Univ. of Chicago Clarifies Obama's Professor Status

The University of Chicago has issued this statement about whether Barack Obama was a professor. Shorter version: Once Obama advanced to the position of "senior lecturer in law" from "lecturer in law," he was considered on a par with professors.

From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year.

Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School's Senior Lecturers have high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching.

Here was the school's 2004 announcement about Obama after he was elected Senator.

Other senior lecturers at law at the same school:Judge Richard Posner. While Posner makes the distinction between professor and senior lecturer on his CV, listing past professorships as such and senior lecturer positions as such, I think the decisive factor is this listing of all faculty by the University of Chicago Law School. The Senior Lecturers in Law are listed under "Professors" while Lecturers in Law are not.

So, case closed, Obama can say he was a professor under the school's rules. He was considered a professor under their rules.

On a related note, the school adds,

Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.

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    Thank you Jeralyn (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by clapclappointpoint on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:26:23 PM EST
    for posting a correction.

    Sorry for the double post. (none / 0) (#2)
    by clapclappointpoint on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:28:08 PM EST
    Just to clarify: I don't remember you making any accusations of Obama lying about this.  Thanks for posting this refutation of others' accusations.

    Actually in comments somewhere (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:34:55 PM EST
    on a thread last week I did say lecturers in law are not professors. (I was one for 7 semesters.) However, U. of Chicago views "senior lecturers in law" differently than "lecturers in law" so yes, I said it and was wrong.

    Every (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by tek on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:16:38 PM EST
    law school views lecturers (whatever the level) as different from professors.  Professors--especially full-fledged professors--are people who do research and publish scholarly works in their fields.  A little more demanding than getting up and giving a lecture a few times a week.  Not that there isn't a place for lecturers and instructors who have otherwise important positions in law.  Their experience in practice gives a particular insight.  It's just a different status.  Bill Clinton was Constitutional law professor.

    Faculty status essentially just gives (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:23:14 PM EST
    non-professorial rank folks a voting status in schools.  Not that most come to faculty meetings or take on committees, where the grueling work is done to update curriculum, review applications for admission, awards, etc., and complete paperwork that goes to administrators who thus perpetuate and justify their existence by assigning the work to faculty in the wonderfully circular fashion of academe.

    Occasionally, such voting status can mean that these marginal members may intervene -- and give up billable hours to come to meetings -- on behalf of the profession, when a professional school goes awry.  Not likely at U of C.


    a little more demanding... (5.00 / 1) (#56)
    by workingclass artist on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:05:11 PM EST
    I agree with you.It would have been more correct to make the distinction because there is a difference in pay, and academic load. I'm not that impressed as visiting lecturers, senior lecturers are not required to continue research or publishing as well as teach a rigorous load. The Obama equinalent in my academic field is the Visiting Artist, which as students we called the Art Stars, as these were people who either taught a class or had studio critiques usually for one semester. They attracted enrollment,and funding. At Obama's level of Senior Lecturer, in my field the equivalent would be the Artist In Residence, which usually included more duties and the research/publishing equivalent of a year end exhibition. At least in my field a visiting or resident artist wouldn't think of calling themselves a professor on a CV, unless they were a professor at another school and visiting on sabbatical. The school has come to his defense, but their standard is kinda unique. Wonder if Obama got sabbaticals, and other tenure goodies? It's a quibble of an argument, but then again that's what academics specialize in.

    So I was an 'Art Star', eh? (none / 0) (#64)
    by nycstray on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:26:55 PM EST
    Much more fun than Visiting Artist ;) I was asked to teach 1 class, 1 semester which evolved to more classes/semesters. I always just considered myself an instructor and honestly didn't remember what we were called until I read your comment.

    Maybe I should update my info, lol!~ ;)


    I always kind of liked my "Instructor on (none / 0) (#72)
    by oculus on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:59:59 PM EST
    Piano" title, but "professor" has a bunch more cache.  

    Nope, not much of a cache (none / 0) (#90)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:33:14 PM EST
    by retirement, i.e., not much cash.  But yep, you bet it's good for cachet. :-)

    Seriously, I'm cracking up at the mental picture that comes from seeing "Instructor on Piano."  I'm picturing one of those '40s female lounge singers draped across a piano, flashing her gams a la Garbo.


    Good thing I was never hired to teach (5.00 / 0) (#94)
    by oculus on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:41:12 PM EST

    I love "Instructor on Piano."! :) (none / 0) (#121)
    by nycstray on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 10:48:01 PM EST
    As long as you were called (none / 0) (#89)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:31:07 PM EST
    back, that's what counts.:-)  You must have had good student evals and have been a good colleague, if parttime.  Not a pain-in-the-neck like some I know who complain that they teach as much as some faculty  . . . and entirely ignore that teaching is usually considered less than half (40 percent, often) of a fulltime faculty job, with all else that they do.

    Re good student evals, they won't buy a cup of coffee, not even at knockoffs of Starbucks.  But they make it all worthwhile, Art Star!


    Yeah, I was happy to be called back :) (5.00 / 0) (#123)
    by nycstray on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 11:06:11 PM EST
    It was a smaller dept at the time. I actually helped map out some of the program requirements when I was a student there and the first Grad from it. After I moved to NYC, I would run into some of my students here and was lucky enough to hire a couple.

