April 18, 2019 | 60° F

Student voices must also be heard in faculty protests

Letter to the Editor

Last year I nervously made my way to organic chemistry, the class that all science and pre-med students dread. This is the class that all students have been told will determine whether they are cut out to follow their dreams. A few moments later, a cheerful Professor John Taylor walked in and eagerly greeted his new group of budding chemists. The tension in the room was palpable, every student terrified that they may be goners by the time the withdrawal period rolled around.

From the very first lecture, Taylor hit the ground running. He had an immediate presence that demanded respect, but at the same time welcomed humor and discussion. Let’s be clear, organic chemistry is a hard subject, and it is not for everyone. However, it is manageable with the right tools. Taylor knows what those tools are and he isn’t afraid to use them.

As I started to get to know my peers better I heard countless tales of life before Taylor, something they liked to refer to as “Boikesstry.” I was shocked and appalled by the things I heard. Students were told they were stupid if they asked too many questions. One class was even told to work by candlelight after they lost power due to Hurricane Sandy. I frequently heard him being referred to as King Boikess for his dictatorial style of teaching.

Halfway through my second semester in organic chemistry with Taylor, I heard some shocking news. Beginning next semester Taylor will no longer be in charge of teaching his class. He is being forced to split his class with another professor and he will not have control over his syllabus, exams or book. I cannot imagine an administration having such a dynamic professor in their grasp and throwing him away so casually. I was even more shocked to find out that he had been banned from teaching honors organic chemistry a few years ago because too many students were doing well in the class. Just five years earlier my husband had taken Taylor’s honors organic chemistry class and proceeded to score in the 96th percentile on his Dental Admissions Test.

The chemistry department is attempting to justify this change by claiming that the class must follow a standardized syllabus as well as a single book to save money for students retaking the class. The main issue with this justification is that they are choosing to create a standard based off failure rather than success. Not a single person in the department has spoken to Taylor about this change, nor asked for his opinion on whether this change would be beneficial to the student body. This is a direct violation of the academic freedom that we should expect our tenured professors to have.

I started an online petition in response to these changes, and within a couple days I received nearly 200 signatures as well as an outpouring of comments expressing support for Taylor and anger towards this injustice. Unfortunately, there are seldom opportunities for the student body to have a voice in their education but now is one such occasion. I implore you to ask yourself what type of university you want to attend. We are all spending our time and money investing in our future, and we should expect that the people educating us have our best interests in mind. This is a reminder to speak up for what you believe in and remember that you all have a voice.

Please reference this QR code to view or sign the petition.

Nechama Bloom is a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

By Nechama Bloom

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