Editorials

Editorial: In support of the chemistry petition

By
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Several pre-medical students recently released a petition calling for Brown to offer both CHEM 0350: “Organic Chemistry I” and CHEM 0360: “Organic Chemistry II” during both the fall and spring semesters of the academic year. We support this effort. Brown must offer these classes during both semesters if students from all academic backgrounds are to be given a fair shot at fulfilling requirements.

The way that the course schedule currently stands, students who test out of CHEM 0100 with Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate scores are able to complete the requirements a full academic year before those who cannot. The former group of students are able to take CHEM 0330 their first semesters at Brown, CHEM 0350 their second and CHEM 0360 their third, finishing the chemistry requirements halfway through sophomore year. Indeed, the course schedule currently seems structured with these students in mind: CHEM 0350 is only offered spring semester, and CHEM 0360 is only offered fall semester.

But this is a major inconvenience for the students who are unable to skip CHEM 0100. These students have to wait until their second semesters to take CHEM 0330, setting them up to take CHEM 0350 the next fall. Because it is not offered then, they have to wait until that spring to take it and then until the subsequent fall to take CHEM 0360. This sets them up to be unable to finish chemistry requirements no earlier than halfway through junior year — a whole year later than students who can opt out of CHEM 0100.

It is unfortunate that disadvantaged students have to wait to take the MCAT simply because each organic chemistry class is only offered during a certain semester. Additionally, forgetting material during the summer between the first and second parts of organic chemistry presents a challenge for students.

But it is also important to note that the students who are unable to opt out of CHEM 0100 often come from school systems where neither AP nor IB chemistry — the classes that would allow them to do so — are offered. While there is no way for Brown to control the fact that students come from unequal circumstances, the University should avoid having structures in place that only increase the effect of the gap, such as this scheduling issue. The University has claimed to be dedicated to removing obstacles for disadvantaged students and fostering diversity — especially in the sciences. This seems like an obvious place to start.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Emma Axelrod ’18 and Emma Jerzyk ’17, and its members, Eben Blake ’17 and Leeron Lempel ’19. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.