On December 11th, Josh Epstein published an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal, in which he requested for Jill Biden to drop the honorific of Dr. from her name. This article provoked controversy, with many pointing out the elitist and misogynistic tone. Jill Biden is an English professor at a community college in Northern Virginia, where she plans to continue to teach as First Lady, and she attained her Ed. D at the University of Delaware along with two master’s degrees from Villanova University and Westchester University.
In his article, Epstein stated that the honorific feels “fraudulent, and even a touch comic”, and proceeded to undermine the work of educators and all non-medical doctorates, even though the Ph.D. title of doctor predates the MD. Many pointed out the way Epstein appeared to talk down to Biden, calling her “kiddo” even though she’s 69, and mocking her dissertation on meeting students’ needs at community colleges only based on its title. This comment especially provoked dissent from a large audience. Efforts to keep community college students engaged and continue higher education should not be ridiculed and only further stigmatizes one of the only affordable and practical options for many students and their families. Jill Biden’s efforts to prioritize community college students, by partaking in research for ways to improve it along with teaching at one long-term, should be commended.
The process of attaining a Ph.D. remains incredibly time-consuming and difficult, contrary to Epstein’s belief that doctoral exams are now easy simply because of his example that there’s water in case someone faints, and that more people are receiving honorary doctorates. The continued efforts by elitists to keep academia as exclusive as possible and limited mostly to upper-class white men is harmful. The negative comments on Jill Biden are far from the first time women in academia, especially in community colleges, are looked down upon and not treated with the same respect as their male peers, and this is in dire need of change. By encouraging underrepresented groups in academia to pursue their dreams, we can make it a more inclusive landscape.