You Are NOT a University Professor
Once you've spent more than 30 years in a profession, serving admirably and with literally hundreds of collegial connections, you can't escape it. You don't need to be the 'go-to' person; you don't need to be someone who built an empire. But you have connections, and usually they are your connections because they trust you and find your opinion and practice worthy. Above all, they know you've got the numbers down: numbers of years of experience. A recent call from a colleague had to do with the professional ethics of teaching. Specifically, a credentialed individual who is mutually known to my colleague and me, listed themselves as being a University Professor. What?! Hold it right there, partner. Everyone I know who holds any one of the many education-related credentials available in California also knows that it is unethical to misrepresent one's own professional experience or qualifications - or to submit or publish in print or digitally any document in connection with professional activities that is misleading or exaggerated. Moreover, whether this is done willingly and knowingly, or out of ignorance and neglect, misrepresentation can result in damages being awarded in court, and loss of all licences (known as credentials in the teaching world). It's unethical, yes; and immoral. It's also illegal, and constitutes fraud. To be an associate or a full professor is a substantial accomplishment. Both are positions of significance, requiring years of professional practice in your field. Simply because you presented information, a lecture, a seminar, or a workshop at a post-secondary institution does not make you a professor - nor even an instructor. Years ago, I presented a seminar-style workshop for undergraduate students at the University of Pacific. I was not under contract, nor on a tenure track, nor given a position with title to do this. I was neither an instructor, nor a teacher for the University of Pacific - and I most certainly was not a University Professor. However, I was an instructor for the Fortune School of Education, contracted to teach full coursework for several courses for full credit to graduate students. But that didn't make me a professor of any kind. Nor was I ever under the delusion that it did. As a faculty member, it's possible that you may be appointed as an assistant professor. That's if you want to follow that route, and often doctoral students seek this assignment. After 3-7 years of probation, with exemplary work, you can be promoted to associate professor. As an associate professor you will spend a number of years both teaching and doing research. Heavy emphasis is placed on research. The research needs to be thorough and timely; it must be submitted to a peer review, and then be published in a professional journal. We aren't talking about a one-shot deal here. We are talking about years of continuous scientific-based research that is strong enough to withstand the rigors of the peer-review process, that is also hardy and significant enough to warrant enough interest by professional organizations that it is published. It is generally expected that 60% of your time will be dedicated to research, with several pieces of research reaching publication during your tenure as an associate professor. Eventually, you may be promoted, by appointment, to the position of full professor. But 'University Professor' - now that's another beast. In the entire University of California system since 1960, only 38 faculty members have been appointed the honor of University Professor. It's not a term to fling about carelessly. This is a titled position bestowed upon scholars of international distinction who are recognized and respected as teachers of exceptional ability. Here are four actual, bona fide University Professors. 1. Melvin Calvin, a University Professor of Chemistry; discovered the Calvin Cycle, for which he earned the distinction of Nobel Laureate.
2 . Glenn T. Seaborg, a University Professor of Chemistry; Seaborg was an important figure at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and then became Chancellor of the Berkeley Campus of University of California. He was a 1951 Nobel Laureate for his "discoveries in the chemistry of transuranium elements." 3 . Meet Charles Townes, University Professor of Physics and Nobel Laureate for his work in quantum electronics. 4. Chang-Lin Tien, University Professor of Engineering, and recent Chancellor of the Berkeley Campus of University of California.
So, you were asked to spend some time with students in an undergraduate program at a school, college or university. You were not contracted to teach an entire course. That makes you a guest presenter, or, an adjunct faculty member if you were contracted for a session that was not a full course. You simply cannot call yourself a professor, and to refer to yourself as a University Professor is just ludicrous. You are NOT a University Professor, but you are jeopardizing your credentials with your blustering. The California Department of Education does not take such things lightly. Whether or not you cause actual damages to someone with this misrepresentation doesn't matter: fraud is unethical and unacceptable in the California teaching profession, because it speaks to a disposition of dishonesty, illusions of grandeur (which is a mental health issue), ignorance, and abuse of fiduciary duty, which makes you unfit for practice. I can almost guarantee that if you are reading this, you are NOT a University Professor. (That's because University Professors are either dead, or they are busy working on things of significance that will lead to the Nobel Laureate.) And to lead people to think or believe otherwise is a shameful attribute. Worse yet, it speaks to an utter lack of respect for the integrity of the teaching profession. As for the colleague who fancies themselves as a University Professor, I don't know what to say. If it were in a humorous context, with other outrageous claims, that would be one thing. But this untruth is listed sincerely, with a number of other alleged accomplishments. A person who is so needy of professional acclaim that they would fabricate it, especially with a position that is so preposterous, is cause for concern. Fortunately, out of the hundreds of teachers and administrators I know and have worked with, this is the only time I've encountered such an embarrassingly obvious deception. I hope it's the last time, as well.