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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

What you call us, what we call you

Daniel Drezner explains why he has students call him "Professor" rather than by his first name and why he recommends that students default to calling professors by the title unless the prof tells them otherwise. He justifies this, in part, because hierarchy and power imbalances are inherent to academia, since the professor's job is to educate, mentor, and evaluate students. Pretending the hierarchy does not exist or obscuring it by "keeping it casual" does not eliminate it.

I have used my title with students since I began teaching, whereas Drezner explains how he has evolved on the issue. But Drezner's explanation for what I do anyway resonates.

Within law school, there is an additional question--what professors should call students in class. I use first names, partly because I believe it puts students more at ease when being called on, partly because I believe I am less likely to botch a first name than a last name. Others favor using last names in the name of parity and mutual respect--if students express respect by calling the professor by title and last name, the professor should do the same. And to the extent a typical law school classroom functions something like an argument colloquy, everyone in court is using titles and last names, even if an obvious hierarchy remains.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 21, 2021 at 07:55 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


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