The home of Sweaty Spice, the 'other' Spice Girl

Lately, much has been made about a professor of Organic Chemistry at NYU being terminated because the students had the audacity to complain that his class was too difficult.

And normally, I would read that and chuckle. Turns out that the prof is pretty well known, but he was teaching after he retired, and was an Adjunct Professor, that is no tenure, and thus a contractor.

It is also evident that even for a weed-out class, his grading was over the top, and almost spiteful.

I am not here to debate the ins and outs, but instead to share my experience with a similar weed-out course at my alma mater, San Jose State University.

In the 1980's, I was a bright eyed high school graduate who had decided to study physics at SJSU, but I had a gleam in my eye for computer programming, and fancied that I might end up as a software programmer.

There were two programs I was "drafted" into, since I was "gifted" in high school. One was this "Humanities" program that was essentially 1/2 your units for two years (4 semesters) and would cover 100% of your general education requirements (one exception, you still would need an upper division "english" course). The other was Chemistry 4A/4B. Two semesters, and it would cover the Organicx chemistry that one would need should they decide on a pre-med or related program.

I opted to take the Humanities program, and decline the chemistry program, and in a way I was lucky. I made it through one year of the two of the humanities program. Turns out that I am really not constitutionally able to handle so much of the classics in such a compressed form. There was a reason my high school english teacher (Mrs. Peterson) steered me into public speaking and debate instead of the usual college prep World and English Lit.

I passed the two semesters - barely - and bailed. At the time I was neither humiliated, nor disappointed in myself, it just wasn't for me.

But it did leave me in a pickle. I had a patchy set of my general education requirements fulfilled, and to complete them, would require taking a bunch of courses that would ultimately end up adding a full semester to my time in college.

On the chemistry angle, I opted for the standard course, reasoning that my major (physics) would be rigorous enough to give me more insight that an amped to 11 chemistry course would, especially since I didn't need an organic chemistry credential for my goals (like if I had been pre-med).

Turns out that that was a wise choice. My new peers in the physics program who had taken it were battle scarred, and tell tales of woe from their experiences in Chem 4A and 4B.

Looping back, I get the concept of weeding out students into specific majors, but there needs to be some balance. Of course, it shouldn't be an easy A, but if you are failing 60+% of the students, especially at a private school that costs upwards of $80K per year to attend, you ought to look at whether you are meeting your customer's needs.

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