Using a doctorate title in front of a name has recently sparked controversy in the U.S. after Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled "Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D." The writer, Joseph Epstein, has been criticized on social media and Democratic political circles for his views that many called misogynistic. Now, amid the backlash, Epstein, who was a lecturer at the Northwestern University, Chicago, has his profile removed from the university website.
The change was spotted by journalist David Gura who tweeted that Epstein was removed from the university website after the article. Earlier, he was identified as an "emeritus lecturer" on the university website. Later, Gura followed up with a statement from the university that accused Epstein of "misogynistic views".
Northwestern University said Epstein was never a "tenured professor" and had not given a lecture at the university since 2002. "While we firmly support academic freedom and freedom of expression, we do not agree with Mr. Epstein's opinion and believe the designation of doctor is well deserved by anyone who has earned a Ph.D., an Ed.D. or an M.D.," the university said in a statement, adding that the university strongly disagreed with "Epstein's misogynistic views."
Epstein through his article expressed dismay at first lady elect Dr Jill Biden's usage of her doctorate title. The soon-to-be first lady has a doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware but Epstein believed other than a doctor in medicine or a doctorate in science, no one should use the title.
"Any chance you might drop the 'Dr' before your name? 'Dr Jill Biden' sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic," Epstein wrote. "A wise man once said that no one should call himself 'Dr' unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr Jill, and forthwith drop the doc."
Epstein said that PhD once had prestige but the value of it had diminished due to the "erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education." Furthermore, he said Dr Biden's dissertation on "Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students' Needs" was unpromising and undeserving of a doctorate.
"As for your Ed.D., Madame First Lady, hard-earned though it may have been, please consider stowing it, at least in public, at least for now. Forget the small thrill of being Dr. Jill, and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden," he concluded.
Backlash on Social Media
While Epstein is entitled to his opinion, his tone in the op-ed or rather rhetoric has been the problem. It was misogynistic, to say the least, according to thousands of netizens, who lashed out at WSJ and Epstein. Many medical doctors and PhD holders came out in support of the next first lady, criticizing Epstein.
While not many with PhDs use Dr before the name, it has been left up to the individuals. However, Epstein should note that even though the percentage of doctorate holders has doubled since 2000 in the U.S., only 4.5 million Americans have such a degree — about 1.4 percent of the total American population. Dr Jill is one of them. Hence, using a doctorate other than a doctor and scientist should not be seen as a "show off".
Kate Bedingfield, President-elect Joe Biden's communications director, later in a tweet said Epstein's op-ed was "patronizing, sexist, elitist drivel." "Dr B earned a doctorate in education, so we call her Doctor. The title Mr Epstein has earned here is perhaps not fit for mixed company," she said.
However, this is not the first time Epstein has been embroiled in controversy. In 1970, his article for Harper's Magazine drew criticism for its perceived homophobia. The article titled, "Homo/Hetero: The Struggle for Sexual Identity" used the N-word to describe homosexual people while he said that he would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth if he had the power to do so.
"There is much my four sons can do in their lives that might cause me anguish, that might outrage me, that might make me ashamed of them and of myself as their father. Nothing they could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual. For then I should know them condemned to a state of permanent niggerdom among men, their lives, whatever adjustment they might make to their condition, to be lived out as part of the pain of the earth," he wrote in his article.