'Discomfited Some Students': 'Masters' of Princeton Colleges Change Title to 'Head of College'

By Mark Judge | November 18, 2015 | 3:12pm EST

Princeton University has announced that it will discontinue the title of "master" for faculty members who help run Princeton's six residential colleges. The six colleges are Butler, Forbes, Mathey, Rockefeller, Whitman and Wilson. 

"Master" has been a term used for these faculty members since the early 1980s. The former masters, who along with a dean, director of studies, director of student life and others operate the residential colleges, will now be called "head of college."

"I enthusiastically support the change adopted by our heads of college," Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said. "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." 

The change comes at the same time that students at Princeton and around the country have lead protests to demand lower student debt, a curriculum more focused on minoritites, and greater awareness of alleged racism on campus.

On November 18 a group of about 30 Princeton students called Black Justice League occupied President Eisgruber's office to issue a list of demands. The demands included removing a portrait of Woodrow Wilson and the renaming of the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs, mandatory "cultural comptency training" training for faculuty and staff, and "a public conversation, which will be student led and administration supported, on the true role of freedom of speech and intellectual freedom of thought in a way that does not reinforce anti-blackness and xenophobia."

Woodrow Wilson was president of Princeton from 1902 to 1910 and Presidnet of the United States from 1913 to 1921.

"I appeciate where your demands are coming from," Eisgruber said. "I agree with you, Woodrow Wilson was a racist, but I cannot sign your document."

The press release on the change of the term "master" reads in part:

"The masters of the residential colleges at Princeton University have changed their titles to "head of the college," effective immediately.

"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."

"Though we are aware that the term 'master' has a long history of use in universities (indeed since medieval times), it seems to me by now to be anachronistic and unfortunate for the positions we hold," said Sandra Bermann, head of Whitman College, Cotsen Professor of the Humanities and professor of comparative literature. "We are glad to take on the designation as 'head of the college' that describes our role more aptly."

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