Thursday, August 24, 2006

Miz Doctor Professor Lady

So: Doctor versus Professor; what's the break-down? What do you get called, what did you call your own professors, and why? And can we make any generalizations about the uses of these two titles?

I attended college and graduate school at an institution where no one outside of the medical school was ever addressed as doctor. Indeed, until about age 26, the only PhDs I'd ever known who went by that title were the couple of teachers at my high school who'd held doctorates--and that made sense: they deserved a title other than mister, surely, even if one of them was famous for teaching a film studies class that involved doing nothing other than screening films and assigning the occasional 1-page response paper.

So for a long time, when I didn't know any, I thought that PhDs who went by doctor were vain and insecure little people whose sole accomplishment had probably been getting that degree, and who had most likely done so at some crappy little school somewhere.

At some point, however, I became aware that quite a lot of PhDs went by that title, and I noticed that some of the explanation seemed to be regional: when I'd go to conferences in the South, for instance, everyone was doctor-ing up a storm. It also seemed to be a more common title at smaller schools, which suggested that maybe it was the institutions that were status-conscious or a bit insecure--they wanted it to be clear that their faculty were professionals.

So, the south, and smaller schools. That was my working theory until I got to Big Urban--a research university in a Northeastern city where, you guessed it: every last person with a doctorate went by doctor (except, initially, me: no one sent me that particular memo, and so I introduced myself to my students as Professor Fescue--only to receive emails from students that began, "Dear Dr. Smith, Dr. Jones, Dr. Brown, and Professor Fescue"). Admittedly, Big Urban isn't a premier research university, and my new institution--where I've been introduced as Doctor Fescue approximately a bazillion times in the past week--isn't a research institution at all.

But even so, I'm not sure that my old theories are holding up, so I thought I'd take this highly unscientific poll: if you're an academic in the United States or Canada, where are you, what do you get called, and is this your own preference or your institution's? How do you understand those preferences? Do you perceive there to be regional differences? And if so, what are they (north/south, east/west, urban/rural, blue state/red state, etc.)? Does institutional size or reputation make the difference? Or is it all totally random?

34 comments:

RageyOne said...

I'm in the south and every school I've attended has been in the south. Yes, PhDs are referred to as Doctor and unless they tell you otherwise. In my academic department and the research lab where I work, we refer to the Phds by either Dr. Lastname or their firstname. It is mainly a personal preference on the part of the individual.

I think it may be a regional thing. I'm looking forward to seeing what others think about this issue. Great question Professor Fescue or is it, Dr. Fescue? :>)

Hilaire said...

I wonder if this is a Canadian thing: people are only ever referred to by first names. This includes a very large, comprehensive university, a very small one, and a medium-sized one. I've never called any of my colleagues by either Doctor or Professor - even those in different departments, whom I don't know well at all. I have my students call me by my first name, as do most of my colleagues. In fact, I tend to laugh if anyone gives me any title when referring to me in person. (When I do see a piece of very official university correspondence or a letter from a Canadian academic association, it's always Doctor, though.) Huh. Interesting. One could theorize that this has to do with Canadian self-deprecation, which is apparently a national characteristic. (I don't know how much I believe that.)

Speaking entirely personally: I went to alternative high schools where we called teachers by first names, and also grew up calling adults only by their first names, so I'm pretty uncomfortable with using titles.

post-doc said...

Undergrad (midwest - mid-sized university), everyone was addressed as Dr.

In grad school (upper midwest - large research university), grad students used first names to address faculty and undergrads went with Dr. or Prof. based on personal preference, I think. I've since started to use Prof. to distinguish faculty from post-docs at some conferences.

Here (southern research university), it is a lot of "doctor"-ing. But I personally do the post-doc vs. teaching faculty member for the Dr. vs. Prof. breakdown. I'm not sure why it matters, but I do participate.

I think it's a very cool idea for a post! I'm fascinated and will have to remember to come back to read comments.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

undergrad (SLAC in the northeast): professor

grad school (R1 in the midwest): Doctor (or first names, but my folks were usually doctors)

(As an aside, this formed the notion in my head that people who taught grad students went by doctor. I think that's totally wrong, though!)