    I'm usually pretty easy to get along with in colleague situations. And I enjoy teaching. and Starbucks wasn't 'born' yet! lol!~ The pat on the back was good enough for me :)


    No. An instructor is not an Art Star. An (none / 0) (#111)
    by derridog on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 07:50:02 PM EST
    instructor is generally an adjunct or part timer but could be a one year appointment.  In research universities, "famous"  people working in a particular field professionally are often brought in to teach under conditions that would make an adjunct think he or she died and went to heaven. It would also have that effect on the average professor, who usually does fourteen times the work for a fraction of the money.   I used to teach at a major research university and we brought in several "art stars."  Sometimes they'd just come for a semester and sometimes a year. We had an illustrator for several years who was quite well known and he flew in a couple of days a week from NYC and taught his classes and went home. Never lifted a finger otherwise and made a huge salary.

    I was originally called in for (none / 0) (#122)
    by nycstray on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 10:56:19 PM EST
    just a one semester deal (after a couple guest lectures). Ended up staying on growing to 4-5 classes and interns in my commercial studio. I never really thought much about my position, it was more about the teaching for me, and the fact I could take free  sculpture classes! :)

    I seem to remember having one of those teachers that flew in when I was a student (oh, so long ago!) Now I have to go google him, lol!~


    What law schools are you talking about? (none / 0) (#110)
    by geordie on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 07:49:29 PM EST
    Because all of the law schools I'm familiar with don't actually employ people who "lecture" - that's not the way we're generally supposed to teach in law school.  I doubt you can speak for EVERY law school in America - you certainly are not accurately describing the 20 or so American law schools with which I am familiar.

    Again, this is a stupid ground on which to attack Obama - and I am not a fan of the man, I just can't stand Republican-lite tactics.  And this is one.


    Exactly (none / 0) (#112)
    by squeaky on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 07:52:33 PM EST
    Well said, I feel the same way.

    In my experience (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by fladem on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:28:21 PM EST
    at BU Law School "Senior Lecturers" were sitting judges who taught one or two classes.  

    It was absolutely a term of respect and not to be confused with lecturers (who are quite distinct from Professors).

    The bottom line is Obama's legal credentials (EIC Harvard Law Review, Senior Lecturer U of Chi) are about as good as you get.  The only thing missing is a CA or a Surpreme Court clerkship.  


    That small "p" is meaningful though. (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by oculus on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:31:37 PM EST
    Rank of Professor (none / 0) (#48)
    by PennProgressive on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:47:54 PM EST
    It is a minor point perhaps but now I am confused.I am still not  clear about his rank. Was he at par  with a (non-tenured) assistant or associate or a full professor? Just confused---and nothing more than that.

    No. (5.00 / 2) (#55)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:05:02 PM EST
    Lecturers, usually parttime but sometimes fulltime, really are a separate group from faculty on the tenure-track -- instructors and assistant professors, both of which do not have tenure, and then associate professors and full professors, both of which have tenure (if a school is following national guidelines; professional schools in law, medicine, journalism, business, etc., have mileage that may vary . . . in part to get more money, as professionals who are lecturers often also become good donors:-).

    Students usually just call 'em all "professor," as it's easier than actually finding out how to follow the proper etiquette and address them as Dr., Ms. or Mrs., Mr., etc.  (After all, we don't address others by their job titles, i.e., "Plumber Smith, could you tell me. . . .")  And some profs, of course, even with Ph.D.'s, prefer to not be addressed as Dr., or it's not the custom on some campuses (usually those that say it's because all of their teachers have doctorates, so there).


    In the UC system, Adjunct Professor (none / 0) (#95)
    by oculus on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:42:59 PM EST
    refers to those not on the tenure track.

    It's not an absolute (none / 0) (#76)
    by geordie on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 03:12:53 PM EST
    I AM a Professor, in the technical sense of that word (full Professor, etc), but at my institution, writing instructors who are contract employees are also called "professor" by the students, and have voting rights on faculty matters.  They are members of the faculty, though not full professors, just like a lot of other people who teach here.  This whole thing strikes me as a pretty silly basis for attacking Obama.

    ANOTHER LIE (none / 0) (#117)
    by scorbs on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 09:31:08 PM EST
    I'm sorry -- Obama was a lecturer not a professor.  PERIOD.  I've heard HIS supporters like Roland Martin on CNN call him Professor Obama or Dr. Obama.

    He does not have a PhD. in Law.  PERIOD.  Get it?  To be a professor or a doctor you need to have a PhD.

    Once again, this is called spinning -- believe my words not our lying eyes.


    J.D. (none / 0) (#118)
    by Imelda Blahnik2 on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 09:41:39 PM EST
    Juris Doctor. Doctor of Laws. It's the "typical" law degree nowadays.

    But nobody calls lawyers doctors. Oh geez, I've just confused myself.


    This is completely wrong (none / 0) (#127)
    by geordie on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 06:51:31 AM EST
    Anybody with a JD is eligible to become a professor of law - period.  There is no "PhD in law" - there is an LLM, in specialty areas like tax or labor, which is the equivalent of a masters degree, and there is a JsD, which is the equivalent of a doctorate, but I don't actually know any law professor who has a JSD and it's not necessary in the least to an academic career.  I am a law professor, I've been in academics for years, and you're just completely dead wrong in what you're saying.

    Obama is completely qualified to be a tenure track academic - way more qualified than lots of people I know currently teaching, in fact.  Again, I'm not an Obama supporter, but this is just ridiculous, to be part of the Rove echo chamber on this.


