Major college doing away with ‘master’ title. Because slavery.
Rice University is doing away with the title of “master” for the heads of its residential colleges because the term signified those in charge during slavery in America — and many simply don’t understand its British academic origin.
“The initiative to make a change came from the masters themselves, who recognized that the title was problematic,” Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson told the Rice Thresher, the student newspaper.
A student association senate survey also supported nixing “master,” the paper said.
“It generated an uncomfortable relationship with people who were new to Rice and didn’t know the history of the position, people who were not members of the Rice community including prospective students or family members,” Hutchinson added to the Thresher.
So what will Rice replace “master” with? Drum roll, please.
The Thresher said “magister” is Latin in origin and signifies a teacher or scholar. Hutchinson told the paper that “we wanted to balance the desire to preserve the history and tradition of Rice while also recognizing that a change needed to be made. We’re excited it’ll be unique to Rice. No other university that we are aware of in the world has a college system where the faculty and partners and spouses of the faculty who serve in this role have the title magister.”
For those concerned the Houston college is pulling a fast one given that “magister” sounds too similar to “master,” Hutchinson told the Thresher the phonetic similarity wasn’t the reason for choosing “magister.” Other titles under consideration were governor, head and principal, but he told the paper that the masters unanimously chose “magister” and the college’s president and provost both supported the choice as well.
“We get that this has been a long history of the use of this term, and it will take people a while to get used to it, and that’s fine,” Hutchinson told the Thresher. “It will represent not a cultural change, but a change in habits, and those take time.”