1st TT job, SLAC, midwest - EVERYONE went by first names. But it was a school founded in the 60s.

current TT job, SLAC, the south - professor

I tend to associate "doctor" with PhD-granting institutions - perhaps because there are lots of people there who have doctorates but aren't necessarily tenure-track, so don't fit as "professor" exactly because they're instructors/lecturers? And I associate "professor" with SLACs, perhaps dating back to the days when it wasn't uncommon to have profs without the doctorate? (See also current CCs, where you have a lot of MAs working?)

But really, I'm not sure there's any rhyme or reason...

Lydia said...

Northeast Research U: I call all my professors Professor or Prof. I have heard some students call them "doctor", so I think it is personal preference. Prof. tends to dominate, however. Interesting question!

Anonymous said...

When I was an undergrad at Old Confederacy College, I started calling my first English prof (later my advisor) "Doctor" on the first day of class. He'd been there since the mid-60's, and advised me that "Professor" would be fine, though "Mister" would be even more in keeping with the school's tradition.

"Doctor" stuck in his case, but everyone else was "Professor" for the rest of my time there.

--GWB

phd me said...

I'm wondering if there's some regional influence, too, given my recent move. I did undergrad and grad at R1s in the south; everyone was Dr or Prof. Even in grad school, when I called some Firstname, I still used titles with some - some people are just Dr.

Now, I'm at an RI in the midwest and I get the feeling students and faculty are more casual with the titles. I introduced myself to my classes as Dr (I think) because that's what I'm used to; I'd expect my students to call me by some title until we know each other well enough to justify first names.

Maybe that's stuffy but I grew up in the south. We used titles: Sir, Ma'am, Mr, Mrs, Mz. Some of my friends' parents went by first names with the kids but that was rare. It seems strange to turn casual when I've spent 30+ years being (as my mother thumped into me) polite.

lucyrain said...

When I was an undergrad at a R1 university in the southwest, students were taught to address assistant and associate professors as "Dr. Lastname." Only full professors were to be addressed as "Professor Lastname." And, yes, we undergrads were expected to know who earned which title. It was cold like that.

When I was an MA student on the west coast, everybody called everybody else by their first name. But the formal "rule" still applied: If one were to use a title, it was "Dr." for anyone with a PhD but wasn't a full professor. "Prof." for the fulls. However, it was a very warm-n-fuzzy kind of place so using titles made everyone uncomfortable.

At my doctoral institution in the midwest, the situation replicated my MA program's.

At my current institution, a large, urban R1 in the south, it is the same as my MA and PhD schools.

Some months back, this same issue came up on someone's blog--I don't remember whose. It was then that I learned that the "rule" I'm familiar with is not universal.

medieval woman said...

This is a good post and I originally had the same thoughts you did about the Doctor/Prof divide: in the South and at smaller schools it was Dr. But, here's my input:

Undergrad: Southern urban school = Dr.

Grad: (MA) R1 out west = Prof.
(PhD) Ivy League up North = Prof.
(at both, grad students called Profs. by their first names)

SLAC job last year in NE = Prof. There were no grad students there and the students felt uncomfy calling even a young prof. like me by my first name, so it was Prof. MW

Job Interview at SLAC in the north which bore no fruit = Dr. - the school was much smaller and less prestigious than NE SLAC, but I was Dr. MW all over the campus. It felt a little forced.

Ultimately, I think you're right about it being the traditions of the schools that dictate, but they may have originally been influenced by the traditions of schools in the region or other schools their size.

negativecapability said...

At my private southern-california undergrad, all profs were "Dr. so and so." Here, they'r all first-name to graduate students, and I think "prof so and so" to undergrads (or first name to undergrads, too)

Dr. Crazy said...

This is an interesting thread.

My experience:

Undergrad at a middling state university in the midwest: Dr. unless the person was a full professor.

MA at a somewhat better state university in the midwest: grad students called profs by first names. No idea what undergrads called them, actually.

