Following an op-ed in which Joseph Epstein asked incoming first lady Jill Biden to stop using the “Dr” honorific because she had a doctorate in education, not an MD, Northwestern University distanced itself from their former lecturer with a statement released last Saturday.
“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., an M.D. or any other doctoral degree,” the university wrote.
The university’s English department released a separate statement on the matter, saying that it was aware of Epstein’s opinion piece.
“The Department rejects this opinion as well as the diminishment of anyone’s duly-earned degrees in any field, from any university,” it said.
“No Prestige” in the PhD
In Epstein’s opinion piece, he claimed that the value of a PhD has lessened significantly throughout the years because of “the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education generally, at any rate outside the sciences.”
He referred to Jill Biden as “kiddo,” and wrote that he was offering advice on a “small” but “not unimportant matter.”
Epstein also mentioned sending a complaint to Northwestern regarding television host Stephen Colbert and comedian Seth Meyers, claiming that the men were “low quality” yet had the privilege of receiving academic honorands.
Further, he expressed his disappointment at the university choosing to have tennis player Billie Jean King as the commencement speaker and honorand the year after he submitted his complaint.
‘First Lady, Not Dr’
“Between the honorary degrees given to billionaires, the falsely intelligent, entertainers and the politically correct, just about all honor has been drained from honorary doctorates,” Epstein wrote.
“As for your Ed.D., Madame First Lady, hard-earned though it may have been, please consider stowing it, at least in public, at least for now. Forget the small thrill of being Dr. Jill, and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden,” he concluded.
Netizens reacted strongly to his comments, going so far as to condemn the Wall Street Journal for agreeing to publish his article.
I always had an opinion that the WSJ had some credibility. However, since reading the article by Joseph Epstein, I’m shocked. This man should lose his job over smearing Dr. Jill Biden.
— @terrylazar, RN (@terryklazar) December 15, 2020