Should you always go by Dr. when you’re dealing with undergraduates on campus?
The answer to that one is easy: you follow prevailing departmental and university culture. If you don’t do this, then you’ll just look weird, in a way that distracts from things that matter.
I’ll always remember that one guy from college who always had students call him by his first name. He also hung out at the stoner fraternity parties, too. That was creepy. I don’t want to be that creepy guy who forces overfamiliarity. But if that kind of thing is normal on your campus, or if you’re in the university founded by Thomas Jefferson and use Mr. or Ms. in an egalitarian spirit, then by all means follow along.
If your campus culture does involve the use of your title, then do you say anything when students when they don’t say Dr. or Professor? I do.
Here’s why I interrupt the conversation with students to talk about titles. I find it unprofessional when some students refer to some of my colleagues as “Mrs.” or “Ms.” instead of Professor or Dr. I also think it often indicates structural sexism that needs to be addressed, especially if students are making assumptions about marital status. (The truth is that students who choose to use “Mrs.” probably are not aware that this requires an assumption about marital status, which is a whole lesson in itself.) It does seem to me that men are more likely to be called Dr. than women.
If I correct students about not using the right title for women, then I think I should do it for men. I get “Mr.” all of the time from students. I typically suggest that they call me “Dr.” Most students probably think I’m overbearing about it, but the optimistic side of me thinks that the majority of them appreciate the advice.
I also tell the former military students that “Sir” makes me uncomfortable, which it does. I don’t get bothered when they continue to use it, though, because it’s so engrained that I realize it’s hard for them to change.
I have all of my research students, who have worked with me closely, call me by my first name. There isn’t much any other option, considering we work so closely together in the field, and at the field station, that’s what everyone else calls me. The students would be at a strategic disadvantage if they called me Dr. McGlynn while all of the other students on site had a more casual relationship with their mentors. (Also, I want to be as approachable as possible, because open communication is so important while doing international field research. I stay professional but also get to know my students as individuals.)
Of course, in the context of working with my research students on campus with other students, such as if they were to take a class with me, they call me what all the other students call me.
Do you follow campus convention? Do you like your campus convention? Do you treat your research students differently than other students, with respect to what you are called?
Note: I was thinking about this after reading a post by the Thesis Whisperer about the choice to use Dr. in one’s non-academic life. That’s a different issue, but it made me think of this.