Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

That’s “Doctor Instructor” to You

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • That’s “Doctor Instructor” to You

    OLED.MARCH 13 2014 7:27 AM
    That’s “Doctor Instructor” to You

    In the adjunctified university, what to call professors is more confusing than ever.

    By Rebecca Schuman

    What are you supposed to call a professor? Her first name? “Professor”? “Mrs.” or “Ms.”? “Doctor”? Or, my students’ perennial favorite email honorific, “Hi”? The complexity of this answer—the innumerable rules for who gets called what in the modern university—will astound you.

    Katrina Gulliver, a professor at the University of New South Wales, is in the midst of what she calls an “epidemic” of familiarity—indeed, her Australian students seem “surprised” she has a last name at all. She explains in Inside Higher Ed: “I’ve tried joking about it when students use my first name in class, or writing in emails that I do not do first names with undergrads.” But, she writes, “It’s hard not to come off as uptight, and some students seem genuinely surprised. Other times it’s clearly an attempt to rile me with some disrespect (typically coming from male students who like to undermine female authority).”

    Gulliver’s final point is important, and not limited to female faculty: Recent studies show that college students tend to view women and minorities with less respect from the start, and that is often reflected in bestowing names, titles, or lack thereof. I don’t blame Dr. Gulliver for being annoyed; I myself feel rankled when someone who knows full well I have an earned doctorate refers to my male peers as “Professor” or “Doctor” yet calls me “Ms. Schuman.” It happens all the time, and I often hear a sneer in the “izzzzz.”

    However, not everyone is as sympathetic to Gulliver’s plea for proper titling—or the idea that informality comes from disrespect, or that disrespect is even a bad thing. As soon as Gulliver’s column went academic-viral, Flagler College’s Will Miller was ready with a response, which largely amounts to: What’s with the focus on titles, man? That’s a crude paraphrase, but his rejoinder includes the admission that he sometimes teaches in jeans—and that some people (he’s not going to say who; he doesn’t care; their names are definitely not “Will Miller”), find him “cool.”

    I laugh so much about being called “Instructor Schuman” that my husband had it embroidered on a bathrobe for me.
    And as far as the assumed authority his pallid maleness affords him? Not so fast. “I may be a white male,” Miller writes, “but this has nothing to do with why I am comfortable in a classroom.” This assertion caused some definite eyebrow-raising in the faculty world—My whiteness and maleness have nothing to do with the level of inherent respect I am afforded, insists the white guy; pope isn’t Catholic; bear doesn’t crap in woods. But that’s not actually the most troubling part of his rejoinder. That would be this: “I did not pursue a doctoral degree with visions of becoming Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. Instead,” he insists, “I worry about making sure I deserve the respect of my students rather than expecting my title or position to simply demand it. I want students to respect me as an individual, not solely for my role, title, or degrees.” It takes a particularly privileged individual to insist, though he commands unearned respect when he walks into a room (even in jeans), that respect must be earned.

    But most students do not believe this. The fact is, the vast majority of college students often call their professors by the “wrong” name or title because the conventions for this are massively, overwhelmingly confusing.

    Here’s why. First off, at large research universities, a lot of “professors” aren’t professors at all—they’re graduate TAs. Many are a year or two older than their students, and as such most go by their first names. However, they are almost always listed as “Instructor,” which leads to absurd misnomers—I laugh so much about being called “Instructor Schuman” that my husband had it embroidered on a bathrobe for me.

    In addition to grad students, a lot of professors are adjuncts, like me (for eight more weeks!), and though you can technically call us “Professor,” on the roster we’re usually just listed as “Staff.” We may even ask that you not call us “Professor” so that you recognize that the school treats us differently. But many of us have doctorates, so we like to be called “Doctor.” But some of us don’t!

    It gets worse: Many full-time professors don’t have doctorates (MFAs, for example)—so they can’t be “Doctor” either. But they’re tenured professors, so you’d best call them “Professor.” And worse yet, at some institutions, such as Mr. Jefferson’s Universitah, there has long been a tradition of professors with doctorates going by “Mr.” and “Ms.”

    If you can remember all these exceptions, then you should have no problem with organic chemistry.

    Most students, then, have no idea what to call us, so it’s up to us to let them know, immediately. On the first day of class, and in the syllabus, say: “I’m Dr. Schuman.” Or, “I’m Martika.” Or, “I’m Count von Count.” Whatever you want to be called, name yourself this thing in person and on the syllabus—and if the students don’t catch on, don’t be afraid to correct them (even if, in Gulliver’s case, you have to do this over and over). And here’s one for the ladies: If you ever get called “Miss,” don’t be afraid to tell them that if they’re going to treat you like a dance teacher, they’d best be ready to plié.

