Don't Call Me Professor

Don’t call me professor. I mean, if you’re going to be calling me by titles that I do not hold, I’d prefer “Mr. President,” “Commander, Air Group,” or “Your Highness.”

Technically speaking, I am not a professor. “Professor” is a title that must be earned; the term generally refers to someone who is tenured or on the tenure track.  “Tenure” is often mistaken to mean “having a job for life,” but really means that an academic cannot have their job terminated without just cause (thanks Wikipedia!). The reason this is important is because academics should have free inquiry into facts, “the truth,” and so on, without fear of losing their job. So it really ties into academic freedom.

At the UofA, there are different levels of “professor”.
  • Adjunct Professor: Anyone can apply for this title that you can have for a 5-year term, but you have to provide justification why the University (and a specific Department) would give this to you. Are you a clinical psychologist who wants to teach at the UofA and collaborate with others on research? To apply for research grants, you usually have to hold a position at a university that lasts for a certain number of years. That’s where this title comes in. You get $0 for being an Adjunct Professor.
  • Assistant Professor: No, you’re not the secretary for someone else. It’s just the starting level in the tenure-track stream.

  • Associate Professor: Have you ever worked retail and been a “sales associate”? Yeah, this is nothing like that. It’s the next level up in the tenure track. Salaries are higher than for assistant professors.

  • Professor: Also known as “Full Professor.” This is it: tenure at last. Salaries are again higher. As with the other levels, there are different pay steps within this category, depending on research/teaching/etc. accomplishments. It’s not a “job for life.” Professors still teach, do research, and so on. And they can be fired (although this is really rare).
There are also some individuals who hold the prestigious title of “University Professor,” (or even “Distinguished University Professor”) which, although it sounds generic, is actually bestowed upon those in recognition of superlative accomplishments. Like Dr Thomas M. Nelson, a former chair of the Department of Psychology, who was on my Master’s and Ph.D. advisory committees.

Finally, there are also “Professors Emeritus,” which means that they have retired.

I once held the title of Adjunct Professor, but that was a few years ago. Right now, I’m a Faculty Lecturer, which means I work full-time and get benefits. That’s means I’m a “sessional” (preferred term: Contract Academic Staff: Teaching), not a professor. I do not have job security or a job for life. Some institutions, like the University of Toronto have teaching-only academic positions, called “Professors of Practice.” I like the sound of that, but we don’t have that at the UofA (yet--there’s some talk of establishing a similar kind of position).

So don’t call me “prof” or “professor” because that’s not a title I presently hold, OK? Here are some other titles that I don’t have: Judge, Sergeant, Pope, Your Majesty, Mrs., The Right Honourable, The Left Honourable, First Officer, Ayatollah, Chief, Prince, Pharaoh, Swami, Darth, Grand Moff, or Grand Poobah. So don’t call me any of those, either.

(You can use the title "Doctor" or even "Mister", I guess. But "Mr Loepelmann" is my dad. And using my first name a bit awkward--it's what my friends call me.)

Why aren’t you studying?


Anastasia said...

Mr.President is boring; go for "Sith Lord".

Karsten A. Loepelmann said...

@Anastasia: Then that would make apprentice?

Anastasia said...

Yes. Teach us of the dark side, Master.

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