LawProfBlawg (Anonymous Professor, Top 100 Law School), Dr. Biden And That Op-Ed: Funny How the 'Dr.' Thing and the 'Hierarchy' Thing Are Related:
Dear Law Professors:
It started with yet another “Let’s not call her Dr.” hit piece. The kind that has been written before, many times. No, I’m not going to link to it.
Then came the style guides, which showed that only those with an M.D. should be called doctor. As if to say that makes it perfectly okay to publish the hit piece. I’m missing the part of the style guide where newspapers call Ph.D.s “kiddo.” Maybe you can help me find it. ...
Oh, just as an aside: I see law professors be dismissive of Ph.D.s every f**king day. I mean, unless they want to hire someone with a Ph.D./J.D. Then it’s OMG GUSH so IMPRESSIVE. Want to guess who that usually benefits? Want to guess where their J.D.s usually come from? ...
You see, this isn’t just about Dr. Biden. It is about the microaggressions that women face every day. The slights to their expertise. The fact that you’ll find any f**king excuse not to call her Dr. just because it offends you. But thanks for the nice discussion of disparate impact with your “I only call M.D.s doctors” standards. Want to look at THAT data?
It’s about how when the hierarchy is challenged by minorities and women making inroads, it means somehow that the achievements mean less somehow because it isn’t the coveted prize of only white men.
Eugene Volokh (UCLA), Who Should Be Called Dr.? Probably Not Jill Biden, Just as Lawyers Like Me Aren't:
I didn't much care for the Wall Street Journal op-ed that said Jill Biden shouldn't be referred to using the title "Dr." Certainly calling a grown stranger (and especially the soon-to-be First Lady) "kiddo," even as a joke, seems disrespectful; nor is her using the "Dr." title "fraudulent" or "comic."
Nonetheless, the view that Jill Biden should be called "Dr." because she earned her Ed.D. strikes me as unsound, too.
Steven Lubet (Northwestern) & Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern), That Op-Ed About Jill Biden Is Awful. Northwestern’s Response Might Be Worse.:
Last week the essayist Joseph Epstein provoked an uproar by writing a silly Wall Street Journal piece saying that Jill Biden, who has a doctorate in education — formally, an Ed.D. — should stop using the honorific “Dr.” The essay was rude and condescending to the next first lady, referring to her as “kiddo” and calling her dissertation “unpromising.”
But what happened next is also “unpromising.” Northwestern University’s English department’s website published a poorly composed denunciation, obviously intended to retaliate for Epstein’s loutish opinion. A spokesman for the university saw fit to announce that “while we firmly support academic freedom and freedom of expression, we do not agree with Mr. Epstein’s opinion.” Most alarmingly, Epstein’s name abruptly disappeared from the department’s website. Epstein was a visiting lecturer at Northwestern from 1974 to 2002, and as late as last week he was listed on the department website as an “emeritus lecturer.”
As current law-school faculty members at Northwestern, specializing in constitutional law (Koppelman) and professional responsibility (Lubet), we believe that it is a serious violation of academic freedom to penalize a faculty member, including an emeritus one, for expressing unpopular views. ...
Almost every American university has distressing incidents in its history, such as the exploitation of enslaved labor and construction on stolen land. An honest accounting requires reckoning with history, not erasing it, and that includes even the trivial recognition of those who have held teaching positions. Northwestern’s own motto begins “Quaecumque sunt vera,” meaning “Whatsoever things are true.” It may be uncomfortable, but it is nonetheless true that Joseph Epstein is an emeritus lecturer in English at Northwestern University.
Chronicle of Higher Education, That Op-Ed About Jill Biden Was Sexist. But the Real Problem Lies Deeper.:
No matter how many words one muted on Twitter this past weekend — “Epstein,” “Ph.D.,” “doctor,” “Jill Biden” — the outrage kept coming. Joseph Epstein, longtime editor of The American Scholar and an essayist whose fair prominence belies Twitter’s evident lack of familiarity with his work, published an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal belittling Jill Biden’s scholarly accomplishments using repulsive, demeaning language.
Biden is an accomplished professor with a doctorate in education. For many academics, especially women, her career path is particularly inspiring: She didn’t go straight to graduate school from college, and she didn’t receive her doctorate until she was 55. For many women, this is relatable; women often defer graduate-school ambitions until family needs stabilize. It only enhances Biden’s standing that she teaches at the community-college level, since these institutions have arguably done more to welcome women and people of color into the world of higher education than four-year schools. ...