    Agree; Ph.D. not needed in professions (none / 0) (#129)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 09:35:21 AM EST
    and their professional schools.  Of course, there are some amazing faculty in law schools with the J.D. and the Ph.D., just as there are some in medical schools with the M.D. and the Ph.D., etc.

    That actually may be why, per some here, it seems more common in law schools to call all teachers "professor" -- since they can't be called "Dr.," more common in other parts of campuses (and more correct in terms of etiquette, as I noted elsewhere, as we don't address others by job titles, i.e., "Plumber Smith" or "Carpenter Jones").

    And yes, Obama is more than qualified to be hired on the tenure track -- i.e., without tenure -- but as a lawyer, you also no doubt recognize that part of the problem here is the U of C statement in terms of labor law.  Campuses have to advertise such openings to be open to all, have to follow steps delineated by the feds throughout the hiring process to ensure that all applicants have a fair shot, etc., or they can get in a lot of trouble with the DoJ, which would seem unwise for a law school, huh?  

    So the U of C statement is messy and muddling this, but that doesn't mean the problem is owing to Obama's resume.  


    Obama's professor status is far from clarified (none / 0) (#116)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 08:49:06 PM EST
    MarkL, downstream, thanks for the link.

    The original statement was so transparently agenda-driven! Yet, so many of the commenters are saying that the issue is settled.

    For me the statement only mudddies the water more - now it looks like complicity between U of C and the Obama campaign.

    I followed your link to DirectDemocracy: Who wrote the UofC memo and why did they use a small p?

    Thanks for the major reality check.

    Academics really know how to nit-pick, and this is a head full of nits. Lots more picking left to do on this.


    Seems the law school (none / 0) (#132)
    by americanincanada on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 11:08:09 AM EST
    corrected the Obama agenda driven statement yesterday afternoon.



    Wow... (5.00 / 5) (#4)
    by proseandpromise on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:32:47 PM EST
    I'm really impressed.  This was very fair and more than DKos would do for HIllary.  Thank you.

    Well (5.00 / 4) (#8)
    by Andy08 on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:39:33 PM EST
    if the Law School at UC wishes to call Senioor lectures Professors then so be it and Obama can
    claim the title.

    We don't do that. I am a Professor and there is a distinction.

    But it is a really non-issue for me. There are plenty of really worrisome issues about his
    candidacy and this ain't one.  

    Ditto here -- and this differs from U of C (5.00 / 5) (#29)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:09:25 PM EST
    in other schools and colleges, which I had checked.  So I also was wrong on this, and mea culpa.  (I ought to have figured out that law schools, like medical schools, can rewrite rules as the big money-grabbers on campuses.)

    However, I'm glad it also clarifies a point that I argued correctly -- that Obama would not have been offered a tenured position but, instead, a tenure-track position.  Knowing what it takes to gain tenure, I can understand why he would not have wanted to give up a lucrative career in the law to start over and spend three to six years (as he may have been credited for previous teaching and some publication) in teaching even more while trying to research and write, too -- as well as serve on all of the committees that come with full-time faculty work.  He does not seem to be enamored of committee work even in Congress. :-)


    Long term commitment (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by Commander Vimes on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:33:18 PM EST
    "as well as serve on all of the committees that come with full-time faculty work.  He does not seem to be enamored of committee work even in Congress. :-) "

    Yes, LOL, his NATO/European committee work has convinced me of his POTUS qualifications. '-)


    Cream City (none / 0) (#93)
    by Andy08 on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:37:41 PM EST

    He does not seem to be enamored of committee work even in Congress.

    You are one smart person: well put !!


    My years in academia made me wonder (5.00 / 1) (#71)
    by hairspray on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:53:31 PM EST
    about the Professor of Law title, knowing that he only taught a few classes.a year, I do understand from this site now and I thank the posters.  My state university was much more traditional and followed the description upthread by cream city. I think Obama is intelligent and gifted, but like someone said, it would have been better to be precise.  Those of us who have experience in this field understand the nuances of small p vs capital p, etc.  The skeptics will think it is another example of shading the truth a bit and the rabid won't care a bit.

    Well, now, just to confuse matters (none / 0) (#85)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:14:09 PM EST
    there are, of course, fulltime faculty who teach less than Obama did.  

    We call them the campus stars these days, the grant-getters who pull down major funds to buy themselves out of teaching and do research.  And lest anyone diss that, grants often hire a lot of students as assistants to help them pay tuition and buy equipment for labs and lots of other things that campuses can't afford these days.

    Bottom line, all this -- the combination of titles since medieval days at Oxford and Cambridge plus the layering of modern-day American survival practices -- plus students' inability to read syllabi that tell them what to call their teachers . . . all this is why academe so confuses those outside it.  And some within it.  And all that is quite effective, in the case of beleaguered public campuses these days, in keeping media and legislators too confused to really change it.:-)


    speaking of grants and such (5.00 / 0) (#105)
    by thereyougo on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 06:18:52 PM EST
    wasn't UC among the schools to get some pork by Senator Obama?Not that schools don't normally, but,this one seems to stand out for me.