PhD at a Fancy Research university in the Northeast: in the catalog the professors were listed as Mr. or Ms. (which I think is that weird kind of reverse pretentiousness thing - like "of COURSE we all have our doctorates, so we need not advertise that we do with something so gauche as a title" - but undergrads tended to go with Prof. So-and-So and grad students called profs by first names, except for in the cases of the Fancy Named Chair people, in which case you called them Prof So-and-So, unless the FNC was your diss director, and then you'd be invited to call FNC by his/her first name.

Current institution: Doctor or Prof, though Doctor is more common. Grad students also use the courtesy title for faculty.

My thoughts:
I don't think the issue is so much regional as it is type of school. If a school has an "old tradition" - or wants to appear to have one - and things super-highly of itself, I think it acts like titles are for losers. If it's a SLAC, I think it's more likely that in keeping with the "up-close-and-personal" ads in the admissions booklet that first names would be the norm - also at small state schools, perhaps, if they are a liberal arts sort of an emphasizing place. At regional comprehensives, I think some of the emphasis on title has to do with the fact that we still have people who teach here who don't have their doctorates, so the doctorate really does mean something - to students and to us. Students at my university will call all instructors professor, but they call those with doctorates Dr.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Crazy,

I think you're exactly right about the traditional/appearance thereof, and also about the SLAC. Old Confederate was also one of the last schools to go co-ed, so I think the disdain for titles may have been a leftover of homosocial bonding between students and faculty. ("We're all Misters here".) One of my other old bull (and VERY Southern) profs wouldn't call students anything but "Mr." or "Ms. X" until he'd taught them at least one full semester. Same deal, I suspect.

--GWB

What Now? said...

Yep, my experience matches that of GWB and Dr. Crazy. I went to a tradition-laden southern SLAC, and everyone was called "Professor," which was itself a somewhat recent innovation from the "Mr." title. (And I think the "Mr." thing still holds at the school that was our academic competition in another part of the state.) And, as a professor once explained to us, this was entirely about reverse snobbery; it was so obvious that all the faculty were doctors that it was unseemly to draw attention to the fact. I'm now wondering if the move from "Mr." to "Professor" happened as there were more women faculty; that would be interesting to find out.

In my own case, I went with "Dr." as my title initially because I was a lecturer and not a professor. The lecturers weren't really "allowed" to call ourselves "profsesor" since, after all, we weren't professors, so we all called ourselves "doctor." And then, I was just so much in the habit that I kept it up when I came to St. Martyr's, where faculty go mostly by "Dr" but also sometimes by "Prof." (I wonder if how confusing that is for students; do they try to remember which teacher is a "Dr." and which is a "Professor"?) But I wish I had switched over from Dr. to Professor because I did have colleagues in other departments (such as Fine Arts) that weren't doctors, and I hated the way that calling them "Professor" rather than "Doctor" seemed to identify them as "you know, the professor who didn't get a Ph.D." I was perhaps overly sensitive about this, but I like having all of the faculty called by the same title. Of course, that only works at a school that didn't use many adjuncts, who might be "doctors" but not "professors." Oy, confusing!

Ianqui said...

I go by professor, and I think that's the standard here at XU. Seems fairly standard at schools in the northeast, right? In grad school just south of the Mason-Dixon line, it was "Doctor", which I always hated (not that anyone was calling me doctor then).

Actually, at XU, I'm always wondering why some students call me "Ianqui" (that mostly happens over email). At first I was seriously uptight about it, but I think I'm going to get over it this year. Last year I co-taught and my young female colleague was totally fine with being called "FirstName", so I'm toying with actually telling the students they can call me that.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

South of Maxon-Dixon here, R1, and everyone is Doctor. I hate it, I go by first name.

Undergrad was a private research U in a large city and we used first names or Professor. Grad school was always a first name thing for me.

Job on the left coast, and the students used Doctor (although we tried to squash that).

When I introduce myself, I typically say "I'm grrrl, I'm a professor at TU" because I hate using titles. :)

Flavia said...

This is SO interesting--thank you all for indulging my curiosity!

