Here's a small rant on a minor topic that may not be of great concern to those outside of academia. I'm not exactly sure it will matter to those in academia, either, but it is on Hugo's mind this morning. Forgive me, but it is more self-indulgent than usual:
Classes at Pasadena City College start in twelve days. Though I can scarcely believe it, I've been a full-time faculty member at PCC since 1994 (I was an adjunct lecturer for a year before that). I've had tenure since 1998. But my official title is still "instructor", and if I have my way, it will continue to be.
Academic ranks mean different things at different institutions. At most four-year American institutions, "instructor" (or "lecturer") denotes someone who isn't tenure-track and who lacks job security. "Assistant professor" is for those who are tenure-track but not yet tenured; "associate professor" for those who are tenured but not yet senior faculty; "professor" is used only for senior faculty. There are variations on this pattern, but it holds true across most colleges and universities.
At PCC, none of this applies. Here is a link to a PDF-file of our Academic Senate's guide to rank. At PCC, "instructor" is the title given to newly hired full-time faculty members. ("Adjunct" is used for part-timers). An "assistant professor" is one with four years of experience and tenure. An "associate professor" is a faculty member with seven years of experience who has "given evidence of professional growth". A "professor" is someone with twelve years of full-time experience who has "given evidence of additional professional growth since becoming an associate professor."
Here's the kicker: none of this has any bearing on salary or seniority. As the linked document states in section 6 (under "Additional Considerations":
Professional rank shall not become a factor in determining salary.
All faculty members holding one of the professional ranks will be addressed uniformly as "professor."
Promotion from instructor to assistant professor, and all subsequent promotions , does not take place automatically. Nor is it based on real merit. The only way to advance up this ridiculous cursus honorum is to apply to the Academic Senate's committee on rank, and demonstrate completion of "professional growth". (I hate that phrase, it makes academics sound like realtors.) I have asked many folks on campus where we got this practice, and no one seems to know.
All I know is that I aspire to become the most senior "instructor" on campus. A number of faculty who were hired after I was have applied to be assistant and associate profs; their titles have been changed in our catalog listing of faculty. Though there may be others, I don't know of any other profs who have been teaching full-time as long as I have who have not "upgraded" from instructor to one of the loftier titles. I know that I am much higher on the salary scale than a number of folks who have higher titles than my own.
Why won't I apply? The easy answer is that I've always loathed titles. (Odd for someone with a doctorate in medieval history, I suppose). Perhaps it's my inner socialist. As I wrote a couple of months ago, I do prefer to be called "Hugo" in the classroom. I also won't apply because in the absence of any impact on my salary or my seniority, it's hard to see any pressing reason to do so.
But if I look deeply into my own motives here, I have to acknowledge that pride plays a part too. God's honest truth be told, Hugo is a bit of a reverse snob! (Not a surprise, I know). Though I am not ready to go off on this tangent, I wonder if I would feel differently about this if I weren't a white male who grew up the son of academics. I wonder if disdain for titles isn't, in some ways, evidence of privilege. But regardless, I like the idea of staying an instructor forever, because I like the idea of flouting a system I see as archaic and petty. At some point -- perhaps at my retirement dinner, by which time I will have "maxed out" on the salary scale -- I hope the fact that I haven't applied for a rank change embarasses those at PCC who care so much about titles. That's the candid reality.
I am simultaneously inspired by a principled objection to titles, by pride, and by what, frankly, is puerile rebelliousness. In this instance, those three very different motivations work towards the same end.
Pride, principle, and puerility. It could almost be a good subtitle for this blog.