Why Do the US and the Commonwealth View “Lecturers” Differently?
There has been an interesting debate going on at Slate.com about whether Obama is padding his resume by referring to himself as a “law professor,” even though he was formally a “senior lecturer” at the University of Chicago law school. I think the debate is rather silly myself, for the reasons Tim Wu discusses here. Nevertheless, the debate rekindled my curiousity about why the title “lecturer” has such a different meaning in the US than it does in the commonwealth. In the US, a lecturer is someone who does not have a permanent tenure-track position and thus primarily (if not exclusively) teaches. In the commonwealth, by contrast, that person would normally be called a “tutor,” while a person who has a permanent tenure-track position would be called a “lecturer” and a person who has the commonwealth equivalent of tenure would be called a “senior lecturer.” In other words, a lecturer generally equals an assistant professor, while a senior lecturer generally equals a tenured associate professor.
Here is what I would like to know: when and why did US law schools reduce the status of lecturers and senior lecturers? I’m very curious — and not just because, as a senior lecturer, I hate having to explain what the rank means to US law professors…