Joseph Epstein’s mean-spirited op-ed piece on whether Jill Biden can call herself “Doctor” ignited a small firestorm of protest among academics (among others). Epstein, known for his anti-feminist leanings, was for a time an adjunct lecturer in English at Northwestern University, and may just be suffering a bit from Ph.D. envy, as he lacks one.
It is true that Dr. Jill does not have a medical degree and has not delivered any babies. But I wonder if Epstein, especially as a whilom adjunct lecturer in English, would also agitate for renaming Christopher Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus”? And there’s the case of Roger Bacon, known for centuries as “Doctor Mirabilis.” A Franciscan friar, it is highly doubtful that he delivered any babies either. As for Dr. Phil, I’m not in a position to say other than that his degree is not in medicine. (I don’t recall Epstein inveighing against Dr. Phil’s use of the title, which is curious.)
Northwestern’s embarrassed English department has recently distanced itself from its one-time adjunct lecturer. Epstein may be expected to write an op-ed column for the Wall Street Journal on whether academic institutions should be called “universities” even if they have medical schools.