Lucyrain: I've never heard of the Dr.-until-you-become-a-full-prof rule, although I believe that that's the system in Germany (right?), where the title "professor" is more prestigous than "doctor." But I do understand the logic that many of you have identified in using "doctor" at institutions where there are or historically have been many instructors without PhDs, who go by "professor." Weirdly, at my grad institution, it seemed to be the adjuncts who used "doctor" the most--either because they'd come from different institutions, where the culture was different (and they hadn't gotten the INRU memo, just as I didn't get the Big Urban memo), or because they felt, probably rightly, that as contingent faculty they had something to prove, and wanted to make sure that they weren't taken for graduate students.

As for me, I'm happy with either title. I continue to be slightly uncomfortable with "doctor," but not so much out of genuine modesty as (perhaps) out of the same kind of reverse snobbery that Crazy identifies. As I wrote over at Mel's place on a related couple of posts, I often tell people outside of academia that I'm "a teacher," and I couldn't care less if they think I teach high school. I mean--as long as I and all the people who *matter* know that I have a goddamn doctorate from goddamn INRU, who cares what that dude at the party thinks? He's not part of the club, anyway.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

This is really interesting! My own experience is mostly random - some individuals preferred to be called professor, some preferred doctor. I'd never heard of Lucyrain's distinction, but it does make sense! The semantic difference for me is that "doctor" is a title identifying your educational pedigree, while "professor" identifies your job - it's possible to be a doctor without being a professor, and vice versa. By that logic I'd rather go by "professor," but my father was a "doctor" (of the Ed.D variety), and I'm so accustomed to hearing that title with my last name that it didn't occur me to use the other.

McB said...

Heh... um... I always called my professors by whichever title went most easily with their last name. Sometimes it was by number of syllables or which ones were stressed, but other times the sound of the name determined it. Doctor Smith, for instance, sounds better to me than Professor Smith, whereas Professor Sanchez is nicer than Doctor Sanchez (because both words start with an accented syllable).

I have not yet been certified insane. Anyway, now that I'm in grad school, it's straight "Doctors" until I'm told to use first names (which isn't so often, although most profs sign their emails with first name only - is that a clue to use that? Probably, but I'm a chickenshit newbie).

Terminaldegree said...

At my last school (blue state, private college, religious affiliation), the profs were "Dr." unless they didn't have one. Then the students called them "Professor." Except for the adjuncts, no matter what degrees they'd earned, who all got called by their first names.

At both R1 institutions where I went to grad school, profs went by "Dr." or "Prof" (for non-terminal degree holders).

Here at Regional University (south), we're all "Dr." Even to each other, if the students are around. But the funny thing is that some of my students have been trained at home to call a woman "Miss Firstname" as a sign of respect, that they get a little confused on what to call a female professor. So they create a hybrid term of Miss Lastname, instead of Dr. Lastname. Or they'll go back and forth between "Miss" and "Dr."

I'm trying to tell myself that being called "Miss" is cute instead of annoying. :)

Prof. Me said...

So much good stuff already said here...

My experience:

Undergraduate (upper Midwest): Professor

University of Capital City (West) for M.A.: first names

Doctoral University (Midwest) for Ph.D.: Professor

Smallish Midwestern University (upper Midwest) for T-T job: Doctor! Drives me BATTY. I'd much rather be known by my job (professor) than my degree (doctorate). But everywhere around SMU, in the course catalogues and on bulletin boards around campus, I'm DOCTOR. So annoying to me.

In graduate school, one of my professors said that he never wanted to be called "Dr. Lastname," since he believed the "Dr." title should be reserved for medical doctors, veterinarians, and dentists. I think I agree with that. I don't want anyone thinking I can deliver a baby or perform a root canal.

lucyrain said...

Ah, see, it continues to surprise me that most of y'all are unfamiliar with the Dr/Prof distinction. I swear it's out there. From the west coast, to the midwest, to the south.

So bizarre.

By the by, did I mention that I insist on people addressing me by my first name? 99.8% of people (including colleagues and longtime friends) mispronounce my last name (which is correctly pronounced phonetically), so I prefer to reduce the chance of that.

Furthermore, since my father was an M.D. I can't help think of him when someone refers to me as Dr. Lastname. Before he died, it was just weird. Since he died, it makes me sad.

Sorry for the buzzkill at the end there.

lucyrain said...

