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December 17, 2020


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Jennifer S Hendricks

From the English Department's statement: "The Department rejects this opinion as well as the diminishment of anyone's duly-earned degrees in any field, from any university."

Really? So I guess graduate admissions to Northwestern will no longer be requiring an undergraduate transcript, just a degree. (Or at a minimum, be blinded to the identity of the undergraduate institution.)


It's not an unpopular view. It's a poorly argued, unsupported, and illogical view that represents a direct attack on the academic enterprise, at least as conducted by anyone who lacks a Y chromosome.

It is no more a violation of academic freedom for Northwestern to rescind its imprimatur/acknowledgement of a "scholar" who would publish such misogynistic drivel than it would be if Northwestern had decided to remove from its website the name of a "scholar" who it found had lied about his or her academic credentials. In each case, Northwestern has every right to decide that the "scholar's" actions demonstrated a lack of respect or support for the scholarly enterprise and to disassociate the institution from someone demonstrably unqualified for participation in the institution's goals.

To be blunt, I am surprised to see you endorse and support this kind of dreck as academic scholarship or thought worthy of protection. Would you grant a student who had submitted it as coursework the same consideration? Or would you fail them for demonstrating a lack of knowledge, critical thought, and respect for others?

Or are "lecturers emeritus" granted more deference under your conception of "academic" freedom than graduate and professional students? How about untenured faculty, clinicians, research & writing instructors, librarians, other law school and university staff, etc.? Seems to me academic freedom would be better served by your attention to the protection and support of these actually vulnerable scholars than it would by your focus on saving Mr. (honorific chosen carefully) Epstein, who has no ongoing academic career, was never a "scholar" under most understandings of the term, and likely appreciates the notoriety he has received.

How the hell does one become a "lecturer emeritus" anyway??

Steve L.

Institution-blind graduate admissions might not be such a bad idea, Jennifer. Attending a prestigious undergrad school only means that the person did well in high school (and it might mean even less).

Jeff Rice

Let us consider what exactly the offense alleged to have been committed by the English Department and our employer, Northwestern. The intellectual separation of Epstein's written opinion (in this case only) and the Department's removal of his name from their website listings of emeriti faculty. Now let us consider what was not done. There was no general denunciation of a careers length of views many people consider odious for their blatant homophobia, elitism, and his amazing column from 2008 ("Weekly Standard" regarding Obama and Clinton: “How have we come to the point where we elect presidents of the United States not on their intrinsic qualities but because of the accidents of their birth: because they are black, or women, or, one day doubtless, gay, or disabled — not, in other words, for themselves but for the causes they seem to embody or represent, for their status as members of a victim group?” Mr. Epstein also took it upon himself ("Commentary, Sept 1986) to reveal confidential material from an English Department meeting to discuss someone's tenure. After none of these did the University or the Department choose to go public with criticism and he was never fired. In his 83rd year, long retired, Epstein seems to have crossed a line and the public embarrassment got to be too much. For an author who has long played up his Northwestern connection, his former department and university said, "genug iz genug" (to use Epstein's fondness for Yiddish back at him).
My point here is Northwestern has never interfered with his views, his pedagogy, his writings etc. He was never the target of free speech violations, until, these authors say, this week. And he still hasn't. All that has happened is he has been publicly criticized by his previous employers and providers of emeritus status and removed from a department's web site. While you may raise legitimate questions about procedure, to elevate this to the level of a free speech violation is, in my view, an exaggeration. Northwestern has other faculty whose intellectual or pseudo-intellectual publications were in some people's minds, totally unethical, anti-intellectual and/or bigoted who retained appointment (correctly I might add). The only faculty member summarily fired that I can recall was indicted and admitted to murder, a somewhat different matter. I repeat, Epstein lived out a career at NU about which he can still cite with or without pride, take his pension from TIAA (or wherever) and write as he likes. Taking away a mention on a web site, in my view, does not rise to the level of repression.


