Rice University Won’t Use the Word ‘College Master’ Anymore, Citing ‘Negative Historical Connotation’

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 8:42 am, April 10, 2017

Rice University has dropped use of the word “college master,” instead calling the overseers of its residential colleges the “college magisters.”

The term “masters” had a negative historical connotation that was too close to “slave master,” Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson told the student newspaper.

“The initiative to make a change came from the masters themselves, who recognized that the title was problematic,” Hutchinson 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.”

For the past year, the university has considered the change, consulting both the student government at the college masters, themselves. The final decision was announced late last week, and over the summer, Rice University will begin replacing the wording on its website, physical signs on campus and elsewhere.

So far, most of the campus has supported the switch, Hutchinson told the Houston Chronicle. “One student said she was pleased that the new title is ‘Harry Potter-like,” he added.

Rice University is the latest of several colleges to shake up their terminology to avoid giving offense. In 2015, both Harvard and Princeton also did away with “college masters,” instead saying “heads of the colleges” and Yale did the same last year. Also last month, Yale administrators said the word “freshman” was not gender-inclusive, replacing it with “first years.”

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.

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