Oh, Terminaldegree, the Miss Firstname is quite popular at my southern institution. But only among African or Carribean American students. And I gotta admit, it makes me uncomfortable because it harkens back to "Miss Scarlett, I don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies!" Just not comfortable with such an association.

Flavia said...

McB: I don't think you're totally crazy, actually--one of the best reasons that I can think of for using the title "doctor" is that I find it generally easier and more satisfying to say that "professor": fewer syllables of shorter duration, and with more emphatic accents. The hissing s-es in "professor" bother me a bit.

And FYI to all y'all who are going around acting like it's *normal* to call your graduate school professors by their first names: the only professors whom I was ever invited to call by their first names were those I taught for. Most student were invited to call their advisors by their first names, but the same did not hold true for the other faculty members in the department; our DGS signed her emails by her initials until the year a student went on the job market, whereupon some magic threshold had apparently been crossed, and she started signing her first name.

As for my own Fearsome Advisor? She *occasionally* signed her emails with her first name, but that only seemed to be when she was pleased with me. I addressed her as "Professor So-and-So" for six full years--until my degree had been approved by the department.

ppb said...

Well, I'll chime in. I'm an adjunct (called lecturer now at fancypants U, but let's be real--it sounds nicernt, , but it's an adjunct gig) without a doctorate. Everyplace I have worked or attended reserves the term professor for those that are TT. Adjuncts go by whatever the heck they want, so long as it's not professor. Some of the profs are Prof First Name, some are Prof Last Name. Some are First Name but in a formal situation, go by Prof First or Prof Last.

My first instituation of employment had a president who HATED the term doctor. She said it was tacky. You can imagine what she was called.

Professor B said...

Very interesting...My experience seems to break down according to the type of students I am interacting with. To undergrads, I am almost exclusively Professor, while to graduate students, I am almost exclusively Doctor. I've always thought about it in terms of the duality between my two roles: teaching and research. The undergrads know me primarily as a teacher, so the choose to call me Professor, while the grad students know me as a scholar/researcher, and so I tend to get Doctor. From a personal standpoint, I prefer Professor, just because to me, Doctor is someone with an M.D.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Just to chime back in here - I do the euphonious thing too; I personally think that Dr. + my last name sounds too much like an evil scientist, so that's why I prefer professor (which is what everyone here uses). But I'll go on the record saying that I have no objections to Doctor otherwise - I've never felt it had to be limited to medical folks.

I totally understand lucyrain's Prof/Dr distinction, but you know, I don't think I've ever been anywhere where undergrads understand the distinction between full and other kinds of professors. They don't really even get how tenure works, I find!

Oh, and I have a colleague who calls the students Mr. and Miss and goes by Mr. himself. Given that he's a full prof and one of the more important people on campus, I find that completely pretentious and irritating, but that may just be me.

And Flavia, I feel your pain, because pretty much all the faculty in my field in my grad program did NOT go by first names, either! (Most of the Americanists did, but not the Europeanists. The Americanists were mostly about a generation younger, though.) There were some who had a formal policy that you could call them by their first names once you went ABD. And then there was my advisor, who never said anything along those lines, whom I first addressed by her first name about 3 years after I graduated! (Though I should add that there is a kind of cutesy nickname that can come out of her first name, and student lore held that she HATED said nickname - so of course, that's how I and my fellow students referred to her among ourselves...)

Queen of West Procrastination said...

I'm chiming in late here, having linked over from Trillwing's post at BlogHer, but I had to speak up for my experiences at Canadian universities. I was at the same prairie university for BA and MA, and now I'm on the West Coast for PhD:

Undergrad at small-ish prairie university: Everyone who had a PhD in my history department went by "Dr." Meanwhile, absolutely everyone in the English department (my minor) went by his/her first name. And that illustrates an interesting difference in atmosphere in the two departments. Oh, and there were far more females in the English department than in History.

MA: I still called my profs by their "Dr." titles, even when I got to know them socially and even travelled to Europe with them. (MA students were treated like colleagues in my department, because there were so few grad students.) They still referred to themselves by their titles.