"Anyone ... with an earned doctorate, like a Ph.D. ..., may request the title, but only if it is germane to the holder’s primary current occupation ... . For a Ph.D., the title should appear only in second and later references."

Whose rule?

LawProf John Banzhaf

For some background on this issues raised by this debate, see:
Dr. Jill Biden?; Then Why Not Dr. Rudy Giuliani, Esq.;
Lawyers Also Earn Doctorates, At Least Now, But Not Always In the Past

By the way, should the following, if true, have any impact:

But at the University of Delaware, where Jill Biden got her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, the Ed.D. appears much more like a J.D. (or perhaps a M.S. or M.A.) than like a Ph.D. The Ph.D. program is a full-time 4-5 year program; the Ed.D. program is a part-time 3-4 year program (though I should note that a master's degree is required for entry). Recall that a J.D. is generally 3 years full-time, though without at thesis; M.S.s and M.A.s tend to be 1½ to 2 years full-time, with a thesis.

[UPDATE: I've confirmed that, when Jill Biden was in the Ed.D. program, it required 54 credits of coursework (including 12 research credits), which means a workload corresponding to about 14 3-hour-per-week semester-long courses, plus the research time. By way of comparison, using roughly the same credit=hour-per-week during a semester calculation, the 3-year J.D.s require 83 credit hours, some of which also often correspond to research or to practicums. The Ed.D. is thus roughly comparable to a 2-year full-time professional program.]

And while the hallmark of a Ph.D. is generally a dissertation that constitutes a substantial original work of scholarship—something that adds materially to the body of the discipline's theoretical knowledge—the Delaware Ed.D. does not require that. A thesis is required, but the University of Delaware describes it as an "educational leadership portfolio" that "addresses problem of local, practical importance," as opposed to the Ph.D. requirement of a "dissertation" that "addresses problem of generalizable significance."

See: Who Should Be Called Dr.? Probably Not Jill Biden, Just as Lawyers Like Me Aren't


Of Jill Biden's dissertation, it has been recently reported:

"Biden’s style is atrocious, her research is comical, her reasoning is muddled ...."

SHould the writer of these words be erased as well? Should every other person (and there many) who finds the same lack of merit in Dr. Biden's dissertation be erased/cancelled?

Shall we now fully embrace a society in which no one can observe the absence of the Empress' clothes?

Can Lubet, somewhat of, shall we say, an "expert" in evaluating dissertations, tell us honestly that he evaluates Dr. Biden's dissertation as exceptionally excellent?


it seems that JB had her bio on the whitehouse website. There, just found:

"Her dissertation focused on maximizing student retention in community colleges."

Was the work in question a dissertation? Is the foregoing statement true?


I think there is a serious professional ethics issue with Jill Biden going by Dr. Jill Biden in public settings. As she well understands, the average person assumes that the Dr. means that she has earned a medical degree, and she readily exploits that common misconception. There would be no problem with her using the title of Dr. in a school of education setting, where people would not draw the wrong conclusions. The better and ethically appropriate way for her to indicate her academic achievements in public settings would be to identify herself as Prof. Jill Biden.

Steve Diamond

The importance of protecting extramural speech by academics (particularly when it is as misguided as that of Epstein) is not widely understood. I posted a blog on it recently at our campus' AAUP website:

Hamid A Rafizadeh

A lecturer whose highest level of education is a BA degree and a FOX News host whose highest level of education is also a BA degree and the law faculty that has always held a grudge that the JD (Juris Doctor) degree has never been recognized to be at the level of a PhD to call the recipient “doctor” are passing judgment on an individual that has received a PhD and is called “doctor.” Something is clearly wrong with this group that claims to be in position to pass judgment in this situation. I am also intrigued by defendants of “emeritus” as an absolute title that cannot be rescinded. What I am waiting for is a lawsuit by Dr. Biden directed at Epstein and Carlson for purposefully engaging in harming others and I hope she would not be nice when doing it.

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