The masters of the residential colleges at Princeton University have changed their titles to “head of the college,” effective immediately, school officials announced this afternoon.
“The former ‘masters’ of our six residential colleges have long been in conversation with the office of the Dean of the College about their anachronistic, historically vexed titles,” Dean of the College Jill Dolan said. “We believe that calling them ‘head of the college’ better captures the spirit of their work and their contributions to campus residential life.”
The term “master” has a long history of use in universities, and has been used since medieval times. But master was also a name used by slave owners.
“It seems to me by now to be anachronistic and unfortunate for the positions we hold,” said Sandra Bermann, head of Whitman College. “We are glad to take on the designation as ‘head of the college’ that describes our role more aptly.”
“We think the name change is a good idea,” said Jeff Nunokawa, the head of Rockefeller College. “We think the new title is a better name for who we are.”
“The new title reflects the way I perceive my role in the college and my relationships with students and faculty fellows in Butler,” said Nicole Shelton, head of Butler College and Stuart Professor of Psychology.
President Christopher Eisgruber said he enthusiastically welcomes the change.
“The new title better describes their roles, and it does away with antiquated terminology that discomfited some students, faculty, and the heads of college themselves,” he said.
The colleges — Butler, Forbes, Mathey, Rockefeller, Whitman and Wilson — offer an array of academic and social programs for undergraduate students. All freshmen and sophomores live in the colleges, and three of the colleges also have juniors and seniors.
Academic advising for freshmen and sophomores is centered at the colleges, and undergraduates also benefit from the guidance of residential college advisers, who are upperclass students, and resident graduate students.
Besides a head, each residential college is staffed by a dean, a director of studies, a director of student life and others. Faculty members have headed residential colleges under the title “master” since the modern system was put in place in the early 1980s.
“The new title resonates with their positions as people who lead communities where people live, as well as work and study, and provides a more accurate description of their important role in guiding our students through their curricular and co-curricular experiences,” said Dolan.”We’re pleased to be able to change our language to better reflect our intent and goals.”
Rochelle Calhoun, the vice president for campus life, said the new title “better represents the relationship that the faculty cultivate in our residential colleges, one of academic leadership and community stewardship.”