Monday, February 4, 2008

Can I profess to be a perfessor?

So, as you know, I'm looking forward to being finally and unequivocally done soon. I was trying out the phrase "Dr. Cog" over the weekend and really liking the sound of it, as well as "Professor Cog," when one of my friends who was present mentioned that I will not, in fact, be able to call myself "Professor Cog" in the spring because I will actually be, at that time, unemployed.

Is this right? A professor is only someone employed by a university? Personally, "Professor Cog" sounds so much better than "Dr. Cog," because I'm not getting a medical degree. Back at my undergrad we called all our teachers Professor So-and-so, rarely using first names and never calling them "Dr." ---- that just sounds weird. I mean, I'm gonna make everyone from the mailman to my committee call me that right after graduation, but I just like the sound of professor better.

(Oh, yeah, and I am quite cognizant of the fact that I have no title whatsoever right now and that I am only ABD. I'm just visualizing the reward as a way of keeping my momentum. I wrote a nice little paragraph for the chapter this morning and am taking a little break and having some lunch before heading back into the salt mines.)

So, what say you? Will I be a professor when I graduate or just (heh, just?) a Dr.? Will I have to have a tenure-track job before I can, uh, profess things? Ooh, and do I want to get the mortarboard or the silly fuzzy velvet hat? Oh, I'm going to look at the graduation regalia websites now! Yay!

26 comments:

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I hate to burst your bubble, but I do think that "Professor" has to wait until you have at least some kind of faculty job.

What I find odd is that the title "professor" gets used at all levels to indicate a post-secondary instructor.

Personally, I have a tenured job, but haven't finished my PhD -- so I don't call myself 'professor' -- but, that is just me.

Flavia said...

I agree with the first part of IPF's statement--that "professor" is a job title rather than a social title--but I actually think "professor" is an acceptable title for someone who teaches at a university but does not (or does not yet) have a PhD. This is fairly common for people in the arts, who have, say, an MFA, or at lower-tier schools where some faculty only have MAs.

For more perspectives on the Dr. vs. Prof. debate, see the comments to this post. I wouldn't even begin to know how to summarize them . . .

(And in my experience, "Doctor" is actually easier to say than "Professor," so it's got that in its favor!)

GayProf said...

I prefer Prof. over Dr. There does seem to be some regional difference here. In the South, Dr seemed more common (at least from my limited observation).

In the end, call yourself whichever you like. Nobody will challenge you, I don't think.

Earnest English said...

Sis, I'm afraid that "Professor" is a job title. As Flavia and IPF said before me, "Professor" is appropriate for anyone (phd'd or not) who holds a professorial position. Alas. But "Doctor" and "PhD" you can have forever, job or no job.

Dr. English

;)

Dr. Crazy said...

silly fuzzy velvet hat for sure. It makes one look more like a Hogwarts professor :)

And yes, what the other people said about the title professor being linked to the job. I'll tell you, though, the "Dr." does grow on one.... and it really (at least for me) seemed to make a difference in how my students treated me and the level of authority they seemed to accord me. Who cares if they think I can fix a burst appendix if they actually do what I say now is what I think about the whole thing :)

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Yes, I agree that Professor is a job title (and like Flavia, I think it works for anyone who's teaching, Ph.D'd or not - at least in the U.S.; I have a vague sense that in Europe they get twitchy about calling someone Professor if they're not actually a *full* professor). But I also agree with you about preferring Professor to Doctor - there's something about Doctor + my last name that sounds unfortunately like a mad scientist (and Doctor + my last initial sounds like a cheesy DJ! sigh).

Psycgirl said...

Fantasizing about the future is all that's keeping me going right now... if it works, go with it!

September Blue said...

Following on from New Kid - yeah, 'Professor' over here (I'm in the UK) is a senior, senior rank, and one that a lot of academics will get through their careers without ever getting to use. Which is why some of us at the bottom of the rank ladder have a lot of love for the North American exchange students who play it safe and write 'Professor So-and-so' on the front of their assignments. Instant promotion!

Do you have the same debate (well, 'debate' might be talking it up - 'minor grievance from already-grumpy pre-graduation PhDs' is more like it) about exactly when you get to call yourself 'Dr'? The official line is that it's at graduation and not before, to the teeth-gnashing distress of those of us currently waiting until summer for a degree that Academic Council has already approved. Not, mind you, that I've been correcting anybody who calls me Doctor just yet...

