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Sunday, July 10, 2011

About “Doctors” And “Professors”

The Sunday Leader 10/07/2011

Gamini Weerakoon’s interesting piece in the Sunday Leader of June 12 on “doctors” and “doctorates” prompted me to write this.

Some time back, a committee chaired by the present Prime Minister made proposals for making it illegal for any organisation that is not recognised by the University Grants Commission to award doctorates. This committee was appointed after the public outcry that followed when an infamous politician was bestowed with a ‘doctorate’ by an organisation that is well-known for dishing out such doctorates. What is most unfortunate is that two qualified medical doctors sit on the board of that organisation. One, a specialist in sports medicine and the other, a respected former professor of physiology. No action whatsoever was taken on the report. When years earlier, a well-known Sinhala lyricist was given a doctorate by this organisation, the very same professor of physiology referred to above, wrote to the newspapers making fun of it. The latter also has a few songs to his credit, especially one that is played at almost all weddings bringing tears to many eyes, about the daughter who is being given away.

Although not followed strictly, the norm is that even a person who has been awarded a doctorate, honoris causa cannot use the prefix ‘Dr.’ A few years back, the Senate of the University of Peradeniya affirmed this.

We have ‘professors’ too who use the prefix without being entitled to it. Only a person who has been a full professor for ten years and has been appointed Professor Emeritus by the Senate of the University concerned can call himself a Professor after retirement. Prof. G.L. Peris is an example of such an Emeritus Professor. Once, a well-known academic who had just retired was introduced at a workshop as “Professor XY.” He responded saying “I have retired from the University and so I am now only Dr. XY.” Another academic then said: “But Sir, you were a full professor for more than ten years and so you are Professor Emeritus.” “Young man, I still have to wait until the Senate formally appoints me Professor Emeritus,” came the response.
Today, we see not only former professors but even former associate professors calling themselves “Professor,” among them are several politicians.

The University Grants Commission must act immediately to stop bogus doctorates being given, many for money, and former academics calling themselves ‘Professor’ when they are not entitled to do so.

Retired Academic
Colombo 8.