    Univ. of California. But yes, (5.00 / 0) (#106)
    by oculus on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 06:21:45 PM EST
    I did read Obama's earmark requested included one for Univ. of Chicago.

    a few classes a year? (none / 0) (#91)
    by progrocks on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:34:06 PM EST
    if he taught 3 a year, that is as many as all prof's at my law school taught.

    it sounds like he just did not have to do the meetings and such, but as far ass students are concerned, he did the same thing


    Not really. I had endless committee meetings (5.00 / 0) (#120)
    by hairspray on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 10:09:43 PM EST
    both in the department and for the full college, then I had to advise students as well.  With writing and community service my work week was more like 50 to 55 hours per week.  Three classes a year?  Piece of cake.

    this blog has never held itself out as balanced (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:39:42 PM EST
    It is a partisan site, see our about statement.

    I don't delete comments for point of view. All points of view are welcome. I delete those that violate the comment rules and engage in insults, name-calling, profanity, pandering of false information, chattering with an intent to hijack or dominate the discussion or are off topic.

    I write about what I find interesting, some of which I agree with and some I don't. I sometimes express an opinion and other times don't. I feel no obligation to be balanced. I do try to be accurate -- those are not the same thing.

    Glad That Is Over With (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by squeaky on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:51:15 PM EST
    It did not make sense that someone with such a sterling academic reputation would attempt to lie about public record, by insisting that his status was greater than it actually was. From what I had read many students called him professor, which I thought was just out of respect since he was so popular and a star. Glad that U of C cleared up this silly nonsense.

    Truth is a slippery thing (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by dianem on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:36:39 PM EST
    Obama is completely correct, but people will continue to think he's lying, just because he said "Professor" and his title is "Lecturer". I know there isn't a real difference, but it sounds like an exaggeration to people who don't know what a Lecturer is. If he had simply said "I taught law" instead of saying "Law Professor", this would not be an issue. But he wanted to impress, so he parsed words and said "Law Professor", even though that wasn't technically his title. It's the kind of thing  that bites politicians in the, um, hindquarters. Rule One of Politics (should be): If you have to explain it or defend it, don't say it.

    No. (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:46:10 PM EST
    There are four ranks for faculty; your better reference than a dictionary would be the AAUP (or statutory definitions in those states that delineate it for public institutions, etc.).

    Instructor is the lowest of the four fulltime faculty ranks, usually for an ABD (all but diss.).  Next up the food chain are assistant professors, also untenured.  Then with tenure are associate professors.  And those deserving -- defined quite differently in varying departments, schools, colleges, universities, etc. -- of the top rank reach full professor.

    That the term "professor" is widely used for any teacher -- lecturer or faculty -- at campuses does not mean the same, by any means.  Actually, it masks for too many students and parents that they increasingly are paying for non-faculty as teachers these days.  Many are fine teachers, but it's sad to see what happens when students need to find fulltime faculty for appeals, as advisors, even as writers of reference letters for admission to graduate schools.    

    The numbers of fulltime faculty are fewer and fewer all the time, and it's also sad to see many fine parttimers who, unlike Obama, want the benefits of fulltime positions but increasingly are part of the underpaid portion of the workforce in this country without such coverage.

    On your final point (5.00 / 1) (#53)
    by spit on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:00:19 PM EST
    I couldn't agree more. The trend toward fewer and fewer full time positions is hugely disturbing. I just don't think that's going to be even remotely addressed in the context of this political battle, though, and most people simply don't use the word "professor" based on its more specific meaning within academia.

    If this genuinely bothers you, that's completely fair. For most people outside of that specific academic context, it's a total non-issue.

    OTOH, I would love to see some real attention start to be focused on the steady destruction of full time and tenure-track faculty positions over the last decade or more.


    professor.. (none / 0) (#70)
    by workingclass artist on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:52:26 PM EST
    I agree. The simple truth is he should have made the distinction.
    There is a difference, plain and simple. Since we live in the age of often fabricated resumes people tend to be particular. He's a smart guy, he gave the impression because it won points. It does add to the list folks wonder about, quibbles are what is driving this campaign.

    Did you not read this post? (none / 0) (#75)
    by AF on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 03:09:15 PM EST
    He did not have to make any distinctions because he was, in fact, a professor of law according to his employer (and the dictionary).

    AF you are a chatterer (none / 0) (#98)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:58:37 PM EST
    and posting incorrect and irrelevant information trying to dominate the thread. Stop distracting people with what you read in a dictionary. What the school said is what counts. That they list all Senior Lecturers, not just Obama, as professors on their faculty list ends the question. At that school, he is considered a professor.

    Please stop trying to dominate threads, particularly by making the same, irrelevant point over and over.

    Come back tomorrow if you want and will stop the chatter.


    Didn't mean to chatter (none / 0) (#100)
    by AF on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 05:05:22 PM EST

    Though when you criticize someone for using a word incorrectly, it seems pretty relevant to me that the dictionary backs him up!


    I think he does make the distinction (none / 0) (#92)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:37:34 PM EST
    in some cases, listing himself as a Senior Lecturer.  In other cases, more colloquially and conversationally, he's a law professor.  And I think that's acceptable, with this clarification from U of C.  (Plus, those latter cases may be media reports, or releases written by his PR people trained in media -- and media are absolutely awful in their lack of understanding of and reporting on academe.  The exception is the Chronicle of Higher Education, our "trade weekly," for any reader here interested for any reason in how to report well on the beat.)

    yup I agree with this totally (none / 0) (#109)
    by thereyougo on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 06:32:19 PM EST
    for the reasons you mention.

