In a recent dustup with a user, I received the comment
And clearly you're not a PhD, otherwise you'd know that my last remark was not an ad hominem.
I find this remark somewhat distressing. Some points:
I post on this site under my professional name and with a link to my homepage.
On my homepage you can find my CV, in which I record having received a PhD.
You can also find that I am a tenured professor at an American research university, and that I have directed PhD theses. For this position I need a PhD: if anyone in my university became seriously concerned that I didn't have one, I think they would have to investigate. If in fact it turned out that I did not have a PhD, this would certainly be grounds for revocation of my tenure and termination from my position. Since I do have a PhD, this is not a worry of mine...but being investigated for this would still not be a positive experience.
- A lot of people read this site who are not otherwise familiar with me or even with the American academic system. I can almost imagine a student somewhere who would be interested to come to my university and work with me but would be given pause by the idea that it is somehow "contentious" whether or not I have the appropriate credentials. Almost: such a student would have to be incredibly clueless, but "incredibly clueless" is not strictly incompatible with being a successful student.
So while a large part of me thinks that the appropriate reaction to this is simply "Fools say foolish things. They have the right to, because they're fools. Just rise above," another part of me is not completely sanguine about letting this go. While I feel honorbound to say that I would not in my wildest dreams consider suing anyone about this, spreading falsehoods about someone that could in principle jeopardize their professional life if they were believed seems....isn't the right word libelous? Should we allow such comments?