Monday, August 16, 2004

Dr. Hirta, I Presume?

My department is obsessed with nomenclature. No one tells you that you need to talk to Isaac: it's always Dr. Newton.

I find this weird. A faculty member sent me an email (to just me, not to a mailing list) and signed it Dr. Lastname. I've taught at places where we've been Dr. Lastname or Professor Lastname to the students — but never to each other. And it goes still further: when someone from the regular faculty speaks at a seminar, it's announced as Professor Lastname, but when someone from industry speaks, they're Dr. Lastname (or Mr. or Ms. Lastname). So very odd.

So now I am getting used to once again being Dr. S. Rudbeckia Hirta. Putting it on web pages, hand-outs, and assorted forms. I think that at my meeting today I confused some people who weren't sure exactly who I was; they knew me as Becky from lunch. They must have assumed that the Dr. Hirta who was going to speak about administrative nonsense was someone they didn't know since they were visibly confused when I got up to talk.

I wouldn't make such a big fuss about titles and such on my own documents if the assignment of titles was based on academic rank or level of education. Instead, the title of Dr. is given to all men in the department (probably even the guy who comes to fix the copy machine), while almost all women (three exceptions — all senior) are given the title Ms.