The demands for deference speak to gatekeeping and a general clubbiness that is hard to penetrate without a background that includes close proximity to upper-middle-class white people. That’s certainly alive in my profession, too. But with a little distance, it occurs to me that one reason the response to Epstein’s demand for deference from Jill Biden (“kiddo”) was so intense is that, as an external observer, he is a safe target. It is not, in fact, safe for women and people of color to respond in kind to those who have soft power over them and their careers in academe. Is it any wonder that so many academics responded to Epstein’s disrespect by insisting on respect for the credential they — and Jill Biden — have rightly earned?
Chronicle of Higher Education, Joseph Epstein Is Not a Fan of the Modern University:
The essayist who mocked Jill Biden’s degree, and was widely derided in return, has been lobbing grenades at colleges for decades.
You may have heard that Joseph Epstein wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal arguing that Jill Biden, soon to be the first lady of the United States, shouldn’t call herself “Dr.” even though she has earned a terminal degree in education and has every right to employ that honorific. You may have also heard that his column was not generally well-received, inspiring rebukes from the likes of Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and his former employer, Northwestern University (which said it “strongly disagrees with Mr. Epstein’s misogynistic views”). But were you aware that Joseph Epstein has other opinions about, for example, how college presidents these days are ridiculous figureheads who lack the gravitas of their predecessors, or why the real problem with the current crop of undergraduates is that their parents hugged them too much?
Well, he does. And he shares these pungent critiques, and many more like them, in his recent book, Gallimaufry: A Collection of Essays, Reviews, Bits. It should be noted that although Epstein is enjoying — or maybe enduring — an unexpected cameo in the national news cycle, it’s not as if he just burst onto the hot-take scene. His publisher, Axios Press, calls him “the greatest living essayist writing in English,” a superlative that rules out a host of worthy contenders, though what’s unquestionably true is that he is among the language’s most prolific. Gallimaufry contains 528 pages’ worth of his musings. His 2018 collection, The Ideal of Culture, is a mere 572 pages. And there is no shortage of other volumes with droll titles for the Epstein completist: With My Trousers Rolled, Once More Around the Block, Narcissus Leaves the Pool, The Middle of My Tether. ...
The point is, the Wall Street Journal column wasn’t at all out of character. Epstein is a seasoned observer of the academic milieu, and he hasn’t liked what he’s been observing for a very long time. His mockery of Jill Biden’s degree is entirely consistent with his abiding distress at the “decay of the contemporary university.” He notes with satisfaction that he retired from teaching in 2002, before the rise of smartphones and back when “political correctness was still in its incipient, not yet its tyrannous, stage.” Now he lobs grenades from a safe distance. I emailed Epstein to ask if he was up for an interview about the emphatic response to his column. He replied (from his iPhone) to say thanks but that he was, no surprise, “planning to write something of my own about it.”
- The Atlantic, The Professor and the Madman: If Jill Biden Wants to Flaunt Her Ed.D., Who Are We To Object?
- Chicago Tribune, Following Jill Biden Essay, Northwestern University Distances Itself From Former Lecturer Joseph Epstein, Calls His Views on Her Use of ‘Dr.’ Title ‘Misogynistic’
- City Journal, What’s Up, Doc? Cancel Culture Targets Joseph Epstein
- Daily Beast, Writer of Wall Street Journal’s Jill Biden Op-Ed Vanishes From Northwestern Website
- Daily Northwestern, NU Condemns Former English Lecturer Joseph Epstein’s Op-ed Calling Jill Biden to Drop ‘Doctor’ Title
- Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, You Ran a Sexist Essay on Jill Biden. Don’t Tell Us to Calm Down
- National Review, Joseph Epstein Is Right about the ‘Dr.’ Problem
- New York Times, An Opinion Writer Argued Jill Biden Should Drop the ‘Dr.’ (Few Were Swayed.)
- NPR, Op-Ed Urging Jill Biden To Drop The 'Dr.' Sparks Outrage Online
- Slate, We Analyzed the Comments on the Atrocious “Dr. Jill Biden” Op-Ed
- Vanity Fair, Dr. Jill Biden Responds to Wall Street Journal Op-ed: “That Was Such a Surprise”
- Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal Column About Jill Biden Is Worse Than You Thought