Harvard University and Princeton University have said they will do away with the title “master,” the Yale Daily News reported.
Princeton will change its current title of “master of the residential college” to “head of college,” and Harvard is launching a process to rename the title.
In recent years, students have decried the term’s connotation to plantation slavery.
And this fall especially, with the high level of racial tension on many Ivy League campuses, the decision to rename the title seems to be a preemptive move to dispel some of the anger.
Students at Princeton didn’t explicitly ask for the title master to be changed, a student who wished to remain anonymous told the YDN.
The Princeton administration decided to make the name change when they heard there would be a sit-in at the president’s office that day, according to the student.
At Yale, the title has also been the source of tension, and the YDN called for an end to the title of master at Yale in September.
“When a black student is asked to address an authority figure as ‘master’ — and especially when serving that person, as students do in their capacity as ‘master’s aides’ — the association can be disempowering,” the YDN wrote.
And the master of Pierson College, Stephen Davis, wrote an email to Pierson students in August arguing the same point and asking them to no longer call him “Master Davis.”
“I think there should be no context in our society or in our university in which an African-American student, professor or staff member — or any person, for that matter — should be asked to call anyone ‘master,'” Davis wrote to his students, according to YDN. “And there should be no context where male-gendered titles should be normalized as markers of authority.”
Yale is expected to reach a decision on changing the title later in the school year. For now, Yale President Peter Salovey has said little more than the school is working through the decision process.
“I am confident that Yale will come to a decision about the title ‘master’ in a reasonable amount of time,” Salovey said,” according to the YDN.
“The recent decisions at Princeton and Harvard represent information that is useful for our discussions.”
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