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Jennifer Newton | 25 February 2016 | MailOnline
Harvard University removes the word master from its academic titles after protests over slavery and considers changing its official seal
- Harvard has confirmed they will scrap the word ‘master’ from its job titles
- Comes after protest word has racist connotations and is linked to slavery
- Massachusetts school says it is also considering changing its official seal
- The seal features the crest of the former slave holding family the Royalls
Harvard University has confirmed they will abolish the word master from academic titles due to its racist connotations and links to slavery and are considering changing their official seal.
College Dean Rakesh Khurana announced in an email to students that House leaders decided to change the title ‘to reflect the current realities of the role’ and it had been approved by the Massachusetts university president.
It comes as the school also debates whether to scrap their seal which features the crest of the former slaveholding Royall family. Isaac Royall, born in 1719 in Antigua, was the son of wealthy sugar plantation and the owner of many slaves.
House masters are the heads of the 12 halls of residence and are responsible for overseeing the pastoral care of undergraduates. Ivy League institutions adopted the term from British schools, notably Oxford and Cambridge, where ‘master’ is short for ‘schoolmaster’.
However, in the American context, it has been criticized for its associations for slavery.
And in an email, seen by the Washington Post, Mr Khurana said: ‘I write on behalf of myself and my fellow residential House leaders to let you know that the House Masters have unanimously expressed desire to change their title.
‘In the coming weeks, the College will launch a process in which members of the House leaders’ docket committee, working with senior College team members and the House leadership community as a whole, will suggest a new title that reflects the current realities of the role.’
The decision came after Mr Khurana previously told students that a committee ‘will suggest a new title that reflects the current realities of the role’ over the coming weeks. ‘I have not felt comfortable personally with the title,’ he told the college newspaper, The Harvard Crimson.
‘The recommendation to change the title has been a thoughtful one, rooted in a broad effort to ensure that the College’s rhetoric, expectations and practices around our historically unique roles reflects and serves the 21st century needs of residential student life.’
A Facebook page describing itself as a ‘union’ of white Harvard students then emerged at the university, prompting outrage among students. Critics denounced the group as racist, and the discovery sparked an investigation into how the group came about.
The page includes a description which claims that it was formed to ‘defend the inherent rights of White Europeans’. There are also links to the website of the American Renaissance, a group listed as a White Nationalist extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Protests concerning the issue of race are sweeping through universities across the nation. Supporters believe that the protesters’ demands for greater racial awareness is a sign of progress. But others complain the demands are interfering with colleges and universities as places of education.
Princeton University has also made changes to reflect growing racial awareness. It announced that it would be changing the title ‘master of the residential college’ to ‘head of the college’, on November 18. The administration at Princeton is still deciding whether to remove references to President Woodrow Wilson, who led the university from 1902 to 1910, but who many students claim was a racist.
Yale’s president Peter Salovey also said that he had been discussing whether to make a change to remove the word ‘master’ from titles since the beginning of the school year. Other universities have lost members of staff under the pressure of the protests.
The President and chancellor of the University of Missouri both stepped down as a result. isn’t about you, but about others. This is not a day-care centre. It is a university.’