A loyal EMUTalk.org reader sent me a link to this piece in Inside Higher Ed, “Don’t Call Me That,” which is about adjuncts making it clear that they are not professors to make a statement about their plight. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Bring readings to class, either in hard copy or electronic format. Sign up for a blog account in order to contribute to online class discussions. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Don’t call me “professor.”
These are some of the expectations laid out in Karen Gregory’s course syllabus for her Introduction to Labor Studies course at Queens College, City University of New York. Understandably, it’s that last detail in particular, embedded in an information section on adjunct instructors at CUNY, that can spark lively discussion.
And that’s exactly the point.
“Students have heard the word ‘adjunct’ but they can’t always define it,” Gregory, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and CUNY system adjunct, said in an e-mail. “Students begin to realize the word ‘professor’ can refer to a number of different people in the university, but that the word can also cover up hiring practices, wages and labor relations. Since exposing those relations more broadly is the point of my class, the ‘professor’ conversation makes an ideal case study during the first week of the course.”
And according to this link at something called “The Billfold,” this syllabus language is common on a lot of adjunct syllabi.
This makes a lot of sense to me. Frankly, I don’t like it when Lecturers, Part-timers or even (occasionally) graduate assistants allow their students to call them “Professor” or “Doctor” when they don’t have a PhD because– and I realize this makes me seem a little jerky and egotistical– I worked damn hard for that title and it shouldn’t be tossed around as a synonym for “Mr.” or “Ms.” But I like this reasoning even better because it is making visible to students (and hopefully parents and other stakeholders) that a lot of the people who are doing the work of “professors” are not.