Students petition USC for chemistry professor to teach fall semester class

Dr. Kyung Jung sent an email to students suggesting they consider switching out of his organic chemistry class. Soon after, the chemistry department said he wouldn’t be teaching the course.

A petition signed by nearly 700 people asked the university to allow Dr. Kyung Jung to continue teaching his CHEM 322A this fall. Jung’s name disappeared from the course registration page following an email Jung sent to students who registered for his section of the course suggesting they switch to another professor.

After registering for their classes, students received the email from Jung on April 8. It described policies and characteristics of his teaching style that might spur students to choose another section. Jung wrote that he was encouraging people to switch sections because, “we need slots for freshmen who are having a difficult time to enroll” in the course.

“Historically, I have given more C’s, failed grades (D, F), and [sic] withdrawals than other instructors,” Jung wrote in his email. “I would like you to think about what is coming and decide what to do.”

Jung continued to warn students, explaining the high expectations he has for those who take his class.

“If you decided to stay in my section, you are agreeing to work diligently, basically every day, to handle pressure from me and to put up with my BS,” he wrote. “While diligence is expected of all students at USC, dealing with pressure and BS from a professor is not usually a syllabus-written requirement.”

Jung concluded the email, stating, “Please move out of my class. If you don’t mind parenting or if you like ass-kicking, please stay in my class.”

Within a day of Jung’s email, the USC chemistry department sent out an email to students who had registered for Jung’s class and received his email. The chemistry department email, sent by Vice Chair of USC Chemistry Peter Qin, said some students may have found Jung’s statements “confusing or inappropriate.” Qin wrote, “We are aware of the situation and taking steps to address it.” He explained that both sections of CHEM 322A, organic chemistry, would be taught by another professor in the fall.

In a statement to Annenberg Media, the chemistry department said that Jung will continue to be involved in the undergraduate organic chemistry program, and that they are “evaluating how to structure fall CHEM 322A to ensure fairness and consistency in teaching and assessment for both sections of the course.”

Responding to Annenberg Media’s requests for further verification, the department did not specify the exact reasons why Jung would not be teaching the course in the fall or if that decision was subject to change.

Current CHEM 322A student Serena Ramde agreed with those who signed the petition, and said Jung’s email is being taken out of context. She said she received a similar email before taking one of his classes this semester.

“The email is sent because he’s such a good teacher,” Ramde said. “He has such a good Rate My Professor rating, the spots fill up in his class so fast. If you’re a sophomore, you’re lucky to be able to find a spot in his class.”

Ramde said that the reason Jung sent this email is because his class fills up before anyone signs up for other sections of the course with different professors. A comment section on the petition is filled with praise for Jung, calling him “passionate,” “helpful” and “the best professor we’ve had on campus.” According to student ratings on Rate My Professor, Jung’s score is a 4.2 out of 5.

“Professor Kyung has been the first teacher that has made me and many other students feel like we’re supported, we can get the help we need,” Ramde said.

USC senior Carson Folk took Jung’s class as a sophomore. Folk said Jung was one of the best teachers he’s had at USC.

“Dr. Jung is really caring about his students. I would probably say his passion is changing people’s perspective, as well as trying to make an impact on young people. That’s his big thing,” Folk said. “He’s like a parent in terms of his teaching style. He could come across as harsh because he is so involved with the students.”

Folk said he felt the department overreacted if Jung was removed from the CHEM 322A course because of his email. Though he said he understands where the chemistry department might be coming from, he said the school doesn’t understand Jung’s personality.

“I think the chemistry department was just trying to lower any kind of controversy associated with Dr. Jung or the class and not really focusing on whether or not the students will get a better education out of it,” Folk said.

Sophomore health promotion and disease prevention major Liam Obaid said he agrees with Folk.

“I think the department reacted because they feel like that’s how they should react, because they feel that a lot more students hold that view that Kyung deserves to get suspended when the majority of us think it’s the opposite,” Obaid said.

Jung has not been fired or suspended from the department or USC. He continues to teach other courses.

Bradley Furgerson, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience and Chinese, was among the students who received the email from Jung, but he said he wasn’t upset by it. Instead, he said he appreciated that it was honest about the class workload.

“The email was really uncharacteristic for a college professor, but I almost enjoyed that just because teachers, especially in the STEM classes, are so unwilling to be like, ‘hey, this is how it is,’” Furgerson said.

Gabrielle Lee, who created the petition, believes that the department decided to remove Jung from teaching CHEM 322A without student input.

“I just feel like USC kind of didn’t listen to the majority of students, which is not always the best solution. I feel like they just kind of rushed into this decision, when a lot of us felt like it was unfair,” Lee said.

Annenberg Media reached out to Jung and received no response. Ramde said that Jung did not mention the department’s response to his email in his class that he is currently teaching.

“He continued to be his happy self, he didn’t address it at all,” she said. “He came with a good attitude to all of his students, laughing, teaching, engaging with us. He hasn’t brought it up to any of us.”