    Professor vs. professor (none / 0) (#119)
    by Imelda Blahnik2 on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 09:48:30 PM EST
    I'm a professor. I'm not a Professor. A Professor is a "full" professor. I'm an Associate Professor.

    professor with a small 'p' is a generic term. When I describe myself as a professor of footware at a small northeastern college I am not lying. Professor or Associate or Assistant Professor with capital letters are specific ranks. It would be dishonest and professionally questionable of me to put "Imelda Blahnik, Professor of Footware" on my business cards. Instead, I put Associate Professor.

    If this is a resume/c.v. issue, there may be a problem resulting from the fact that one capitalizes titles on resumes. Of course, one should put one's "title" on a resume, not one's generic profession. Obama's resume should have read Senior Lecturer in Law.

    But in the end, this is a dumb issue.


    U of C says he can be called a professor (none / 0) (#130)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 09:48:52 AM EST
    with a small p, conversationally, colloquially, etc., so that's the end of it for me -- agreed.

    But where it gets confused, OM, is using terms like he can be "classified" as a professor.  No, U of C makes clear, too, that he is not in that job classification (and those classifications can matter a lot in labor law, btw, so since this is a law school, and he's a lawyer, I doubt that Obama would state that it's his job classification, either).

    Simply put, U of C says in its first statement that Obama is "regarded" as a professor, and in its second statement that he is "similar" to a professor -- which isn't the same as being one but means he merits that level of respect for his teaching.  But it's clarifying that he does not do all the other things that regular faculty do; he's not regular faculty, he's a term employee without tenure, etc.  

    This is about semantics, for the most part -- but again, as job classifications carry legal import, there is a bit more to it for the U of C to be careful about.  Not much for Obama to worry about, though.


    Wrong (none / 0) (#131)
    by geordie on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 09:56:26 AM EST
    Associate professor in MANY law schools, althought not all, is still an untenured post - it's a promotion level from assistant professor, and is granted usually after 3-4 years at the assistant level.  The raise to tenure at these schools comes 2-3 years later; sometimes, full professor rank can be granted at the same time as tenure is given, or, occasionally, tenure is granted to an associate professor who then may go up for full professor at a later time.  

    None of which is relevant to this unbelievably trivial issue as it relates to Obama.


    I think you're half-right (5.00 / 1) (#65)
    by jr on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:36:26 PM EST
    Upon reading just the first few lines of the statement, it looks like Obama was considered a professor even as a lowly lecturer.  They clearly say he was a "professor" from 1992 until his election to the Senate in 2004, and further clarify what his classification was from '92-'96 and '96-'04.  This statement seems to indicate not that he was considered a professor only when he became a Senior Lecturer, but during his entire time as a lecturer at Chicago.

    lecturers are separate from professors (none / 0) (#99)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 05:04:11 PM EST
    on the school's faculty list. Senior lecturers in law are included among professors, while lecturers in law appear in a separate category beneath that.

    But you are correct, that's what their statement today says. I don't think it matters since as a senior lecturer at the U of Chicago, he was considered a professor.


    "(P)professor": Words Matter! (5.00 / 0) (#97)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:55:50 PM EST

    With the likely exception of TAs, is there anybody teaching at the U of C Law School who isn't institutionally classified as a "professor"?

    In my own experience within academe, the whole matter of ranking terminology has been much more definitive and restrictive than it appears to be at U of C.

    Although students generally tend to call everybody "(P)professor", institutions usually reserve that official designation for tenured personnel and full-time tenure track personnel.

    The distinction is not insignificant, because the title is usually very HARD-EARNED.

    It is assumed that tenured, or tenure-track "(P)professors" have spent, or will spend, typically six years: TEACHING full-time, while also pursuing independent RESEARCH and publication, along with SERVICE; in the form of various committee work within the institution, and external contributions to the profession at large.

    Given that I have never seen an exception to this rule, I had assumed that Obama had, in fact, paid those dues. It is disappointing to see that he has not.


    yes, please follow the link, (none / 0) (#103)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 05:14:45 PM EST
    I've posted it twice, once in the main post and once in comments.

    All senior lecturers are listed as profs, the regular lecturers are listed in their own category beneath it. Time to give up.


    Jeralyn, are you still around here? (none / 0) (#115)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 08:16:37 PM EST
    OK, this is just silly (5.00 / 1) (#113)
    by geordie on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 07:53:35 PM EST
    I cannot believe this much space has been devoted to a penny-ante issue like this.  I AM a law professor, and I don't in the least care that Obama characterized himself as a law professor when he wasn't a full fledged tenure-track law faculty member.  He was teaching, and to the students, as well as to the average person, he was a professor.  

    I hate to see both campaigns descend to this level - I've really had it with both sides at this point.  I guess I just have to stop visiting the internets until this thing is decided - hey, I may actually get an article written!  Seriously, folks, this is beneath all of you.  Really.

    THEN ON FRIDAY, THEY TOOK IT ALL BACK (5.00 / 0) (#125)
    by scorbs on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 12:48:35 AM EST
    However on Friday, the University of Chicago took it all back again and now says Obama did indeed never hold the title of Professor.  In other words, the school tried covering for obama and the liberal media lapped it up, but Obama was never a professor.  He was just a lecturer.

    Lynn Sweet's article:


    yep.. (none / 0) (#126)
    by alexei on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 01:04:51 AM EST
    let's see if this gets all over the MSM now.

    Didn't even know it was an issue. (none / 0) (#3)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:30:15 PM EST
    Glad it's been put to bed.

    for the first time. Now I understand.

    btw, between Barack's 5 sibs and Michelle's one, BO had 6 possible opportunities to be referred to by their spouses as "lecturer in law."