Fretful Porpentine said...

Ooh, I think you should get the tam, if you can afford it. (I got the $75 off-the-rack regalia from the bookstore instead of the $650 custom regalia, so I never had a choice.)

I feel kind of cheated that the default title at New SLAC seems to be "Dr.," because I like the ring of "Professor" better. Ah well.

adjunct whore said...

i think you can call yourself "professor" as an adjunct if you've defended, absolutely! you profess knowledge, dammit (or some other version of pedagogy).

i have a personal aversion to dr. i don't know why, it just doesn't feel right. something about announcing it to me feels desperate and wierd (for me!), i'm just more comfortable with other labels. but then i've spent most of my life without a doctorate so maybe it only needs getting used to.

but also, students will call you whatever you ask them to, and in my experience, they have absolutely no idea of--nor any care to understand--the minutae of our lives, ie. dr., prof., adjunct, lecturer, what-have-you. to them, you are a professor, unless you're teaching at an ivy, maybe.

Belle said...

I prefer Prof. That's why I got the damned thing after all. Like you, my impressions/prejudices were formed at the undergrad level and compounded at the grad. Actually, we never knew what we were to call the twits at MA instn; the grad males called the men by their first names and we all defaulted to 'excuse me' for the rest. As in, we literally never called them by their names to their faces. At PhD1, my mentor insisted that I call him by his first name, but then I never encountered him on campus only in his home. PhD2 was in the British system, so Mr was the approved and he preferred to be called by his first name. Again, never encountered him in public setting, only in private office or home, so no biggie. But PhD3 - nobody had a clue again. Dr was considered elitist and pretentious (as it was in my undergrad) so we all resorted to the default 'excuse me' again.

At my SLAC, Dr is for PhDs and Prof for non-PhD. I'm bucking the system (gee, what a surprise) and my students are falling nicely into Prof. Belle. It's been more than 8 years, and I still get twitchy when somebody calls me Dr. But I'm damned proud of having those three little letters!

Belle said...

Oh. Go cheap until you get the job that makes you wear the regalia several times a year; then spring for the tam and the good robes. Then you can write it off as professional equipment required by your job!

Dr. Brainiac said...

Silly velvet tam with the metallic tassel! Even the doctoral mortarboards are velvet, but the tam is just too. damn. cool. I wore mine for at least a week. Since the rental units that my school supplied were always wrinkled - and smelled like feet - I chose to purchase my own custom regalia - black peachskin with PhD blue velvet...a bargain at $972, even though I had to send it back THREE times to get them to give me a left-hand slit. I'll have it forever though, no matter if/where/when I teach. The fun part though was putting on my big fat sparkly tiara over my tam during my commencement speech, haha.

Your teaching appointment should determine what title you use. Some universities use the professorial system adjunct/associate/assistant/ et cetera. We called profs Dr. Whateveritis undergrad, but my graduate program was more collegial & we addressed faculty by their first names.

Bardiac said...

Call yourself whatever makes you happy.

But definitely get the tam! Soft hats rule, and they're much easier to wear than the mortarboards.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I totally agree about the tam - mortarboards are horrible, and designed for white guys with flattops to wear - they do NOT stay on your head with most woman's hairstyles!

I confess though that I didn't end up buying regalia - my first job rented it for us so I had no incentive, and I was lazy enough about it at my second job that I never got around to it. Kind of a relief, now, that I didn't spend the money! (When NLLDH graduated his parents offered to buy his regalia and he declined - he says now it would have ended up as a very expensive bathrobe.)

Sisyphus said...

Hee! I love that this random question brought everybody out for a conversation!

I guess I'll just _have_ to get that tenure-track job since I like the word "professor" better. :) But first, I'll need plenty of time to wear out "doctor" and dull the excitement of it, so it's probably a good thing that I won't go straight into the headiness of both titles at once.

Dr. Crazy said:
silly fuzzy velvet hat for sure. It makes one look more like a Hogwarts professor :)

Ooh ooh ooh! That reminds me, after getting regailia, I want a _wand_! Hogwarts-style. Even if I don't get super powers when I graduate, I can at least look it.

And hello, there, Dr. English. :)

Ooh! I had no clue that New Kid was really Dr. Dre! Although I'm having trouble visualizing Dr. Dre teaching at a small liberal arts college. Huh.

