Names and Titles

Sat, 2 Mar 1996 11:07:59 EST

to the evidence presented by Amy Ward and Matthew Sammels, I don't
like it when undergraduates call me by my first name. But then I
don't like it when anybody who doesn't know me--a bank teller, a
physician I'm seeing for the first time--assumes an air of casual
chumminess and uses my first name. There are perfectly good reasons
to preserve certain interpersonal boundaries. With undergraduate
students whom I know well, I'm happy to share a reciprocal use of
first names.
I confess to always being puzzled by the student who when asked
his or her name---so I can check to see if he or she is on the class
list or find her or his paper in a pile---invariably responds only with
a first name. By the middle or end of a term I usually know who most
students are, even in a fairly large class, but first names are no
help at all at the beginning of a term or if I don't know the student.
BTW, I always call students Mr. or Ms. Whatever---at least until
I get to know them fairly well. The situation is different with
graduate students who are junior colleagues or colleagues-in-training.
Reciprocal use of first names seems ingrained into contemporary
graduate student culture and I think at least some graduate students
see this practice as a way of marking their status--which is fine.
The use of first names does not seem to me to be so much a question
of hierarchy vs. egalitarianism as it is a question of intimacy.
It's hard to believe that--other things being equal--learning in a
classroom really depends on the reciprocal use of first names.
As to titles, I share the distaste for "Mrs." in a professional
setting expressed by some other posters, but I don't care whether
people use Ms. or Dr. or Professor. I can't recall be de-titled in
a professional context---setting aside the classroom---in a long time.
Any other formal fossils out there?
Cheers.......Denise O'Brien

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