Dr. Jill Biden earned her honorific

Stop minimizing others’ accomplishments

Dr. Tricity Andrew

Originally I wrote a response to the Wall Street Journal’s article disparaging Dr. Jill Biden for not dropping the “Dr.”. [1] Obviously, with WSJ’s followup by Paul Gigot, they are uninterested in my thoughts on it, and decided to double-down on their criticism, referring to criticism of their piece as “pulling the gender card”. [2] Gigot apparently thinks this is “political strategy” on behalf of the Biden campaign, and fails to consider just maybe their umprompted, belittling piece was in the wrong.

A lot of right wing pundits have also decided to jump in, with Tucker Carlson saying Dr. Biden had “status anxiety”, which is just ridiculous, because Dr. Biden had not even done anything to prompt the original article. Most recently I saw a list of “over 200 errors” in Dr. Biden’s thesis, which is so nit-picky — it is a document over 100 pages, there will be errors! The majority of people complaining about her degree do not have doctorates, and they show little respect for all the hard work that Dr. Biden and others do for their degrees.

What I wrote and submitted:

Like many Ph.Ds., I was frustrated to see Joseph Epstein’s opinion piece in Wall Street Journal stating that Dr. Jill Biden should not be called “Doctor.” [1]

Dr. Biden earned her degree and deserves the accompanying honorific. Epstein’s criticisms — that doctorate degrees are not hard enough, they no longer hold prestige, her dissertation topic was “unpromising,” and that honorary degrees have lesser status than earned doctorates — are all nonsense.

I am a new Ph.D.; I finished and defended my dissertation in June. I worked extremely hard for the last seven years, as did my classmates. Epstein uses a story of doctoral candidates passing out during exams as a sloppy illustration of difficulty. He implies that doctoral degrees are easier these days since candidates do not regularly faint. This unverified story reads like an urban legend. However, endeavors can be difficult without medical consequences. Doctoral degrees are hard, and fainting has little to do with our defenses (unless the topic encompasses medical conditions that include fainting). The Ph.D. defense is a capstone on our years of work. Our programs are rigorous, and we contribute to human knowledge in difficult topics regardless of fainting spells.

Epstein first brags about his honorary doctorate before ranting at length about honorary doctorates. However, Dr. Biden made a meaningful contribution to human knowledge in order to earn her doctorate, and she deserves to have that recognized. Epstein states that Dr. Biden’s honorific feels “fraudulent, even comical,” but she is the one who actually defended a dissertation. Is he possibly projecting? Perhaps Epstein’s view of doctorates is myopic — he mentions sitting in on doctoral examinations, but he neglects the years of work that lead up to them.

Epstein is clearly condescending towards Dr. Biden, and his criticism smells of sexism. The piece is also elitist: Epstein finds “Retention at Community College” an “unpromising” topic. Community colleges are vitally important in the USA, with as much as 41 percent of undergraduates attending a community college. [3]

Dr. Jill Biden, your dissertation title sounds impressive and important. I am sorry you still have to contend with such nonsense.

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/is-there-a-doctor-in-the-white-house-not-if-you-need-an-m-d-11607727380

[2] https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-biden-team-strikes-back-11607900812

[3] https://www.higheredtoday.org/2020/04/20/2020-community-college-snapshot/



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