked students and professors to share their experiences.

Students told us that they feel they’re increasingly being listened to about how they want to be taught. Many professors wrote about how students seemed distracted and unprepared, especially after pandemic classroom disruptions. Along with students, they cited many pressures contributing to decreased classroom performance: worry about rising tuition costs, residual pandemic stress, demands as family caretakers.

Others respondents were focused on ways to adapt. David Peterson del Mar, a professor in the history department at Portland State University in Oregon, wrote that he invites his students to tell him what they want, and he has found that more than anything, “they want to be seen, want to be known.” Because of that, he makes a point of memorizing students’ names, meeting with them individually, and offering encouragement and referrals when they’re having trouble. “It’s extremely time-consuming and extremely rewarding,” he said.


https://static01.nyt.com/images/2022/10/30/opinion/30opreaders-college-1/merlin_213974493_3ea93ece-f414-4ee9-98f0-a4eb68163743-superJumbo.jpg?quality=75&auto=webpJanice Chung for The New York Times



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