    I'll be here all week.


    Gosh, sorry for all the typos (none / 0) (#10)
    by Andy08 on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:41:00 PM EST
    I meant

    "if the Law School at UC wishes to call Senior Lecturers..."  

    My comments are deleted all the time (none / 0) (#11)
    by Edgar08 on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:43:32 PM EST
    I don't feel censored.

    The topic here (none / 0) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:57:16 PM EST
    is whether Obama was a professor.

    Other topics must go on an open thread or one that addresses the issue you want to discuss. Thanks.

    Thanks for being on top of this (none / 0) (#24)
    by AdrianLesher on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:59:58 PM EST
    Good move.

    I thought the whole thing (none / 0) (#25)
    by spit on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:00:38 PM EST
    was kind of silly anyway -- I've taken many a course from a "lecturer", and while academic politics can be weird and all, most of us consider them professors. But I'm glad to see it stamped out, and thanks for noting it.

    But then, lots of the attacks back and forth strike me as silly at the moment -- I don't give a rat's behind about what Clinton said about her trip to Bosnia, either, or about her tax returns. Next, one of them will sigh at a debate or wear too many earth tones.

    Seems to me like some people on the internets would find some sort of meaningful electoral symbolism in it at this point if either candidate stubbed his or her big toe. "Clinton devalues own toe; is the left next?", or "Obama wounded against less-clumsy McCain!". Who knows.

    Copper coinage. I'm more than ready for this thing to get back to issues, but then again I'm also of the opinion that a lot of this stuff is brought out even more than usual specifically because there's so little difference in actual policy over which supporters can fight.

    In (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by tek on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:23:07 PM EST
    academic culture, whether or not one carries the title "Professor" is a serious distinction.  People have to work very hard and be very productive to gain that title.  To the lay person, it's probably immaterial.

    I don't disagree (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by spit on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:41:34 PM EST
    I guess I just don't see the point of the argument outside of its very specific academic context. We're not in a department meeting, and I didn't honestly see the point of pushing this one. To most people, it's moot, they take away that he's some kind expert and think it's otherwise sort of petty to bicker over.

    I'm not totally disconnected from this stuff, either, and I frankly think there are plenty of things in academic culture that are pretty petty sometimes, though I do get why the distinctions are taken so seriously.


    I agree with you primarily because (5.00 / 1) (#73)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 03:00:00 PM EST
    some guy or gal working at 7-11 isn't going to have a clue about this issue and really won't care about the insider political workings of a university.

    I think there have been a lot of tempests in teapots started by both campaigns that only a handful of people really care about.

    I'm getting pretty tired of these irrelevant details and I think they do more harm to the Democratic Party in general than they do to either of the candidates.

    I'd like to see both campaigns focus on issues that matter to that guy or gal working at 7-11 rather than continuing to engage in these games of gotcha.  I really don't care what happened in Bosnia 12 years ago and I really don't care whether or not Obama was a professor, teacher or visiting lecturer - none of that affects my life right now, right here in the present.


    Well, I think you both are right that the (none / 0) (#114)
    by derridog on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 08:09:37 PM EST
    average person doesn't understand the arcane distinctions of academia. But I can also see how people misunderstood the even more arcane distinctions at the University of Chicago Law School, which are not normal for academe.

    Imagine, for a moment, that a politician said that he had worked as a CEO for a major corporation and then it turned out that he had worked in the mail room.  I think that would be newsworthy, right?  

    Please understand that's an extreme exaggeration and  I'm not saying that's what Obama did, but rather that, on first glance --without the context that "Senior Lecturers" meant something different at U Chicago -- his statement that he was a Professor compared to the truth that he was a Lecturer -came across as resume padding.

    So, I can see how people could have interpreted it this way and I"m glad they were wrong and big enough to say so.


    Sure - I understand it. (none / 0) (#128)
    by inclusiveheart on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 09:07:00 AM EST
    The real point I was trying to make is that if something like this really is to be an issue outside of academic and political junkie circles, it has to be tied back into something concrete that it affects for the average voter.  Particularly for Democrats who often have a problem with appearing too elite and academic in the first place, a spat like this just alienates voters we've been working hard to bring back into the party for years now.

    My gut and some evidence like war votes tells me Obama is just as much of a political opportunist as most politicians are.  That he is prone to inflating his resume as it were and that he does not necessarily deliver on what he tells people he is going to do when elected.  I mean that there was no reason at all that he had to vote for a single Iraq War funding bill during his tenure.  Not one.  His lone vote wasn't going to make any difference either way.  Votes against would have backed up his over-referenced 2002 speech.  But he claimed he couldn't vote against them because the troops would be left in the middle of the desert with nothing if he had - NOT TRUE - his votes wouldn't have changed the outcomes - they would have however maintained his political integrity and perhaps staked out a position that others might follow eventually.   If I were to go after Obama for over-stating a position - for padding his resume on the leadership front - this is the issue I would pick - not some obscure part-time teaching gig at the University of Chicago.  just my 2 cents.


    Yes. You are right and I agree. (none / 0) (#138)
    by derridog on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 06:52:21 PM EST
    Hi disingenuousness on such things as his voting record and whether or not he was there when Rev. Wright was sounding off and many other subjects is one of the most serious strikes against him, imo.  He claims to be a superior, more moral candidate, yet he lies or stretches the truth whenever it's expedient to do so.

