4.0058 Addressing Students and Others (100)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 16 May 90 17:14:29 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0058. Wednesday, 16 May 1990.

(1) Date: Tue, 15 May 90 17:54 EDT (12 lines)
Subject: Re: 4.0040 Addressing Students

(2) Date: 15 May 90 20:32:00 EST (18 lines)
From: "HALPORN,JAMES,CLAS" <halpornj@ucs.indiana.edu>

(3) Date: Wed, 16 May 1990 09:59:15 EST (16 lines)
From: Stephen Clausing <SCLAUS@YALEVM>
Subject: first names after all

(4) Date: Wednesday, 16 May 1990 9:13am CST (43 lines)
Subject: 4.0052 Addressing Students

(5) Date: Wed, 16 May 90 10:21:24 CDT (11 lines)
From: Norman Hinton <SSUBIT12@UIUCVMD>
Subject: [...] address by rank

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 15 May 90 17:54 EDT
Subject: Re: 4.0040 Addressing Students (77)

I can't help wondering what the students call *you*. I have consistently
asked students to call me "Sue." I know that other faculty use their own
first names; others, more formal, opt for Dr. or Professor ***. Curious
to see a poll from here, I remain....


(2) --------------------------------------------------------------26----
Date: 15 May 90 20:32:00 EST
From: "HALPORN,JAMES,CLAS" <halpornj@ucs.indiana.edu>

It's OK for an 850 lb. gorilla like Jim O'D to be addressed as Jim, and
address his students as Dick and Jane if he wishes. Little gnats like
me prefer to follow Miss Manners and consider students as students and
not as pals. First name calling is a bad American habit (particularly
annoying in phone solicitations). Further, experience of others has
shown me that teaching in a torn T-shirt and cutoffs and addressing your
students by first names makes them uncomfortable and less able to accept
any evaluation (or grade) you give them as being a serious assessment.
Humanists have a bad enough reputation for being blowhards and frauds to
encourage those beliefs.

One of the nerds,
Jim Halporn

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------23----
Date: Wed, 16 May 1990 09:59:15 EST
From: Stephen Clausing <SCLAUS@YALEVM>
Subject: first names after all

Again, I never meant to begin a discussion on first names vs. last names,
but since this has happened, I might as well join in. I use first names
for friends and good acquaintances, not for students, because they are
neither. I try very hard to establish a comfortable atmosphere in the
classroom, but I also try never to forget that these people have their
own lives and in reality there is no personal connection between us, nor
should there be. Experience has shown me that students who are the best
of friends during the semester will hardly look twice at me one year
later. These relationships are really quite superficial and we should
not pretend otherwise by using first names. When I was the TA
supervisor at another university, I always advised against using first
names with students, but I never forbid it either.
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------48----
Date: Wednesday, 16 May 1990 9:13am CST
Subject: 4.0052 Addressing Students (10

Stephen Clausing is of course right in pointing out that "students get
upset over issues that are inherently trivial"; so do most members of
the faculty, myself included. But I'm not at all sure that the issue of
naming is one of those "inherently trivial" ones-- as witness the
interest here on HUMANIST. Personally, I still have moments when
someone says "Dr. Slatin" and I turn around to see if my father's in the
room (I being an academic brat). And although I'm generally more
comfortable when students and colleagues and staff address me as "John,"
I too encourage people to call me whateverr *they* feel comfortable
with. An amusing and instructive incident took place last year, during
a computer-mediated discussion in a graduate seminar: it seemed to me
that, among other things, it simply took too long for students to type
"Dr. Slatin" every time they wanted to address a remark to me, so I
suggested that "John" would do just fine. Two students, both women--
one a Mexican-American from South Texas, the other from the Republic of
China-- immediately replied that they felt such informality to be
grossly improper given their cultural training, and said they'd go on
callling me "Dr." To which another student, a retured Navy officer, said
that where he came from, when a superior suggested you call him by his
first name, that superior *meant* for you to call him by his first name.

So much, I thought, for any attempt on my part to pretend there was no
power differential in the room. There is a differential, of course, and
students (at least here in Texas, a state with a very strange devotion
to individual liberty and supreme authority) do not like it when we
attempt to cross the lines they believe to be drawn in concrete (not

What we call students, and what they call us, matters a lot: it's one of
the principal means by which we define our relationships with them. I
had a professor in grad school, the late Larry Holland, who scrupulously
called each of us by our last names until the end of the first semester
of his American lit seminar; then, when we arrived at his home for an
end-of-semester/Xmas party, we were astonished to find that he greeted
each of us by first name-- a practice he continued for the rest of our
time at Hopkins. It was as if we'd passed some breakpoint we didn't
know was there, and it meant a good deal to each of us, I think.

John Slatin, UT Austin
(5) --------------------------------------------------------------53----
Date: Wed, 16 May 90 10:21:24 CDT
From: Norman Hinton <SSUBIT12@UIUCVMD>
Subject: 1 tier, I hope: address by rank

... [eds]

2) Addressing by rank: when I was still quite young, and a non-tenured
Assistant Prof at ST. Louis U., I was going to lunch with a Full
Professor and an Associate Professor, and we met the then Chair of
Classics on the stairs: he said "Hello, Professor, Doctor, umm"....I was