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No more "house masters" at Harvard

Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley 6084 replies100309 postsFounder Senior Member
The Harvard Crimson is reporting that the current masters of Harvard's residential houses have unanimously decided to change the "house master" name due to the term's association with slavery:
http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2015/12/2/house-masters-change-title/

The article quotes one current master:

"We cannot ignore the fact that the term ‘master’ has a particular salience in our culture given the very real brutal history of slavery. A new term that appreciates the realities of the work we do in the 21st century is much more appropriate."

The article did not address the issue of Harvard's continued awarding of Masters degrees, or whether they would seek to rename those certificates as well. Of course, that might then open up the issue of how appropriate a "bachelor" degree is, since the term is associated with unmarried men. In addition, science majors might find the common degree abbreviation "BS" as disrespectful to their academic achievements.
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Replies to: No more "house masters" at Harvard

  • SoheilsSoheils 481 replies19 postsRegistered User Member
    edited December 2015
    @Roger_Dooley that is why I mentioned "sharp as a whip". The expression has nothing to do with slavery, but a whip is a symbol of bondage.
    I can not see the point of these actions. Can somebody tell me what these minor changes are supposed to achieve?
    The part about niggardly is funny. My cousin is named negar (Persian for both pretty and painting). If she ever comes to the US, will people refuse to pronounce her name?
    edited December 2015
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  • Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley 6084 replies100309 postsFounder Senior Member
    Sadly, @Soheils, your cousin's name is beautiful but would no doubt startle some in the US and discomfort a few. (If the accent is on the second syllable, that's less likely.) That's not to say she should not use it and be proud of it if she visits the US. "Roger" has an unfortunate slang meaning in England, but I've never worried about it.
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  • SoheilsSoheils 481 replies19 postsRegistered User Member
    edited December 2015
    @Roger_Dooley the accent is on the first syllable, haha. I was using her name to make a point, but I am quite dumbfounded that people don't see the problem with these attempts. I am willing to bet that a sizeable number of Iranian Americans have negar or its derivatives as their name. I grieve for them.
    But my point is that the thoughts of a speaker are far more important than the historical implications of the words he chooses to carry those thoughts.
    Re the link :
    The student was offended because he felt he was not showing enough love. Should one cry or laugh?
    edited December 2015
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  • karakoramkarakoram 75 replies1 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    How does the word 'Master' in this context even have anything to do with slavery? Aren't they just called Masters because of the terminology used in the Oxbridge college systems, which the Harvard house system is based on?
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 41497 replies446 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don't have a problem with that. It's a micro/nano-problem. House masters don't want to be called like that - they can be named the way they are at other colleges, ie., faculty in residence, or whatever they please.
    It actually harks back to the "in loco parentis" laws etc, which are no longer in place, but frankly, who cares?
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  • paul2752paul2752 4777 replies349 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited December 2015
    Oh I thought it was students wanting to change it...if the schools want to change it, then it's a teeny tiny matter.

    Aren't we supposed to care more about terrorism in and out of country?
    edited December 2015
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  • RequinRequin 174 replies5 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    My old House master back in the day would have laughed his impressive head off at this nonsense. The upside of things like this for me personally is that I save a bundle in donations. With every new initiative that cowers before the whining undergraduates, my donations to Harvard go down.
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  • NotVerySmartNotVerySmart 1608 replies62 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited December 2015
    It's a testament to the current atmosphere that Harvard masters made this move, likely hoping to prevent incidents at Harvard like those seen recently at Yale and Princeton.

    I personally believe no society was ever changed for the better merely by declaring all offensive terms and ideas off-limits, but there are those who believe that it's possible for authorities - whether public, such as the government, or private, such as universities - to legislate and regulate personal beliefs out of existence. I personally don't think that's the case, but those who do are certainly entitled to their opinion.

    My own view is that a rebranding of the former masters' positions, like the firing of Erika Christakis or the renaming of the Woodrow Wilson School, is unlikely to help the country's black population as the elimination of legacy preference would. The latter step would help hundreds if not thousands of underprivileged applicants, while symbolic gestures will spare the feelings of the handful of (mostly affluent, rarely underprivileged) current students who care about a Public Policy school's name or the use of the term "master." Yet legacy is, and will likely remain, the third rail of college admissions - as untouchable as defense spending and social security are in politics - because any change with concrete results will be opposed by a bevy of vested interests.
    edited December 2015
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  • mathyonemathyone 4193 replies34 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited December 2015
    One of the things the SAT attempts to test is a student's ability to distinguish between multiple distinct meanings of the same word. Apparently students are now able to score high enough to get into top schools without understanding this. So, rather than cleaving to the historical language which might cause offense via some alternative meaning, they need to cleave all such terms from University vocabulary.

    They could start to award "Bachelorette" degrees, but I think the reference to marital status could be a trigger for traumatized divorced persons, so it would be best simply to call it "College degree". Except that we also cannot use the word "degree" as that would be confused with the measure of temperature by those whose ability to comprehend multiple meanings of words is so impaired, so it needs to be called "College certificate of completion".

    Not having time to peruse all Harvard University publications, I will just point out the glaring example of the "Teaching Fellow"-- a gratuitous evocation of the many years in the history of the college when women were second class students, if permitted to attend at all. That can easily be fixed by renaming it to "Teaching Assistant" as every other college uses this title anyhow. All "Fellowship" programs will have to be renamed of course. It's rather shocking that even Radcliffe has been promoting this obviously sexist nomenclature. This will of course preclude the many "Postdoctoral Fellows" employed at Harvard from using this term or from applying for grant and salary support under this name ...which brings us to the Federal Government--also complicit in this. The names of their support programs will need to be changed. I suggest "Postdoctoral Person", but ideas are welcome.
    edited December 2015
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  • RequinRequin 174 replies5 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    "Seminar," of course, reeks (ahem) of male privilege. Maybe these classes (whoops, inequality!) should be renamed "share time."
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  • InfinityManInfinityMan 446 replies4 postsRegistered User Member
    This is getting ridiculous. I really doubt the faculty would have come up with this 'epiphany' if it weren't for the Yale thing.
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  • tiger1307tiger1307 273 replies0 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    So Requin is going to give less money to his alma mater because they decided to change a few names. That makes a lot of sense. Harvard doesn't seem to be hurting for people wanting to give money to it. Maybe some of the alumni should threaten to boycott the christmas party at the Harvard club in retaliation over this
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