Yale to stop addressing heads of colleges as ‘master’; it’s racist, sexist and evokes slavery

Some students at one of the nation’s most prestigious Ivy League universities want to eliminate the title “master” for members of the faculty who head residential colleges, saying it is racist and sexist.

The Yale website defines “master” as “the chief administrative officer and the presiding faculty presence in each residential college. He or she is responsible for the physical well-being and safety of students in the residential college, as well as for fostering and shaping the social, cultural, and educational life and character of the college.”

Stephen Davis, a religious studies professor and head of Yale’s Pierson College, wrote to his students in August that he was not going to use the title.

“I think there should be no context in our society or in our university in which an African-American student, professor, or staff member—or any person, for that matter—should be asked to call anyone ‘master.’ And there should be no context where male-gendered titles should be normalized as markers of authority,” he wrote.

“I have heard stories and witnessed situations involving members of our community who have felt viscerally marginalized by this linguistic practice: students who have felt it necessary to move off campus their junior or senior year to avoid a system where the title ‘master’ is valorized; faculty members who cringe at this aspect of our college culture; tea guests who perform subtle and dexterous verbal gymnastics to avoid having to say the name,” Davis added.

The Yale Daily News agreed and suggested taking it farther by getting rid of the title altogether:

When a black student is asked to address an authority figure as “master” — and especially when serving that person, as students do in their capacity as “master’s aides” — the association can be disempowering.

What is the purpose of subjecting our peers to this, if some find it painful? We all prize tradition, but we find no great value in this title. Few memories of Yale, few moments of personal growth or shared discovery, stem from calling the heads of residential colleges “master.”


Not all Yale students agreed, including one who spoke to Campus Reform on the condition of anonymity because he feared a “lynch mob” coming after him for disagreeing.

“Master Davis is really doing a disservice to all of the people who’ve been master of Pierson before him,” the student said.

“He’s ignoring actual history just so that he can push an agenda,” the student added, “and I’m worried that that will be increasingly common at Yale.”

Social media users found the entire idea to be ridiculous.


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