Titles and Such

Sat, 2 Mar 1996 14:30:00 CDT

I hope there is someone out there doing fieldwork on this thread! THink of all
the asepcts -- political, economic, linguistic, culture change, even biological

My experience as an undergrad was much the same as John Cole's -- all faculty
were Mr. or Mrs./Miss (now Ms in the catalog). I remember the first time that I
heard another student refer to a faculty member as "Doctor" and thinking how odd
that was. In graduate school, as Denise O'Brien pointed out, it was more
appropriate for us to call our faculty by first names.

In the teaching that I have done since then, it really seems to depend on the
program and on the students, as to what I have them call me. All of my
handouts, forms, etc. are inscribed with Dr. AJ Petto. When I was a post-doc at
Harvard (Medical School), there was a real culture of calling everyone "Doctor"
who was one. It reminded me a little of the scene in [obscure popular culture
reference] "Spies Like Us" in which our heroes are introduced to a bunch of
scientists in a Yurt in someplace that looks like Central Asia. I couldn't even
get the secretary in my office to call me Anj for almost 3 years -- even though
her husband did most of our carpentry and home remodelling and he called me by
first name.

With preprofessional students, I am generally on a first-name basis -- like
Denise, I also feel that the use of first names implies a certain relationship
and it is presumptuous of students, insurance salesmen, etc. to use your first
name without being invited to do so. With other students -- intro level general
education students -- we are on a more formal basis. Whenever our relationship
develops beyond that in the classroom, then we can changing our naming

Andrew J. Petto, Editor, National Center for Science Ed.
c/o Dept. of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin
1180 Observatory Drive, MADISON WI 53706-1393 ajpetto@macc.wisc.edu
voice: 608/259-2926; fax:608/258-2415
NCSE email: ajp3265@madison.tec.wi.us