Planet Princeton

An Unfortunate Name: Masters at Princeton University Change Job Title to `Heads of College’

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.”

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Sandra J. Bierman

    Absolutely, let’s change all names that bother us!!!! A Master of a prestigious university, or boarding/day school is the principal, there are no hidden connotations, so, yes, I consider that a waste of time and efforts that could be put into improving othef situations. There are kids who go to college who might feel homesick, isolated and so forth; what they need is mentors to walk them through what for some could by a sort of culture shock; now, that would be better. It is my understanding that there are so many clubs, groups, associations, egg that I wonder how it is even possible that these kids feel isolated and hurt when there are plenty of groups that share their same interests and they could join. And besides, PU is a private university with a Headmaster snd with a school named Woodrow Wilson, who was also president of the United States; I asume that when the students apply they know that, if they don’t like it; there are plenty of other very prestigious universities without a headmaster but with a president. I wonder if they also want to take the name of Woodrow Wilson from the list of US presidents or perhaps his portrait should be taken off the walls of the WH.
    Thanks for your input Mr or Mrs Fresh Air, I accept all races, gender orientation, scoop economic classes, etc., as long as I can have a conversation with valid arguments; so, thanks for expressing your views, I expressed mine and I stick with them.

  • FreshAir

    Ms. Bierman, “These kids”, as you call them, are young adults from a new generation. Most are far more accepting & far more kind in matters of inclusion than their elders ever were. How wonderful it is that young adults talk about their deepest feelings of hurt or concern, in a world gone cyber. How wonderful that they are willing to question the constructs of this thing you call “the real world”, that was built by generations before them, as they strive to make the world an even better place. The title “Masters” applied to a mixed group is sexist. When applied by White leadership, it is also a racist title. And so it is nothing less than proper that the title “Masters” be changed in this century & not a minute too soon. I don’t understand why you cannot see that sometimes labels need an update to reflect progress. The disregard & disrespect for young adults posted on this site in recent weeks saddens me. They are our conscious, they are our future, & they embody the very best that we can ever be, as we hope & dream. They are you, a you from years ago, and deserve our love, our help, & our understanding.

  • Sandra J. Bierman

    Funny how little things such as changing a name, make people happy…as it the name change could erase history. People are over sensitive. These kids are not going to be able to deal with the real world; there are things that one likes and things that one dislikes, in every step of the way, and one just has to roll with it. These old universities carry a tradition and there is nothing wrong in preserving it; however, caving to the outcries of students who feel isolated, sad, miss home, or don’t like the way they are looked at; pleeeeaassse!

  • So following the same logic, will Princeton graduates now be award “Head of Science” degrees instead of Master of Science.

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