    It absolutely is a serious distinction (none / 0) (#62)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:23:35 PM EST
    and it's abused by non-academics who have a habit of inflating their credentials precisely because they know the public doesn't know the difference.  Is Obama aware of this, or is this another one of those things he missed all the memos on?

    Technically, he's apparently allowed to call himself a professor by Chicago's unique rules.  Doesn't mean it's not deliberately deceptive.  I've heard Michael Dukakis, by contrast, correct people who refer to him as a professor.

    It's not a real big deal by itself, but it's part of what is to me a troubling pattern of Obama misrepresenting himself, more troubling because he has no need to inflate his superb academic credentials.


    No he was a professor (none / 0) (#78)
    by JakeBryant on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 03:25:59 PM EST
    A "Senior Lecturer in Law" is still a professor under UofC rules.  This title includes three 7th Circuit of Appeals federal judges at this particular university.  This is not an unusual distinction, as judges and other individuals might not have the time or desire to pursue tenure.  This does not lessen the importance of their research or reduce their prestige.  

    As to the importance of the title, its not as if its universal.  In some places Barack Obama would have simply been given the title of Professor without being on a tenure track.  Other places he might be adjunct professor or visiting professor.  

    Regardless, when a liberal legal professor (or academic participant if thats better) has the respect of Cass Sunstein and similar intellectuals of conservative bent, this aspect of that individual's life is not a weak point or something merely calling himself a professor overstates.  


    "It's abused my non-academics" is key (none / 0) (#86)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:20:43 PM EST
    to my curiousity about this, which I'm glad is laid to rest by the U of C law school.

    But in my neck o' the woods, not far from Chicago, there is and long has been much such abuse by conservatives in the media -- columnists and/or bloggers -- to the point that it does put me on alert.  And to the point that it has made many of them jokes with those in the know . . . and that has spilled over to those not in academe who see only that people are claiming credentials they lack.

    I've never seen a Dem do it here, though, and I'm glad that Obama also is careful to not claim more than he has -- as he has such an impressive resume, of course, and as it doesn't allow others to Rove him as Rove did on this.  

    It's, y'know, "vetting," and now it won't come up again, at least credibly, to question Obama's credibility.


    Reminds me of the quote (none / 0) (#68)
    by oldpro on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:41:11 PM EST
    attributed to Henry Kissinger...to the effect that "academic politics are so bitter precisely because the stakes are so small."

    Yes...for this to become an issue is petty.


    Famously, of course, Kissinger was quite (5.00 / 1) (#87)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:22:01 PM EST
    particular about what his title would be when he was a visiting prof.  And how big an office he would get, whether he would get secretarial help, etc.:-)

    Well where I went to (none / 0) (#33)
    by Grandmother on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:22:03 PM EST
    Law School it was a different story but if U of C says it is, it is.  No big deal.  I understand someone like Posner wouldn't want adjunct status but most lecturers I had were just that.  

    Bias is an overused term (none / 0) (#44)
    by rafaelh on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:41:25 PM EST
    It's like people can't have an opinion anymore. I am very pro-Obama but I come and lurk here because I get a different perspective. No matter who wins, I hope we come together in the end because I cannot imagine 4 more years of a Republican in the White House, with all it implies regarding the Supreme Court or possible war with Iran. Elections have consequences, and I wish all the Obama and Clinton supporters that threaten to stay home would remember how much damage McCain can do to the country and the world.

    But back to the topic at hand, Jeralyn has been clear in her support of Clinton and absolutely fair. I like the control they are exercising over comments, it allows for a different experience from other blogs where crazy people with nothing else to do just take over the comments section. I still read DKos, but I enjoy the contrast.

    Interesting Univ. of Chicago (none / 0) (#57)
    by oculus on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:07:09 PM EST
    released this information now.  How many Univ. of chicago professors (big "P") are advisors to the Obama campaign?  

    I think the reason why they released it now (none / 0) (#67)
    by clapclappointpoint on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02:39:53 PM EST
    is that the Clinton campaign released a list (warning PDF) of Obama's big "lies"  in reponse to the Tuzla problem.  The claim that Obama was a professor of constitutional law was a major part of it and the U of C rightly received a lot of press inquiries.  Instead of having their overtaxed secretaries (which academic secretary isn't) answer a hundred calls a day on the subject, they decided to just send out a press release.  There may be something more to it (some shadowy cabal of Obama supporters), but probably not.

    I think it was Rove saying this on Fox (none / 0) (#88)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:24:34 PM EST
    yesterday, as Clinton news releases do not get the traction that Rove and Fox do.:-)

    Probably not many (none / 0) (#79)
    by JakeBryant on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 03:29:51 PM EST
    The U of C law school is considered one of the (if not the) most conservative of the most prestigious law schools.  

    Not the law school. I know he has at least (none / 0) (#80)
    by oculus on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:01:01 PM EST
    one economic advisor from Univ. of Chicago.

    Here is an excellent post at MYDD (none / 0) (#96)
    by MarkL on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 04:43:44 PM EST
    explaining what is fishy about the UC announcement.

    Proffessor? Oh Really?

    He lists several problems with the announcement;
    Let me mention two.
    1) Why is the announcement unsigned? A definitive statement on Obama's position should come from the Provost's office.

    I think that's a good point.

    2) The memo declares that Obama was offered a full-time tenured position.
    Oh really??? There are rules about these things. No one is offered the position of Professor without applying for it. When did Obama do so?