    Obviously, that slim minority of the willfully disrespectful will just carry on, and there’s nothing anyone can do. And sure, they don’t respect us because they’re “smarter” than we are, but we grade those twerps—and you’d be surprised how often the openly disrespectful are poor students. But most students are truly, understandably clueless as to what to call us. So not only should we tell them what we want, we should also be patient while they figure it out. Me, I’ll be grateful if they ever stop opening their correspondence with “Hi.”

    And if you’re a student and unsure? Err on the side of respect and let them correct you downward. Your professors, adjuncts, instructors, and staff worked hard to get where they are, and it never hurt anyone’s grade to acknowledge that.
    Moving past all the PC idiocy in this piece, it brings up an interesting point for regular people: what do you want to be called?

    Way back this was not an issue since everybody had a title whether they used it or not. Sometime during the 1970s most titles were dropped including Ms. Now, people simply use your first name unless you are a black woman over 50 in which case you are "Ms. Whoever" or "Mrs. Whoever".

    Maybe we need to pull back and demand a little distance from people we don't know and aren't likely to get chummy with. It's oddly icky to be arguing with a salesperson or functionary when they are first-naming you every few seconds.

    Salon
    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

  • #2
    Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
    Moving past all the PC idiocy in this piece, it brings up an interesting point for regular people: what do you want to be called?

    Way back this was not an issue since everybody had a title whether they used it or not. Sometime during the 1970s most titles were dropped including Ms. Now, people simply use your first name unless you are a black woman over 50 in which case you are "Ms. Whoever" or "Mrs. Whoever".

    Maybe we need to pull back and demand a little distance from people we don't know and aren't likely to get chummy with. It's oddly icky to be arguing with a salesperson or functionary when they are first-naming you every few seconds.

    Salon
    When I was in college, all of my instructors were either (in order of importance): Father; Sister; Doctor; Professor; or Mr. I had exactly one Mr. and one Sister. I had one Professor who told us to call him "Doug". I declined. He also asked me out. I was 19, which was legal. He was in his thirties. He asked another classmate out...at about the same time. We discovered it a year later. When "Father" discovered it, he was livid. "Doug" was long gone.

    I grew up in an era where you didn't refer to people older than you (adults) by their first names. Because of this, I refer to my law partner by his last name. Now everyone does. Even after 23 years I'm uncomfortable using his first name. We spend family events together at times and I still call him by his last name.

    I don't appreciate children calling me by my first name, but I've grown to accept it. If it's one of my nieces' or nephews' close friends, they all use Aunt before my name. Some have asked what I'd like to be called (which I find to be incredibly polite and appropriate) others have just taken to doing so. I have a great uncle who would never allow someone from a subsequent generation, family wise, refer to him by his first name. I kind of like that.
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by phillygirl View Post

      I don't appreciate children calling me by my first name, but I've grown to accept it. If it's one of my nieces' or nephews' close friends, they all use Aunt before my name. Some have asked what I'd like to be called (which I find to be incredibly polite and appropriate) others have just taken to doing so. I have a great uncle who would never allow someone from a subsequent generation, family wise, refer to him by his first name. I kind of like that.
      Now that I'm well on the way to wrapping up Career 1 (I formally gave notice today), I'm free to reinvent myself. I'm toying with the idea of rescinding my permission to first-name me at the doctor's office. Since my last name is psychologically difficult to pronounce (but not actually difficult), this should be fun.

      The neighbor kids call me Mrs. F which is fine. I'm Aunt So-and-So to younger relatives. I think I will stop being Ginger to strangers and functionaries. I've gone along with it because refusing seems awkward.

      I think I'm getting beyond awkward now.
      "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
        Now that I'm well on the way to wrapping up Career 1 (I formally gave notice today), I'm free to reinvent myself. I'm toying with the idea of rescinding my permission to first-name me at the doctor's office. Since my last name is psychologically difficult to pronounce (but not actually difficult), this should be fun.

        The neighbor kids call me Mrs. F which is fine. I'm Aunt So-and-So to younger relatives. I think I will stop being Ginger to strangers and functionaries. I've gone along with it because refusing seems awkward.

        I think I'm getting beyond awkward now.
        Congrats on giving notice!

        I once mentioned something to my cousin's daughter about calling me Aunt Philly. She immediately reacted that I wasn't her aunt. Her mother didn't say a word. She's now a pretty screwed up kid. I just can't imagine calling one of my mother's cousins by their first name. At the very least, they would be referred to as Cousin Sonny or Cousin Marie.

