Professor Obama, I presume?

The Clinton campaign's charge that Barack Obama was merely a lecturer is rebuffed by the University of Chicago Law School.

By Vincent Rossmeier
Published March 28, 2008 7:37PM (EDT)

With the economy stumbling and renewed violence breaking out in Iraq, we'd think semantics wouldn't be the first thing on the Democratic presidential candidates’ list of concerns. Not so for the Clinton campaign.

On Tuesday, the Clinton campaign posted a list on its Web site titled "Just Embellished Words: Senator Obama's Record of Exaggerations & Misstatements." The litany of denouncements led with an accusation that "Sen. Obama consistently and falsely claims that he was a law professor." The item referenced a Chicago Sun-Times article that stated, "'Several direct-mail pieces issued for Obama's primary [Senate] campaign said he was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He is not. He is a senior lecturer (now on leave) at the school. In academia, there is a vast difference between the two titles. Details matter.' In academia, there's a significant difference: professors have tenure while lecturers do not."

Today, responding to this issue of pressing national concern, the University of Chicago Law School released a statement that seems to validate Obama. The statement says that Obama’s title of "senior lecturer" is different from "lecturer" -- the latter connotes adjunct status, while the former does not. The response also states that Obama "was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track," and concludes, "Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined."

While it should be acknowledged that the Sun-Times made the original error, the decision to pounce on the supposed misrepresentation entirely belongs to the Clinton campaign.

Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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