PhD on the West Coast: At this new university, there's this odd mix of "Dr.," "Professor" and "Firstname." Last year all of us first years seemed to default to first name when referring to professors, and call them "Dr." or "Professor" when addressing them directly, but it seems like everyone else knows them by their first names. Profs here aren't helping, as they all seem to sign e-mails with their initials.

And at my old university, "professor" as a title often meant that the prof had a professorship but not a PhD.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I'm late, too, but I'm very familiar with (and comfortable with) Lucyrain's distinction. I think at Beachy U, we called all faculty Dr., unless we were told to use first names. At Grad U, in the south, all of the faculty went by Dr., except the full profs and chaired profs, who went by Professor. Grad students who were ABD and teaching used Mr., Miss, Mrs., or Ms. -- or first names -- as they pleased. Some of the faculty hired after I finished my coursework were in their late 20s/ early 30s and from the Left coast and grad students called them by their first names. With my Doktorvater, the norm was that students were allowed to call him by his first name upon completion (or in my case, after 10 years!).

At the CCs where I taught, it was a mixed bag. A lot of people with MAs who'd been around a while insisted they be called Professor (which was an actual title granted by one's peers upon gaining tenure), but those with PhDs often kept the Dr, just so people knew who the 'real' scholars were -- not that most of them did anything scholarly. Probably half went by first names. But I have to say that it pisses me right off that one of my adjunct colleagues had 'professor' of history on her cards, having neither a PhD nor a permanent position. But I'm big on hierarchy. It's one of the reasons I love foreign languages -- the formal you is a lovely thing. Did I mention that in Germany, my advisor was Herr Doktor Professor, but we addressed things in writing to Professor Dr. Dr. (he had two)?

At SLAC, I think we don't use first names. There's great confusion about whether we are supposed to call our administrators by title. Every time I've been introduced to a student, it's been as Dr., so I think that's the culture.

Pantagruelle said...

Commenting a bit late, but I wanted to add my two cents, especially as a supplement to Hilaire's comments about Canada. Here's my Canadian experience:

- BA school: very small (read: miniscule, even by Canadian standards) francophone university. The students called all the profs by their first names. I took some adjustment since we were fresh out of high school and used to calling teachers Mr. or Mrs. (there were very few Ms.), but it didn't take too long to adjust since there were nearly as many profs as students on campus, so there was a lot of social interaction.

- MA school: medium-sized anglophone university. Students mostly called profs by their first name or Prof Lastname. I later taught there for a year and as colleagues everyone was on a first name basis.

- PhD school #1: large francophone university. I began by calling profs Dr. Lastname when I first arrived, since I wasn't sure how things worked. Later found out that Dr. is not used for PhD's at all in Québec. I'm still not sure why, but for some reason people with PhD's just don't use Dr. in Québec. I suspect that it's reserved for MD's, dentists, etc. The local students called the profs Monsieur Lastname and Madame Lastname.

- PhD school #2: large anglophone university. As grad students we called the profs Prof Lastname for the first few weeks of school, simply because we didn't know, and then switched to firstnames on our own rather quickly. Only 1 prof in the entire dept of 30+ profs insisted that all students (grad and undergrad) call him Prof. Lastname, but he was truly an exception and fodder for much discussion because of it (especially since he is rather young and not an old fart as one would expect in this context). As a teaching assistant and later an adjunct prof, I told all my undergrads to call me by my first name and they did. I have heard some undergrads refer to the profs for whom I was TA'ing though as Prof. Lastname, and they continued to do so even though I would call the same person by his firstname in the course of the same conversation.

I'm now a postdoc and am quite pleased to go by Dr. Lastname when titles are necessary (such as on correspondance from professional associations and when registering for conferences, although rarely if ever spoken out loud).

My theory is that Prof. is more distinguished than Dr. since lots of people hold PhD's and are there Dr., but not all of the people out there who hold PhD's have jobs as Profs yet (especially given the current job market). Prof is therefore a PhD who has a real job, but a Dr. does not.

There are a few stranglers out there who are profs who do not hold PhD's (several of the tenured old farts at my BA school, for instance, as well as an MFA theatre prof at my PhD school #2), but they are the except to the rule and only minimally mess up the above theory since there aren't that many of them and they will eventually retire soon (one hopes).

