Columnist argues NYU treats education as a ‘consumer product’

A renowned NYU organic chemistry professor was fired after a spate of student complaints. In response to the schools' decision, CNN columnist Jill Filipovic argues NYU's administration sees higher education "as a consumer product trying to please not just students … but their parents who hold the purse strings."#CNN #News


  1. This is a subject my family has discussed over and over for years. It’s not an exclusive NYU issue, it’s a systemic issue throughout western post secondary education institutions in both Canada and the USA. Our schools are importing international students at 2 and 3 times the cost of tuition that our own students pay (which is already insane). It’s nothing but a money grab. Quality of education has taken a backseat to pushing the sale of courses. My brother-in-law is a professor and can tell you first hand that many foreign students don’t even show up for class, they work 2 and 3 jobs. It’s high time that post secondary institutions are rolled into the secondary school model, professors are not longer “contractors” and are paid government employees in order to eliminate the “marketing” of a product. There may be an alternative approach that is just as effective, such as industry itself investing in the institutions in order to more efficiently and directly have impact in curriculum and control the outrages administrative salaries.

    1. Part of the reason is that states have cut their education budget and all universities have to go wherever they can find money.

    2. @P Pen You have no idea what you’re talking about. University’s are some of the richest entities on the planet.

    3. @Keith Hoss I am a professor and I exactly know what I am talking about. Most of those funds are restricted.

    4. @P Pen Well that’s funny because I am too. So maybe where you are they are but to make a blanket statement is not wise.

    5. I don’t know, I went to college in the 80’s. As far as recruiting international students, it wasn’t much different back then. In my department, Americans were pretty much outnumbered, both students and professors.

  2. It’s the education system failing in Elementary and High School that leads to failure in College. If a student next to me can complain about the mile and get that class canceled overtime. That student has now setup the student that wants to do track and field in the future to fail. Because now that student isn’t able to meet their needs in the physical experience when they were younger. Being able to run a 6 minute mile, but then another student running 12 minute mile keeps complaining about it. That’s in middle school, because the 12 minute mile student complained that class stopped. When that 6 minute mile student gets to High School they can only run a 12 minute mile, because that one student got that class canceled in middle school.

  3. When American University began referring to departments as income centers, back in the late ’90s, it was obvious that students, the consumers, were satisfied with the product, a degree.

  4. On the one hand, there’s always that sadistic university professor with an outsize ego who thinks that no student really deserves an A. On the other hand, grade inflation has gotten out of control over the last two decades. So the jury is still out whether this professor was right or wrong to make his course so hard.

    1. @Linda C That‘s why working as a student intern or as a working student in general will give you a huge advantage over your competitors on the job market.

    2. ​@Dale Hartley (1) WRONG. ONLY the use of age in a NEGATIVE way constitutes agism. This is supported by the very same WHO article you’re getting that definition from in a CHERRY-PICKING and MISLEADING way. Here’s what the article further states: “Ageism can change how we view ourselves, can ERODE solidarity between generations, can DEVALUE or LIMIT our ability to benefit from what younger and older populations can contribute, and can IMPACT our health, longevity and well-being while also having far-reaching economic consequences.” NOWHERE in that WHO article is the positive use of age ever mentioned or referred to as agism.
      (2) You seem to be substituting your personal experiences and personal opinion for scientific facts about sexual dimorphism, are you? How about a few scientfic articles in leading medical journals to support what you just said about “MEN in particular tend to become less amenable to meeting new people and socializing?, huh?
      (3) Apparently, you’re having trouble with basic terms, which causes you to write non sequiturs and not understand my arguments. Just as you messed up “agism,” you fail to grasp the difference between character and behavior. Your character is the sum total of your personality inside — your behavior might not necessarily be identical with your character. Think about the expression “to act out of character” and you’ll get what I mean.
      (4) I still have no explanation from you as to why think that aging necessarily exacerbates personality issues rather than alleviating them? I mean, is it so hard for you to consider that age makes it easier for people to gain wisdom and deal with their personality issues more effectively? Is it so hard to think that someone might mellow with age, not necessarily become grumpier?

    3. End of the day what’s not undecided is the prof is the real deal and proven. These kids are nothing yet. Maybe the future. But right now they should shut up and listen.

    4. @Elden Ringer no, that is not end of the day fact. Since people are a variable, then nothing is proven more than he KNOWS his stuff… not that he can teach his stuff.

  5. Example: Scandinavian countries focus more on personalized learning, accentuating inherent aptitudes/proficiency, thereby alleviating most of these extenuating effects. The mere fact that the US has one of the worst public educational systems, in stark contrast to its historical wealth level, is not only embarrassing; but outright repugnant. Put the right people in the right positions of power to revolutionize vital infrastructure – like public education – and you might survive this critical tipping point… … … perhaps.

  6. This situation is very much a multifacted problem. Thus the solution is also multifaceted. As a retired electrical engineer who learned more about electricity in high school than in college I found the following to be important: The first requirement is for the student to be intrinsiclly connected to the subject. The second requirement is for the teacher to teach in plain English and basic math as mush as possible. The third requirement is hard work, by both the teacher and the student! The forth requirement is to have a high tolerance for being uncomfortable.

  7. It’s not just NYU. Pretty much all colleges and universities treat it as a product and not necessarily as a means to educate people.

    The problem is that getting a college degree or even a Master’s or PhD doesn’t necessarily guarantee let alone give you a good chance at landing a job let alone a career. That’s what’s messed up and broken about the education system.

    There are merits with a college degree but times the changing and the education system needs an overhaul.
    They insist that it’s so necessary and ingrain into the minds of people that it’s so important.

