AFA Statement on NYU Prof. Maitland Jones

Oct 14, 2022 | Press Release

AFA Releases Statement on NYU Prof. Maitland Jones

NYU refused to rehire Jones over his professional judgement in grading 

PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today released a statement on the non-renewal of employment for Prof. Maitland Jones of New York University. In August, NYU refused to rehire Professor Jones after 82 students signed a petition complaining about the rigorous grading practices in his spring 2022 organic chemistry class. Numerous professors from around the world have protested Jones’ non-renewal, arguing that the decision and the way it was made undermine faculty freedom while diminishing respect for academic standards.

“We believe strongly that fundamental principles of academic freedom require assessment of individual student performance to be made by the teaching staff appointed to teach each course,” said the AFA in its statement. “If the grading is done pursuant to an honest evaluation, sanctioning a professor for grading students too rigorously amounts to punishing him or her for being truthful about the quality of the students’ work—that is, punishing the instructor for fulfilling the institutional and fiduciary duty to honestly pursue truth. Giving students grades that a competent instructor has concluded, using his or her professional judgment, are not merited is a form of intellectual fraud.”

The statement continued, “NYU’s decision, including the haste and summary manner in which it was reached, appears to be another example of the trend in higher education to devolve more academic authority from faculty into the hands of administrative entities whose backgrounds and expertise reside elsewhere than pedagogy, research, and the pursuit of truth. This clear trend of devolution has obvious and unfortunate implications for academic freedom and the public good.”

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    The Academic Freedom Alliance is a diverse alliance of college and university faculty members who are dedicated to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech. These principles are central to the mission of our institutions of higher education for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The AFA is committed to defending universal principles of academic freedom and will come to the assistance of professors regardless of their individual views. As always, the AFA is not concerned with the substance or merits of a professor’s ideas but with the principle that universities should be places that tolerate controversial ideas and allow free inquiry and debate, not public opinion or political pressure, to separate error from truth.

    Learn More About the Academic Freedom Alliance

    No one, at any academic institution, should fear suppression or retaliation for speaking out publicly in any form. We encourage you to join the movement in supporting the flourishing of intellectual life and the pursuit of knowledge and truth at institutions of higher learning.