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What Should Students Call Their (Adjunct) Professors?

What Should Students Call Their (Adjunct) Professors?

The fact is, the vast majority of college students often call their professors by the “wrong” name or title because the conventions for this are massively, overwhelmingly confusing.

Here’s why. First off, at large research universities, a lot of “professors” aren’t professors at all—they’re graduate TAs. Many are a year or two older than their students, and as such most go by their first names. However, they are almost always listed as “Instructor,” which leads to absurd misnomers—I laugh so much about being called “Instructor Schuman” that my husband had it embroidered on a bathrobe for me.

In addition to grad students, a lot of professors are adjuncts, like me (for eight more weeks!), and though you can technically call us “Professor,” on the roster we’re usually just listed as “Staff.” We may even ask that you not call us “Professor” so that you recognize that the school treats us differently. But many of us have doctorates, so we like to be called “Doctor.” But some of us don’t!

It gets worse: Many full-time professors don’t have doctorates (MFAs, for example)—so they can’t be “Doctor” either. But they’re tenured professors, so you’d best call them “Professor.” And worse yet, at some institutions, such as Mr. Jefferson’s Universitah, there has long been a tradition of professors with doctorates going by “Mr.” and “Ms.”

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