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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

That's PROFESSOR Lecturess to you!

I have to admit that I'm really digging on being called "Professor," even though it's a little weird that a number of my students address me simply by that title (no last name). All those years subjected to the academic hierarchy, which is especially rigid in the INRU English department, may make one resent those artificial distinctions (for example, the way that, as a 4th-year grad student--orals passed, dissertation begun--I was still expected to address junior faculty my own age as "Professor So-and-So"), but they also make one place an undue significance on those same distinctions.

Being an authority figure, though, also means being a public figure. I was sitting in the student center today, looking over the materials for my comp class, when a student from my morning survey noticed me and came over. She told me how much she was enjoying the course and how well the classes are managed (oh yes, my lass, keep the flattery coming!) . . . and then out of the blue asked me if I'd published anything. I said, uh, yeah, and told her what about, and then changed the subject to her major and her interests. Then she said, "The rumor going around is that you got your degree from INRU; is that right? That's really impressive!" And I was thinking, there are RUMORS about me already? Or is this your way of saying that you Googled me?

Either way, it's bizarre.* I'm not used to having people care all that much about who I am or what I've done. But I have to admit that it's kind of fun, and I do like that whole pacing-in-front-of-the-room, being-the-center-of-attention thing. Which makes me wonder: is this the first step down a path of raving egomania? And if so, what can halt that progress?

Oh, right: the job market. Ego now firmly in check.

*Of course, I would totally have Googled my professors or TAs if Google had been around when I was in college, but that's because I am, in my alternate life, a private detective, and I have a compulsive desire to find out everything possible about everyone I meet.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:54 PM |


Blogger Tiruncula commented at 7:36 AM~  

"I was still expected to address junior faculty my own age as "Professor So-and-So"),"

I had heard about this kind of hierarchalism (word?) there - senior faculty not to socialize with junior faculty, etc. - but this brings it home viscerally. What, I wonder, does anyone think is to be gained from enforcing such kowtowing within a community or within the profession? I'm just back from spending a weekend celebrating birthdays with one of my best friends, who was junior faculty when I was a senior grad student. That's one of the most valuable personal and professional relationships I have, and it would not be the same if it were not both personal and professional. I feel incredibly lucky to have landed in a department with such a relaxed culture - and it was luck, since I didn't know enough to ask about that kind of cultural issue when I was applying to grad school. It's useful to be reminded of what I want to encourage my own students to look for when they're applying to grad school, too. (Not ranting at you - just continuing my lifelong rant at those with an exaggerated sense of their own importance.)

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 9:23 AM~  

I should add that the junior faculty themselves didn't expect us to do this (and also that all the professors, junior or senior, whom I TAed for immediately told their TAs to call them by their first names), but the culture definitely encouraged us to remember our place.

The specific incident I was referring to was this: I had a chapter conference with my diss committee in my 4th year that consisted of me, my advisor, a just-hired junior faculty member in my field, and a full professor outside of my field. FullProf would address JuniorProf by his first name when speaking to him directly--as in, "That's a great suggestion, John." Then she'd turn to me and say, "I think Professor Smith made a great suggestion." Which I interpreted as her effort to remind both him and me of the great divide between us.

Always left a bad taste in my mouth, although FullProf is in fact an extremely helpful and even rather motherly personality. Clearly, though, she has her ideas about when grad students become adults; as soon as I and my peers went on the job market last year, she began signing her emails by her first name.

Blogger Ianqui commented at 10:51 AM~  

Re: the google thing...Imagine my surprise when I found one of the faculty members of my dept on some nasty website about self-hating Jews...

Blogger Overread commented at 3:39 PM~  

There's also a good lesson here. I think it's really important to Google yourself regularly. It's like a credit check thing - do it a couple of times a year. I think it's good to be aware of what the main hits are that our students will be finding.

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