        I hate when people that aren't good friends shorten my name to my nickname. It's not even a common nickname (nobody but my very best friend used it until I hit college...then everyone used it upon meeting me, which was strange). As an adult, I really hate it!
        Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
        Robert Southwell, S.J.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
          Congrats on giving notice!

          I once mentioned something to my cousin's daughter about calling me Aunt Philly. She immediately reacted that I wasn't her aunt. Her mother didn't say a word. She's now a pretty screwed up kid. I just can't imagine calling one of my mother's cousins by their first name. At the very least, they would be referred to as Cousin Sonny or Cousin Marie.

          I hate when people that aren't good friends shorten my name to my nickname. It's not even a common nickname (nobody but my very best friend used it until I hit college...then everyone used it upon meeting me, which was strange). As an adult, I really hate it!
          Thanks! I've been working toward this goal for years.

          I don't understand the aversion to titles. You can Ma'am me all day long and I think it's fine. My BIL once told a guy not to call him "Sir" since that was his Dad. He's already outlived his Dad by that point.
          "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

          Comment


          • #6
            My mother's sister is 16 years younger than my mother. I grew up calling her Aunt Alice. Now I call her Aunt Alice to annoy her. I also call Celeste Aunt Celeste, because she is so much older than I am. I called my grandparents' cousins "Cousin ... " and my grandparents siblings "Uncle" and "Aunt".

            I get annoyed when people presume to call my by my first name, especially people I am paying or people who are younger than I am.
            The year's at the spring
            And day's at the morn;
            Morning's at seven;
            The hill-side's dew-pearled;
            The lark's on the wing;
            The snail's on the thorn:
            God's in his heaven—
            All's right with the world!

            Comment


            • #7
              Most of my professors in college said from the outset what they wanted to be called. A few wanted "doctor," probably a slim majority wanted "professor," a plurality of the remainder wanted just "Mr./Mrs./Miss," and a handful said they would just prefer their first name. Of those in the latter, probably half had complicated and/or difficult-to-pronounce last names, and I'd guess that they'd rather just hear "John" all day instead of people mangling the pronunciation of "Professor Zbrzezniak" for months on end.

              My poli-sci 230 professor was explicit that he didn't want a formal title. On the first day of class he told us, and it was right there on the first page of the syllabus was printed in large block letters: "My name has Ph.D. after it. DO NOT EVER call me 'doctor.' When I start treating patients, you can call me 'doctor,' but not before." He was quite a character.

              One of my CADD instructors told everyone to just call him "Sid." No last name, just "Sid." Indeed, he was known, even in formal university writings (such as the catalog), as just "Dr. Sid." During a slow period in lab one day, someone asked him why he was just "Sid." He proceeded to explain the Iranian naming convention, the taking of one's father's last name, plus his father's last name, etc. He proceeded to write out his full last name as it is spelled in the Latin alphabet on the board, and it was something like 48 letters long. He then turned around and said to the class "if you really want to call me that, to write that out every time you turn in an assignment, then go right ahead, but I don't expect anyone to have to do that."
              It's been ten years since that lonely day I left you
              In the morning rain, smoking gun in hand
              Ten lonely years but how my heart, it still remembers
              Pray for me, momma, I'm a gypsy now

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
                Thanks! I've been working toward this goal for years.

                I don't understand the aversion to titles. You can Ma'am me all day long and I think it's fine. My BIL once told a guy not to call him "Sir" since that was his Dad. He's already outlived his Dad by that point.
                I don't like to be called ma'am. It makes me feel old. But I appreciate that the person using it is being respectful.
                Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                Robert Southwell, S.J.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Adam View Post
                  Most of my professors in college said from the outset what they wanted to be called. A few wanted "doctor," probably a slim majority wanted "professor," a plurality of the remainder wanted just "Mr./Mrs./Miss," and a handful said they would just prefer their first name. Of those in the latter, probably half had complicated and/or difficult-to-pronounce last names, and I'd guess that they'd rather just hear "John" all day instead of people mangling the pronunciation of "Professor Zbrzezniak" for months on end.

                  My poli-sci 230 professor was explicit that he didn't want a formal title. On the first day of class he told us, and it was right there on the first page of the syllabus was printed in large block letters: "My name has Ph.D. after it. DO NOT EVER call me 'doctor.' When I start treating patients, you can call me 'doctor,' but not before." He was quite a character.

