Thursday, September 21
Where is the check box for Dr.?

Is this Murphy's Law? I spent my entire grad student teaching career correcting students when they called me Professor, or Dr. Fraud, and now, this week alone, I have heard Miss Fraud, Mrs. Fraud, and Ms. Fraud (interestingly, all from women).

I came up with a plan of action for when this occurs in a phone call. When the student says, "Is this Miss Fraud?" I'll reply, "Yes, this is Dr. Fraud." But how do I deal with the interactions in the classroom, hallway, or my office? Or what if they don't ask is it's me on the phone and just launch into "Mrs. Fraud..."

I'm convinced this is one of those annoying forms of unconscious gender bias. A male colleague, who intestingly isn't even a Dr. yet, said that he's never been called Mr. Know-It-All. Students always call him Professor or Dr. Know-It-All.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a big pet peeve of mine as well, and I do think it's closely tied to gender. I try to deal with it by signing all emails to students as "Prof. X" and introducing myself on the first day of class as Professor X. It helps some, but not entirely.

At least they're not calling you by your first name - I still get several of those every class. Including one who sent me an email after the first week of class that started "Hey, X'ie" where X'ie is a cutesy nickname for my first name. Sorry, but NO ONE is allowed to call me by cutesy nicknames (except my husband).

Salmon Ella said...

A male colleague, who intestingly isn't even a Dr. yet, said that he's never been called Mr. Know-It-All. Students always call him Professor or Dr. Know-It-All.

It's probably because he never corrects them.

I've never been called Prof. Ella or Dr. Ella to my face before, but I do get e-mails to Professor Ella (and one the other day to Proffessor Ella), which to me just indicates the students don't really understand what being a professor entails. I don't overtly correct them, but I do sign my name Salmon. If they were speaking to me and called me Prof. or Dr. Ella, I would correct them, but in e-mail it just seems kind of weird.

Re. the gender aspect, that's interesting, and I have more to say, but I have to run be a professor, er, I mean, TA.

fraud, in denim said...

Actually anonymous, I guess to add insult to injury, I had someone call me by my first name after class today. It didn't both me as much because I'm Fraud, but I'm also Dr. Fraud, so it didn't feel as demeaning as something that implied less. Does that make any sense at all? And, like Salmon, that's how I signed my name in email. Now I sign my emails with my full name; maybe I should switch to Professor Fraud.

I would DIE if someone called me Frauddy, though. Or maybe they would die.

Anonymous said...

Aha, this all reminds me of this post and resulting discussion. It addressed both the Mrs part and the gender aspect. Many of the commenters completely missed the point of the post, however.

Anonymous said...

Fraud, I certainly understand how being called by your first name isn't as annoying. I think alot of it depends on how you see the teacher-student relationship; being on a first-name basis can imply a level of openness that is useful for generating a good dialogue with your students. I know many faculty who encourage use of first names.

I might be more sensitive to it because I work in a school where the vast majority of the students and faculty are male, and being taken seriously as a professional expert in this domain is hard for most women. For example, almost all of the women faculty compensate by wearing full business suits to teach, while the guys can go more casual. Insisting on being called professor is one way of trying to get them to take me seriously in the classroom.

fraud, in denim said...

Thanks for the CT link, Anon #2. I knew I'd read about the trend on blogs before, but I hadn't seen this particular post.

Anon #3 (who's Anon #1, right?), I think you're right. My knee-jerk reaction today was that this student was trying to talk me on a certain level about something we'd been talking about it class, specifically that she could relate to an experience I discussed and wanted to share something with me. But, the whole situation brought back memories of a male student last year (when I was still a grad student) who used my first name all the time in conversations with me, particularly when arguing over grades. "But Fraud..." "No Fraud, you don't understand..." "Fraud, that's not what I was saying..." "God Fraud!" and I always felt like it was to put me in my place as someone inferior in some way.

Anonymous said...

I think that's exactly right - I can always tell when the first name use is being friendly vs. to intimidate. Interestingly enough, it's often the most pushy of my students who use it in exactly the tone you described - they never use "Prof" or "Dr" in those instances!

(and yes, I am anon #1 and #3... I really need to pick a color if I'm going to keep commenting on a.secret so often)

Anonymous said...

I am a male faculty member of several years' experience and I have certainly and repeatedly been called Mr. Anonymous by students, although I agree it's probably more likely for female faculty than male faculty.

strawberries said...

fraud,(and i use fraud only in a nice, friendly way, and not to intimidate).
i agree, i think its gender. when i was in european ctry, I was called Miss Strawberries several times. In the language we were speaking, there is no Ms. But hello, here everyone is called dr. after they graduate with a BA. I think its sex and age.

The History Enthusiast said...

I have encountered all these same types of problems as a young female, but with a twist. I am a graduate assistant instructor (with an M.A. but not yet a Ph.D.) and I frequently have students call me Kristen, Professor E., Dr. E., and Mrs. E. These last three, I must add, are not correct. I am not a professor, I do not have my doctorate, and I am not married. The only one that really annoys me is when they assume that anyone old enough to teach their own college course must be married. I have nothing against marriage, and hope to be married one day, but I see this assumption as a sexist understanding of how the world works (or as an implicit critique of unmarried, professional women). I should add that I get this from male and female students alike. Only rarely do people call me Miss E., which is how I introduced myself on the first day of class. So, interestingly, in some ways I have the opposite problem...people want to call me Professor or Doctor even when I don't deserve the title. I must be teaching in upside-down land.