    There's more, but those are the best points, IMO.
    I wonder if someone ELSE at UC will post a correction.. lol

    Tenure-track is not the same as (none / 0) (#101)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 05:08:54 PM EST
    tenured. The memo says he was offered a tenure-track position. Big difference.

    There's no need for a correction or a statement from the provost.


    Ok, that's right; however, there would be (none / 0) (#102)
    by MarkL on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 05:11:32 PM EST
    a paper trail showing he was offered a tenure-track job. I for one highly doubt that he was made such an  offer.

    Obamama -all I see you do is spin and accuse TL (none / 0) (#108)
    by thereyougo on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 06:29:19 PM EST
    of pro C anti O. Give it a rest !

    Frankly I'm not a favorite of your
    petty adnauseum judgements and I come here to get away from Huffpo's and DKs robots.

    Help your candidate by being fair.

    If it was his mistake, or the UC's then
    its clarified, but don't try to make something up out of thin air.
    It doesn't help your candidate at all.

    just some advice.

    And another thing . . . (none / 0) (#124)
    by Dax on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 12:28:35 AM EST
    Lots of good points and observations in this thread (albeit on a trivial issue in the context of a political campaign).  But I think what's bothering some folks is the sense that, notwithstanding UofC's statement, Obama's situation looks like that of an adjunct professor -- i.e., he had a day job and was not a full time academic (tenure track or not).  And sometimes when an adjunct refers to himself as "professor," it can misleadingly imply a level of accomplishment and prestige that is unwarranted, which rubs some people (including me) the wrong way.

    But even putting aside UC's statement, which really should settle the matter, my experience is that not all adjuncts are viewed equally within a law school.  

    One broad category of adjuncts are simply practicing lawyers who are asked to teach a course or two because it fills a particular need/demand in the course offerings.  Most of those folks are truly "adjuncts" in that they generally wouldn't be considered for a tenure track position even if they begged; and therefore they shouldn't refer to themselves as "professors" outside the classroom.

    A different group of adjuncts -- what UofC apparently gives the title "Senior Lecturer" -- are folks who the law school would absolutely love to have as full time professors but who, because of outside careers, either can't or won't accept a full time faculty position.  Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook (both highly regarded 7th Circuit judges) are in this category at UofC and they are viewed as high profile and prestigious faculty members there.  At my law old school, UofPa, David Rudovsky is viewed similarly -- he's taught evidence and criminal procedure there for years and years, but maintains a full time public interest law practice -- but they'd give him a full professorship in a heartbeat if he wanted it.  All these folks can fairly call themselves "law professors" in general discussion (though not on their CV's) because it's not really implying to the public a level of accomplishment or prestige that they don't have within their law schools.  The rest of the faculty views them as being of that caliber.

    I think Obama is clearly in the second category, primarily for two reasons:  (1) he taught core curriculum courses -- like consititutional law -- at this topflight law school for over a decade (this is not something you typically let a mere "adjunct" do); and (2) in addition to the specific reference in UofC's statement that they offered him a tenure track position, I have read interviews/posts by at least two tenured UofC law professors who said the school actively courted Obama on multiple occasions to join the faculty as a full time professor.  And frankly that's not surprising given that he was viewed as an equal by other faculty members; was consistently rated as one of the very best teachers by the students; and he had an academic pedigree that would "qualify" him for a tenure track professorship.  

    In short:  Although this is obviously somewhat subjective, if the faculty members view you as an equal and someone they'd love to have as a full time professor (which Obama clearly was at UofC), and if you teach a regular courseload over a period of years (which Obama also clearly did), then you are not exaggerating or misleading the public by saying "I was a law professor."  (although again, titles on a CV would need to be more precise).

    I think (none / 0) (#133)
    by americanincanada on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 11:13:54 AM EST
    misleading or 'puffing up' his resume and making beer track americans think he had more prestige than he actually had was exactly the point.

    Lighten Up On the Kool Aid (none / 0) (#135)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 11:44:46 AM EST
    It is making you less intelligent than you would be without it.

    Lynne Sweet's post, not Harvard Law BTW, is a misleading non-sequitur. It does not contradict Harvard's recent official statement in any way. It does try to muddy the waters though, so that Obama haters can once again look like morons over this silly nonsense.


    Something Obama never (none / 0) (#134)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 11:29:52 AM EST
    touched upon was the sheer heroism he exhibited in traveling through some very dangerous neighborhoods on the way to his lectures. More than once he and his entourage were under direct fire while traveling through those war-zone-like areas.

    This is a non-issue. (none / 0) (#137)
    by facta non verba on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 05:42:57 PM EST
    I have been an adjunct professor twice and on my resume that's what is noted. In conversation, I tell people I was a professor. I think people are clearly savvy to know the difference between a formal cv and passing conversation.

    I am more worried about his ties to the University of Chicago. As fine as an institution that it is, it is also a bit nefarious given the all encompassing influence of Strauss and Friedman at the school. I have no idea the ideology of the Law School but that would be the tact I would take if I were to write a piece on Obama's relationship to the University of Chicago.

    Obama students & UC Lectures-Recorded (none / 0) (#139)
    by rickindc on Wed Apr 02, 2008 at 03:04:59 PM EST
    We know that the Republicans are doing searches for recorded Obama lectures while he was an Instructor.  These lectures should come out now!  If Obama is unelectable, everything should be disclosed before we nominate another loser in the Democratic party.  If you have Obama recordings, share them with a news organization!