                  One of my CADD instructors told everyone to just call him "Sid." No last name, just "Sid." Indeed, he was known, even in formal university writings (such as the catalog), as just "Dr. Sid." During a slow period in lab one day, someone asked him why he was just "Sid." He proceeded to explain the Iranian naming convention, the taking of one's father's last name, plus his father's last name, etc. He proceeded to write out his full last name as it is spelled in the Latin alphabet on the board, and it was something like 48 letters long. He then turned around and said to the class "if you really want to call me that, to write that out every time you turn in an assignment, then go right ahead, but I don't expect anyone to have to do that."
                  I had Asian professors who assumed Western first names because the Asian titling conventions would have been hopeless for us. They did assume that we would use "Professor Ling" or whatever in formal settings. It was kind of a shock to encounter them informally and be asked to call them "Debbie" or "Frankie".
                  "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
                    I had Asian professors who assumed Western first names because the Asian titling conventions would have been hopeless for us. They did assume that we would use "Professor Ling" or whatever in formal settings. It was kind of a shock to encounter them informally and be asked to call them "Debbie" or "Frankie".
                    I had a tough time in college referring to the priests as "Father Ron" etc. I had always used last names with priests. Only the younger ones really used the first name after the title, but even with them I used the last name. Now, though, I'm a bit more comfortable with it.
                    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                    Robert Southwell, S.J.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I think titles are a bit stuffy and I think it's beyond pretentious for a PhD to insist on being called, "Doctor." A "Doctor" is a Physician. Nobody yells, "is there a doctor in the house?" and is hoping for a Chemist or a Professor of Sociology to come running over.

                      While I was in the military (where titles are EVERYTHING), I found that units where people were on a first name basis with each other were more effective and much better for battle.

                      Some formality is certainly appropriate, but I think it's overrated. "Mr. Scott" is good for children to address me, but that's just to teach them respect. When they become teenagers I prefer they address me (and respect me) as other adults do.
                      "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
                      -John Locke

                      "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
                      -Newman

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
                        I had Asian professors who assumed Western first names because the Asian titling conventions would have been hopeless for us. They did assume that we would use "Professor Ling" or whatever in formal settings. It was kind of a shock to encounter them informally and be asked to call them "Debbie" or "Frankie".


                        One of my clients has a lot of direct business with a corresponding Chinese firm. As such, they bring a lot of people here from China for a week or two at a time, and they have some native Chinese working here. We were all in for a bit of a mutual chuckle after discovering some of their actual Latinized names on their passports, and suddenly taking an average American name makes sense. One, Walter, has a last name pronounced "wong." Now, usually this gets Latinized into "Huang," but not in Walter's case. His was Latinized on his passport as "Wang." And his first name is legally "Rong." So of course pronounced the way most Americans would pronounce those two words, it would sound like some sort of sexual mistake had been made. As he told me: "surely you can see why I'd rather be called 'Walter.'"

                        It's been ten years since that lonely day I left you
                        In the morning rain, smoking gun in hand
                        Ten lonely years but how my heart, it still remembers
                        Pray for me, momma, I'm a gypsy now

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'm called Auntie (not the insect) M by relatives and Miss Michele by the youngsters I help at school. My last name is too hard to pronounce for the elementary kids and there was already a Mrs K so we settled on Miss.

                          When I was in my 20's and 30's, I would throw away any mail that came addressed "Ms". I absolutely hated it. Now I don't care but I prefer just my name.

                          Congratulations Ginger!
                          May we raise children who love the unloved things - the dandelion, the worm, the spiderlings.
                          Children who sense the rose needs the thorn and run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards the sun...
                          And when they're grown and someone has to speak for those who have no voice,
                          may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things and be the one.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Michele View Post
                            I'm called Auntie (not the insect) M by relatives and Miss Michele by the youngsters I help at school. My last name is too hard to pronounce for the elementary kids and there was already a Mrs K so we settled on Miss.

                            When I was in my 20's and 30's, I would throw away any mail that came addressed "Ms". I absolutely hated it. Now I don't care but I prefer just my name.

                            Congratulations Ginger!
                            I love the "Auntie". My niece calls me that when she wants something!
                            Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                            Robert Southwell, S.J.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                              I don't like to be called ma'am. It makes me feel old. But I appreciate that the person using it is being respectful.
                              Really? I never of think of it that way. Obviously, I am older than the 20-something changing my air filter.

                              Why does it bother you really? People used to think that living beyond the sex-crazed years gave even dumb people a bit of gravitas. Now we treat old people like children and cheer them when they act childish sexually or socially.

                              As a child I was taught to "Miss" all women over 18 and under 30 and to "Ma'am" all women over 30. In college I was taught to "Ms." all women regardless of their own preferences. In both college and grad school I was taught to "correct" the few women I met who were "Mrs. So-and-So" (I never actually did this). In work life I was taught to use academic titles (if applicable) until released by the holder (Call me Don) although I was also taught to always Sir and Ma'am stakeholders and clients (but not government regulators).

                              "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X