Let the bells sound! They’ve done it!
The two dozen heads of Harvard’s Houses have finally reached a decision on a replacement for their supposedly racist title of “master”: “Faculty Dean.”
And it took them “only” two months to come up with the new moniker.
You can almost hear that collective sigh of relief, can’t you?
“Some have called it a ‘mistake’ believing that we didn’t understand the root of the word ‘master,’ or that we lacked a proper appreciation for the history of the title at Harvard and the European institutions from which Harvard leaders took inspiration, or that we were acting too quickly and without thought to student demands,” [Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D.] Smith wrote. “None of these could be farther from the truth.”
Smith also wrote that the new name does not directly respond to those critiques.
“I want to emphasize that a decision to change does not necessarily mean that what came before was wrong,” Smith wrote. “I have not been shown any direct connection between the term House Master and the institution of slavery.”
However, he wrote that “titles send a message” and they can and should change when such a change serves the College’s mission.
Wait – is the title objectionable or not? Sixty days spent working on a new title … and Harvard is told that “master” isn’t necessarily wrong?
Mather House Mas- er, Faculty Dean Michael D. Rosengarten, who thinks “master” is “offensive and inappropriate” to use around students, is also unsatisfied with his new designation:
“’We have a lot of deans now at Harvard,” Rosengarten said, adding that students could be confused by the word “faculty” in the title because not all Faculty Deans are Harvard professors. Additionally, all Houses have separate resident deans who are also members of FAS.
Also in the “Damned If You Do …” file is House Undergraduate Council representative William A. Greenlaw, who said he’s concerned “the College might pat itself on the back for doing the name change” and use it as some excuse to “forget about issues of greater cultural import on campus.”
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