Monday, May 02, 2005

Does it matter what a professor wears? 

I've dealt for some time with issues of respect between students and faculty. Mrs. S suggests that dressing with a tie would help. She has never liked me in anything except t-shirts or button-down collars, with or without ties; I am not permitted the cardigans or the elbow-patched sportcoats one imagines a professor having. But recently she's been suggesting the tie more often than not, to change perceptions. Does wearing a tie (or what for women? Wearing a dress?) change how students approach the classroom? Does it change how students talk to us?

I do note the "gray-hair effect". When my hair grayed about eight years ago, the incidence of students calling me by my first name declined. My good liberal professor friends tell me I'm too stuffy about this, and that I should invite students to call me King. I do not make the invitation, but neither do I tell them to call me Dr. Banaian or Prof. Banaian. I let them choose, and most choose the last. This was not true when I was 30.

I also note that our offices in this department never display the Dr. salutation, since it's not a distinction here: having a PhD is required for appointment to a permanent post. I notice in other departments everyone wears their Dr. proudly. I wonder why.