So here in Canada, overall, Prof. is more prestigious than Dr. Like Hilaire, I don't think that calling profs by their first names is Canadian self-deprecation though. I think it's just our overall relaxed and laid back manner compared to the US. Although we still have to deal with hierarchy issues of various kinds, we tend to be less obsessed about these questions and just go with the flow.

Flavia said...

A big THANK YOU to all the additional commentators--you're not late as long as I'm still interested in the subject (and I am!), and I'm enjoying getting these many perspectives. And welcome, too, to all the first-time commenters.

I can't say that y'all have helped me formulate any hard and fast rules about the use of "Doctor" versus "Professor," but you've definitely clarified some of the principles that (seem to) guide a given institution or individual in his/her/its choice of title.

What I'm taking away is this:

1) DOCTOR seems to be the preferred title for holders of the Ph.D. in some regions, including the South, where there's a greater cultural emphasis on politeness and/or formality.

2) Doctor can also serve to distinguish those full-time faculty members who have Ph.Ds from those who don't; this appears to be more common at smaller schools, where there is more of a mix in terms of educational pedigree.

3) But a nearly-reverse principle seems to be at work in other places, probably particularly at research institutions: If 99% of the faculty have Ph.Ds, "Doctor" becomes less prestigous than "Professor," since lecturers and adjuncts are not, by title, "professors."

This seems to be more or less the same logic used by lucyrain's crazy schools, except that they withhold the love (or the title) even longer.

4) "Professor" is also an appropriate title--at many kinds of schools--for ladder faculty who have the terminal degree in their specialty (a J.D., an MFA, etc.), but who are not, for obvious reasons, "doctors."

5) Canadians are laid-back.

6) Mr. and Ms. are weird throwback titles (expect perhaps in francophone Canada), and best avoided.

Did I miss anything?

Ancarett said...

Canada, small regional university: in my experience, a faculty member prefers to be addressed as Dr. Lastname because faculty members without Ph.D.s (and there still are a few who were tenured in the early seventies) cannot use that title. So the pecking order here is Mr/Mrs/Ms to Prof to Doctor.

I invite all of my graduate students and any seniors working closely with me to address me by my first name. Some choose to, others don't seem comfortable.

muse said...

In the South, and I'd say that the staff addresses me as "Dr this or that," but the students primarily address me as "Professor."

But it's a small university and my campus has a SLAC feel to it. A lot of the students aren't necessarily from the South.

So most of the time I'm Professor and sometimes I'm Dr.

Kristen said...

At my undergrad institution (a Missouri liberal-arts college)it was always Dr. unless the person did not have a Ph.D. At my M.A. institution (Upper South, private university) it was Professor to their face, but among the grad students it was almost always first and last names...never just one or the other. And here, at my big Midwestern university, its Professor, with a couple exceptions for the really well-known faculty members. Weird, I'd never really thought about this...glad you brought it up!

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a long-standing pet peeve of mine -- Students who call me "Mr. Doe." When I was in university, particularly in graduate school, I found it somewhat disconcerting if a professor would expect me to call her or him "Professor Smith" or "Doctor Jones," but would automatically call me "John." There seemed to be an unnecessary power imbalance that irked me when I returned to school as (in my opinion) a fully-functioning adult. Either we should be on a first-name basis, or we should both go by more formal titles. Given that we live in a world where strangers will often address us by our first names, I prefer to go by first names in teaching and advising. I feel fortunate to work in a discipline and institution where this is an accepted, although certainly not universal, practice (FYI, I'm at a large Canadian research university).

Some students, however, absolutely can not bring themselves to call me by my first name, or are unsure (at least at first) if it is really acceptable. In such cases, "Mr. Doe" sometimes pops up. I hate it. The implication seems to be, "I want to keep some distance between you and me so I won't call you John, but at the same time I have no particular respect for your degree and occupation so I won't call you Dr. or Prof. Doe." I realize, or at least hope, this is rarely or never the student's intent, but I can't help but find it inappropriate. I would be very interested in hearing if it's just me, or if other university instructors have felt this way.

-- Call me John, or Dr. Doe, or Prof. Doe, or "Hey you" -- just not Mr. Doe!