Comments made by a university physical sciences professor drew fury from mental health professionals and students after he asserted that undergraduates would need to avoid drinking and forgo having a “social life” to survive his class. Professor Eugene Terentjev of Cambridge University sent his advice to students via email, which was subsequently leaked to a student-run publication.
As reported by Fox News, Terentjev claims that his class is far too challenging for students to pass if they don’t fully dedicate themselves to the material.
“Physical sciences is a VERY hard subject, which will require ALL of your attention and your FULL brain capacity (and for a large fraction of you, even that will not be quite enough),” Terentjev wrote.
“You can ONLY do well (ie achieve your potential, which rightly or wrongly several people here assumed you have) if you are completely focused, and learn to enjoy the course. People who just TAKE the course, but enjoy their social life, can easily survive in many subjects – but not in this one.”
Terentjev continued, “Remember that you are NOT at any other uni, where students do drink a lot and do have what they regard as a ‘good time’ – and you are NOT on a course, as some Cambridge courses sadly are, where such a behaviour pattern is possible or acceptable.”
Mental health advocates and students were quickly in an uproar over the comments, calling the email “extremely damaging” and stating it is neither “appropriate nor acceptable.” Anthony Seldon, a vice chancellor at Buckingham University, even accused Terentjev of “frightening impressionable undergraduates.”
Seldon stated, “Frightening impressionable undergraduates into believing that work alone is all-important is irresponsible, unkind and wrong-headed.”
The content of the email was also criticized by Student Minds Cambridge, a mental health-focused organization at the university, saying the statements “could be extremely damaging to the mental well-being of the students concerned, and potentially others as well.”
Micha Frazer-Carroll, Cambridge University’s Student Union Welfare officer, echoed the sentiment, saying the email condemned “the very premise of having a social life, or any sort of life, outside of study.”
A spokesman for the university attempted to distance itself from the accusations that they may have “wrongly” assumed the students could succeed, asserting, “The university believes that all first-year students in all disciplines, having undergone the thorough admissions process that Cambridge requires, have the capacity to succeed academically.”
It is unknown whether Cambridge University intends to take any action after the content of the email was revealed.