Some friends and family members who were kind enough to read “What to call Jill?” published in these pages on Dec. 21 were disappointed and perhaps angered that I did not answer directly the rhetorical question in the first paragraph, “Should she be called doctor?” I did refer to Jill Biden as “doctor” in the submitted text, but it was omitted to follow Associated Press style. The editor kindly inserted “Dr.” in the text currently available in the online edition. It is an indication of my personal position.
The intent in the column is to inform, not to argue. Too many who argue on one side or the other in the ongoing dispute don’t have much information about academic degrees, their meaning and function, or the honor implied. The issue has become part of a larger conflict. If as a society we are able to engage in civil discourse, basic knowledge about the topic is necessary. The purpose of the column was to provide basic information about academic degrees.
Each recipient of a doctoral degree has the freedom to decide how to use it, as mentioned in the column. It is the case that women often use doctor as a title and place the letters indicating their doctoral degree after their names so that they will be recognized as professionals in their fields and not treated in an inferior manner in word or deed due to ignorance or bias.
Dr. Biden has every right to use the title, and those who honor her should use the designation they think honors her most. Some letters could follow my name, but you honor me by reading my columns and calling me “Raymond.”
Raymond Brady Williams