Thursday, November 21, 2013

Academic Titles

As a consequence of my interdisciplinary program's perpetual restructuring, I've become unreasonably expert at academic job titles. There is a vast sea of differences among various ranks and titles which make no clear difference except to their office holders, but this does not prevent them from being jealously guarded and doled out only sparingly.

First, there are the mysteries of academic ranks: Assistant, Associate, and Full Professors, Adjuncts, Instructors, Lectures, etc. along with the entire alphabet for our various degrees: PhD, MA, BA, BS, EdD, MFA, etc. These are all used with relative consistency among academic institutions in the US and although often unclear to those outside of academia, those of us on the inside imagine them to be very clear and precise.

Then there are the various administrative job titles: Chairs, Deans, Assistants, Associates, Vice, Interim, Provost, Chancellors, and Presidents. This entire menagerie begins to overlap and interbreed so you get Associate Vice Chancellors and Interim Assistant Chairs. These often have specific local meanings and can be more difficult to translate from one institution to another.

Finally, there are the strange interstitial institutional locations which seem to demand their own names, but which aren't supposed to compete with the more well entrenched ranks and titles. Directors, Advisors, Coordinators, etc. I inhabit one of these institutional borderlands. My current rank is Associate Professor and my current administrative title is Interim Director. There are entire histories of institutional schism and intrigue that can be read within such titles by those intimate with the intricacies of academic power.

Recently, though, I have needed to create new titles to distinguish between various faculty performing useful and necessary, but uncompensated, services within our academic program. I have been leaning towards the bland but unobjectionable honorific of "Advisor" for all of these jobs. But no doubt this will still need more committee meetings to accomplish.

However, I began to think of all the other possible academic titles we could use, but don't. Why just plain "Advisor," why not "Trusted Advisor" instead? But why stop there? There are many possible honorifics which are currently untapped. Military titles: Vice Admiral for Institutional Research. Eastern titles: Grand Vizier of Student Services. The possibilities are endless. Academic Potentates, Captains, Bishops, Grand Dragons, Black Belts, Yahoos, Fuhrers, and Emperors are all possible academic titles just waiting to be claimed. Just think how this could liven up our dull and pedestrian cv's by the judicious use of some of these more colorful and unused options. I wager you would take special note of a colleague who was introduced with the title of Elder Viceroy for Academic Affairs. And given that so many of our academic jobs receive no remuneration beyond a dignified title, perhaps we should begin to insist on the splendid.

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