Harvard, Princeton Abolish “Master”

David Shimer & Victor Wang, Yale Daily News, December 2, 2015

Over the past two weeks, Harvard and Princeton have decided to stop using the word “master” in their residential college housing systems.

On Tuesday, Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana sent an email to all Harvard students announcing that undergraduate residential “house masters,” with the support of Harvard President Drew Faust and Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith, had unanimously expressed a desire to change their title. As such, Harvard College will soon launch a process that culminates with a suggested replacement title, to be announced at some point early next year. The Harvard announcement comes less than two weeks after Princeton University announced it would immediately change the title of “master of the residential college” to “head of college” amid discussions about racism and discrimination on college campuses nationwide, including a call by student activists to remove the name of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson from campus buildings and the School of Public and International Affairs.

At Yale, the University has yet to decide whether to replace the title of master, months after religious studies professor Stephen Davis sparked campus dialogue on the subject when he asked students in his college to refer to him as the “head” of Pierson College rather than the “master.” In an email to his students, Davis cited the title’s racial and gendered implications as reasons for his discomfort.

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