title snobbery

John Cole. (jrc@TEI.UMASS.EDU)
Sat, 2 Mar 1996 14:59:15 -0500

When I was a college freshman at Columbia in '63, I was surprised to see that
the catalogue listed everyone as Mr. Arensberg or Miss Mead or Mr. Rabi. Upon
inquiry I was told that title distinctions were considered a tad "shabby"--if
you taught there you were as good as anyone! Students were all Mr. or Miss, as
well, until upper courses, when faculty and students all magically turned to
first names, it seemed. (I'm sure there were exceptions--such as Peter Gay,
who always swooped around campus wearing academic robe and mortarbaord!) But
when I worked as a waiter at parties or whatever, standing around holding a
coctail tray or something, my class distinction plummeted---faculty became
"professor" and I became "Boy!"

In many years of teaching I have found that most faculty I worked with were
called by their first names or Mr or Ms. by students and colleagues. To do
otherwise was usually meant to be sarcastic or off-putting. ("Good idea, Barb;
Prof. Smith's proposal, on the other hand stinks.")

--John R Cole