One of the things that came up tonight at the big bloggers’ bash (an event that slipped my mind much of today, mind you) was the whole issue of titles. Brock noted some disparity in how academic titles are used in the north and south. And, recently, a fellow blogger in private correspondence rather strenuously objected to my recent Ph.D.-dropping in the blog and elsewhere.
This issue was rather more problematic in my ABD and pre-ABD teaching days. I wasn’t “Dr. Lawrence” or “Prof. Lawrence,” yet my students insisted on using those titles—even though I routinely told them to just call me Chris. I certainly wasn’t “Mr. Lawrence” either, being only a few years older than my students, while my academic title—instructor—hardly made an appropriate salutation either. Now, of course, I am at least “Dr. Lawrence”—“Prof. Lawrence” will have to wait until the fall, or possibly even longer if I go and play post-doc or end up at one of the one-year appointments that uses the rather Anglophile title “lecturer.”
As far as the north/south thing goes, I think some of it has to do with the difference in being in an undergraduate institution to going to grad school. But it may partially be a southern thing as well; I still have trouble calling some of my now-former professors by their first names. Then again, that could just be a “me” thing.
I’m still somewhat conflicted on the issue my friend raised, however. Part of me says, “I just busted my ass for six years, I earned this title, and I’m damn well going to use it whenever possible.” On the other hand, I can see how it might lead some to think I’m trying to confer false additional legitimacy on my opinions; I didn’t magically become more expert on all matters political the afternoon of my dissertation defense, after all.
Further complicating matters is being on the job trail: since there’s a statistically significant improvement in my hiring prospects based on having the doctorate “in hand” entering a job search, it’s advisable to ensure that hiring departments are aware of that fact—and given the level of attention that is generally given to application packets on a first screening, repetition of that fact as often as possible is worthwhile. So if you correspond with me at my university email address, you’re quite likely to see the “Dr.” appellation, at least until I accept a (now-hypothetical) job offer.