Inside Higher Education has an essay from an Australian academic, a woman, young as far as the professoriate goes, about how she is not happy about how her students tend to call her by her first name, informally, and how she would like to see more formality in terms of how she is addressed.
Her name is of course Katrina Gulliver, just as mine is "Andrew Haggerty" where the Internet ends. She raises a lot of interesting points, and you can agree or disagree with her about some things, but this I have to say is absolutely iron-clad dead-on-balls correct:
To add to the confusion, in most departments there is the species of (white) male professor, who wants to be seen as “cool” (you know the one, who shows up dressed like he’s come to mow the lawn), who invites all the youngsters to “call me Dave,” resting safely in the comfort of assumed male authority. If you’re one of these guys: you are not helping the rest of us.
(For those who are going to slam me for being uptight, watch your privilege).
I've talked about this before, but what the hey. I am a relatively large human male individual in the higher education, community college-class, profession. No student has ever in my experience ever attempted to intrude upon my personal space in an attempt to intimidate me.
Every single female colleague or friend of mine in the teaching profession, from pre-K to the doctoral level, has told me she's had this experience at least once.
This is on a very fundamental level, "my privilege." I will never have to face certain shit that my counterparts who are women will have to deal with. I can't solve this problem on my own, and I don't have to wear a hairshirt or anything, but I can at least admit it and not be a dick about it.
Now, the thing is, the thing is...
Read the comments to Gulliver's essay. Reading her piece, she tries hard to be self-effacing, joky, but still firm about her thesis, and she still gets a lot of shit:
So, you don't respect your male students, you don't respect your male colleagues, and you refer repeatedly to rank and status in this essay. Sorry, but it doesn't sound like everyone else's attitude is the problem.
Gulliver is just saying, very politely, that she'd like to be spoken to on her own terms as a professional.
And this is in the comments to an Inside Higher Education article!
Oh, and yeah, "Dave" totally exists...
Anyway, part of my opening icebreaking schtick is that I tell students that that can call me "Mr Dr or Prof" -- I don't care, but I spent time and money for the last two, so I like them better. It's a joke that fits my persona in the classroom, but, well, it's also my privilege.