The buy-vs-rent regalia debate may well need to be a post of its own, I think. Unless I can convince my parents to get it for me as a graduation present instead of a toaster oven or whatever silly thing they have planned.

Bardiac said...

My folks bought my regalia; they'd finally come to grips with the fact that they weren't EVER buying me a wedding dress, so went for what they could get. And at my first TT job, I had to wear it at least 3x each year. So, it's maybe a tad more cost effective than a wedding dress?

You can buy a tam separately, you know, just for the fun, and rent the rest when you need to until you need it more often.

Flavia said...

Ha! I love the idea that NK is actually Dr. Dre.

And you can write your regalia off on your taxes regardless of whether you have a t-t job or not. My parents bought me mine, but they did so by sending me the money. . . so I both got them for free AND got a tax-deduction. (Shh. Don't tell the IRS.)

New Kid on the Hallway said...

The hysterical thing is that Dr. Dre is actually really, really close....

AliceAcademic said...

I defended a couple of weeks ago, and I haven't given much thought to being Dr. Alice. (I've been stressed about getting all my revisions in by the end of the month) Anyway, I read your post last night, and as I was falling asleep, I was trying out the sound of "Dr. Alice" and wrote it down on the notepad on my nightstand before I fell asleep, dreaming of graduation. Yay for both of us, Dr. Cog! Graduation here we come!!

medieval woman said...

In the South, it's all Dr. all the time. I've always referred to myself as Prof.MW. Now I sign my emails to students as DocMW.

And I didn't know you could deduct regalia from your taxes!! My mom bought me mine (complete with the fuzzy tam and the robes made for my hobbity physique). But I never thought to deduct them...

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Actually, at my last job in the south, everyone was "Professor." I think, though, that might have been a hold-over from the days when not all the instructors had doctorates (it was a small school - SLAC - and I'm sure not too long ago there were tenured profs with MAs). My New England SLAC was "Professor" and my midwestern graduate program was "Dr.

Belle said...

I did wait until I got tenure to buy the regalia; slits? they have doctoral robes with slits? Argh. I wish I'd seen that; no pockets is absurd, so slits would have been great.

I think I'm gonna stick with Prof Belle; it sounds better to mine ears, and mine are all that count. Maybe?

Feminist Avatar said...

With prof being a very prestigous title in the UK, I find it funny to hear it being used so frequently in the US. Its even weirder that JK Rowling used it for high school teachers who are always known as ms (mrs/miss)/mr or dr if they have PhDs in the UK. We academics just have to settle for our DR.

September Blues- I totally sympathise with having to wait until July to call yourself Dr. I am currently waiting... But what's kind of worse is that my family and friends insist on using the title when introducing me to people and I always feel I have to give the new people an apologetic -not yet, but yes- explanation. Having said this, didn't complain when I came into work to find my name changed on my door.

I also have a bit of angst about whether the title gives me unearned priviledge in non-academic contexts and hence should I change all my bank details etc.

Dr. Curmudgeon said...

I remember after getting my tenure track gig, but still being undefended, how paranoid I was that students might actually jinx me by calling me Dr. It was a struggle, as the kids at my school are, if nothing else, infuriatingly polite and cowed by titles.

That said, even today, both Dr. and Prof. sound a bit much to my ears, though that's probably because of a Doctor who taught at my high school was such a tyrant about having his title used that it grates on me to this day.

dr zombieswan said...

I don't think you have to wait till you actually graduate to call yourself Dr. When I was told, at my defense, that I had passed, my chair called me Dr. right away. You've done the part that is required, at that point. The rest is just paperwork.

I use Dr. on my blog now just because. But it is weird at school. I don't have an "official" plaque with my name on it, and last semester, I just put my regular name on my little door sign, not Dr. Then everyone else around me put Dr. on theirs! So this year, I put Dr. on mine. And of course, everyone around me? Didn't put Dr. on theirs. So now I look all pretentious.

However. I do notice that more students tend to call me Mrs. rather than Dr. BUT they always default for the men to Dr.! And so that kind of (really!) pisses me off. SO I use Dr. whenever necessary. Just to say "Look, kids, don't call me something different because I'm a female."

I'm waiting to buy the fancy 900 dollar regalia till I have a TT job. Until then, I'm not expected to participate in the graduation thing anyway, so if I do attend, I will rent. But I will do it then, cause yes, I'll have to wear it for many years, several times a year, and that beret is just cool. :)