Harvard replaces “house master”
Following more than two months of deliberation, Harvard announced Wednesday that the university’s house masters will now be called faculty deans.
Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Science Dean Michael Smith made the announcement in a Wednesday evening email to the university’s undergraduates and professors. As at Yale, some students at Harvard have said the word “master” — which was previously used to refer to the heads of Harvard’s undergraduate residential houses — has associations with slavery and discrimination. In this message, Smith also addressed criticisms of the decision to change the title at all and emphasized that he has not seen any direct connection between the term house master and slavery. Still, he reaffirmed the university’s decision and said the title “dean” is the most appropriate for the position in this time and place.
“Titles can and should change when such a change serves our mission,” Smith wrote in the email. “I want to emphasize that a decision to change does not necessarily mean that what came before was wrong.”