Essay on Dr. Jill Biden Prompts Uproar
An essay published last week in The Wall Street Journal is prompting considerable criticism in academic circles.
The essay’s views are outlined in its first paragraph: “Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic. Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title ‘Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.’ 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.”
The author of the essay is Joseph Epstein, who says he “taught at Northwestern University for 30 years.”
The New York Times ran a story about the many women who saw the essay as “blatantly sexist and emblematic of the way many men question or disparage women’s credentials.”
Northwestern’s English department released a statement: “The department is aware that a former adjunct lecturer who has not taught here in nearly 20 years has published an opinion piece that casts unmerited aspersion on Dr. Jill Biden’s rightful public claiming of her doctoral credentials and expertise. The department rejects this opinion as well as the diminishment of anyone’s duly-earned degrees in any field, from any university.”
The university released a statement that said, “Joseph Epstein has not been a lecturer at Northwestern since 2003. 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. Northwestern is firmly committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, and strongly disagrees with Mr. Epstein’s misogynistic views.”
Paul A. Gigot, the editor of the Journal’s opinion section, wrote today: “Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue?” He added: “My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power. There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism.”