I have worn a toga twice in my life. In this dress, I was asking some tough questions to a PhD student, a few other people in gowns did the same, the PhD student answered our questions, and then I got my PhD. I’ve done it both times abroad, specifically Belgium. In Holland I sometimes take part in such ceremonies, but after that I am not allowed to wear the abaya. Because gowns here are for professors only.
I am far from being a professor. I’m a university lecturer 1. I think that’s very nice – I started as a PhD student, then became a researcher 4, then was going to be a researcher 3, but a stroke of luck made that university lecturer 2, and I was an associate professor 1. When (if?) I was promoted Again, I’d be Associate Professor 2, then Associate Professor 1. Only then would I become a Professor – but that’s not certain, even if I check all the boxes I can check the promotion matrix.
Whether you are appointed a professor depends not only on your intrinsic qualities. There should be space available as well. In our research group, for example, we only have one (symbolic) chair, so we are only allowed one professor. Brilliant research, innovative teaching, indispensable commission work, excellent columns, it doesn’t matter, my colleagues and I can only become professors if the current professor leaves. And then there is still room for one of us.
This is a typical Dutch phenomenon. They usually aren’t that hard across the board, there’s every scholar who has a fixed position that is a professor, and either everyone wears a toga or no one wears it. In Dutch doctoral defenses, some committee members wear a cloak, while the rest have to decide for themselves what to wear.
Gowns are always the majority, because only a limited number of non-professors can sit on the PhD committee. If you form such a committee, you may not be able to ask the technical experts you want, because you will not meet the professor’s quota. The professor is by no means always the most knowledgeable person on the subject, although we often pretend to be.
Two Children and an Epidemic A while ago, when I still had energy for ambitions, I sometimes asked professors if they could recommend this professorship. Yes, they said, and they always came for the same reason: when they became masters, they were suddenly asked for everything. Inside and outside the university they were suddenly taken seriously after their appointment. They were often invited to meetings, to attend in the media, to committees, and to consultations; They were allowed to talk about everything.
Dutch scholars, especially those at the top of the university’s job classification system, like to see the Dutch Academy as a friendly community where students simply call the professor by their first name. This first name is true, and often fun, but it’s also very sequential. There can only be one head of the research group, the professor.
Whether formally or informally, professors have more rights and powers than other scholars—even if these other scholars have more objective knowledge.
Undesirable, I think. Fortunately, the solution is simple. His fellow wise scholars have been calling him for a while: Everyone is a professor!
All permanently appointed scholars have the same job title, the same salary scale, and the same powers. Anyone who is able to lead well can become a department head; Anyone with relevant subject knowledge may approve a thesis; Anyone who loves children can go to primary school to give a science lecture as a guest.
And nobody has to go to Belgium anymore to wear a toga.
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