Is there a right way to address a professor?

By on September 15, 2016
Features

By Allison Mayes–

We have all been in a classroom where a professor stands in the front of the room the first day of class and tells us to address them by their first name. We have also experienced professors who wish to be addressed by either “professor” or “doctor.” As a student, you never know what a professor will expect of you on that first day.

As children we have always been taught to address our elders, especially teachers as Mr. or Mrs. and their last name. Now that we are in college, that is not always the case.

This dynamic can become even more confusing when a professor signs their email using just their first name. Does this give us, as students, the go ahead to address them by their first name now? Does something as simple as what a professor prefers to be addressed by indicate how strenuous their course will be?

“I think it sets the tone for how the class will be conducted,” senior Tevin Johnson said. “Professors who go by their first name usually communicate that their class will be laid back and more chill. I usually find these to be my favorite kinds of professors because they do not induce as much stress as other classes. The professors that go by ‘doctor’ usually convey that their classes will be harder and more strenuous.”

Johnson believed that professors who go by ‘doctor’ give more homework.

“I know that most of these professors typically give you more homework and have harder exams. They give off the vibe that they expect a lot more from you and that you are to work harder through the duration of the course,” said Johnson.

I spoke with two professors regarding this topic. Professor Michal Kofman said,

“I prefer to be called by my first name because in my view, insisting on a traditional title creates a sense of distance between my students and I, which is not something I want to promote,” Kofman said. “I highly value mutuality and reciprocity in the classroom, also in terms of professionalism and respect, and I think that preferring to be addressed as “Michal” rather than my professional title is a significant part of that.”

Some professors take a different approach than Kofman.

“I do prefer being called Dr. Freberg and or Professor Freberg in the classroom setting because it sets the overall professional tone for the classroom,” Communication professor Karen Freberg said. “By doing this, this helps the transition from the classroom to the workplace to be much easier.”

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