  8. I studied medicine decades ago. If my classmates and I hadn’t completed the required courses at high school, to the required level of attainment, we wouldn’t have been accepted on the course. What is more, we wouldn’t have expected to have been accepted, and nor would our parents have done so. When, dacades later, I became a univ hospital professor, I didn’t want fellowship students who had found undergrad courses beyond their ability, for whatever reasons that may have been. My patients would expect I only pass well performing physicians.

    1. Yeah, I feel very similar. Our “weed out” organic chem class had ~1/3 of the students left in it at the end.
      But I also recognise that it was relatively inexpensive going to school and that external “needs” such as the internet were not yet a factor.
      If I was a prof, I’d make sure that the school at least made it easy for students to access the internet.
      My thinking is that NYU used the students petition as an excuse to get rid of him and did not try to address any of the student’s actual concerns.

    2. As a MD myself I have to say, what in the world does Orgo have anything to do with medical school or medicine? There’s absolutely nothing in that course that applies to my practice what so ever. Biochemistry is closer than Orgo by millions of miles and even that class I have yet to apply the tiniest amount of information from.

      I think courses like these should be dropped as pre-reqs for medical school.

  9. I quit teaching after being told not to make students take notes and after some older man who was married to the Assistant Dean complained that I gave him an A-. I was encouraged to give him an A, but I did not. And I was not even full-time OR getting health insurance! 😮

  10. A result of the failing K-12 system, not just the pandemic. He taught the same way for decades, but increasingly students are struggling because they don’t have the proper foundation. My fellow science teachers & I have been begging people to take this seriously for a very long time & now we are beyond crisis. This is the canary in the coal mine. Think about the quality of future health care providers. Vote for improved education. Vote blue in ‘22. 💙

  11. This is just so ridiculous. Orgo is tough, but if 82 fails out of the 350, that means most DID pass and the ones that did fail probably didn’t take it seriously enough. The school could have just gotten another professor to teach Orgo and transfer him to teach another class instead of firing him

  12. Maybe this professor could teach an “advanced” or “gifted student” class, and another professor could teach a standard level class. Because, imo, we need both.

  13. If he is 82 he may be teaching to a standard where “chemistry instincts” are required to excel. That is what a gifted chemistry student needs! But giftedness in chemistry is not all you need to be a great doctor.

    1. Or maybe education was better when he was a kid. Why take a class like chemistry if you cannot read effectively at a college level?

  14. As someone with a PhD from New York University, I can confirm that some so-called professors take maximum advantages of low standards to make life as easy for themselves as possible. However I got a certificate from a humanities department where it is easier to cut corners than a science department.
    So the professor in this story may have been mistaken, but it’s a very different kind of error from those tenured career types who happily go along with the grade inflation free-for-all.

  15. Students:”we don’t have time to study, and we don’t like to”
    NYU:”Professor, make it easy, give them A”
    Professor:”Unethical and unprofessional!”
    NYU:”You’re fired”

  16. I was a contract instructor for a major university teaching a graduate level class in the evening. Too many students believed they deserved a passing grade because they showed up for classes and paid tuition. Many never never read texts and addition materials. Exams scores ranged from teens to high 90’s. Once all exam questions came directly from chapter summaries yet over half students failed. I had a failing student tell me she needed a B or A to keep scholarship. My classes were working adults who often did not put in the time to master course content but still wanted passing grades. They rated me so it was this “club” for passing grades. Yes students have changed in their willingness to do the work to master course contents. I quit after a few semesters of teaching.

    1. Haha, I as a former adjunct professor would do the same thing, I would take the question verbatim from a chapter in the order they were written in the chapter summary and even metioned sevetal times over the weeks up to the exam that they should take a look at those questions. Not even half of those students received a passing grade on that exam.. Students are wanting more for nothing, they seem to have this prevlisged attitude

  17. I had a very knowledgeable electronic teacher where 70% of his class failed, including myself. I redid the electronics class with a different teacher and 100% of his class passed. Teaching is a skill that some teachers do not have. But learning is also a skill that some students do not have. So this situation begs the question: what do the students mean by the lessons being “too hard”?

  18. “The mode of founding a college is, commonly, to get up a subscription of dollars and cents, and then, *following blindly the principles of a division of labor to its extreme,* –a principle which should never be followed but with circumspection,–to call in a contractor who makes this a subject of speculation,… *and for these oversights successive generations have to pay.”*

    “Those things for which the most money is demanded are never the things which the student most wants. Tuition, for instance, is an important item in the term bill, while for the far more valuable education which he gets *by associating with the most cultivated of his contemporaries* no charge is made.”

    -Henry David Thoreau, Harvard Graduate

  19. The fact of the matter is that getting a good professor *can be the difference between learning something at all or struggling to follow along.*

    Bad Professors simply don’t care & blame their students for their own obvious failures.

    Not everyone that can do the work can teach it & that’s a major blunder Universities often make. Those are two totally different skill sets.

  20. I’ve had some professors that were tough graders with bad grading policies. In particular, we had a grad business professor who graded on a very narrow curve that pretty much guaranteed 80% of the class C+ to B- and it was a mandatory course. There was a 2nd professor teaching the same course, and the class always filled up within hours of being posted, so our choices were to take a hit on the GPA, or keep trying to get the other professor. Mind you, they taught the from the same curriculum, just that the narrow curve allowed for 2 As and sometimes an A+ with disproportionate amount of work, but getting a 2.7-3.3 gives a huge hit to an otherwise high GPA when our honors were separated by thousandths of a point.

    Not the same as failing, I know, but there’s something to be said about teachers not comforting to overall grading policy. Still the only B I ever got at a university…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.