For nearly 100 years, Yale University has had a residential college system, with separate, self-governed colleges each led by a faculty member referred to as a “master.”
Yale students reject the term’s connection to plantation slavery. They also object to it because it’s a male-gendered title – as opposed to, say, “mistress.”
On Wednesday, the staff at the Yale Daily News, the oldest independent college daily newspaper, also joined in the debate, calling for an end to the title of master at Yale.
Master is not an appropriate term in today’s society, YDN argued.
“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,” YDN wrote.
YDN argued that removing the title would not fundamentally change any part of Yale’s history or identity, but would be a substantial step in making the Yale community more inclusive.
Stephen Davis, master of Pierson College, wrote an email to Pierson students in August arguing the same point and asking them to no longer call him “Master Davis.”
“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,'” Davis wrote to his students, according to YDN. “And there should be no context where male-gendered titles should be normalized as markers of authority.”
This isn’t the first call for a change to Yale’s residential college system by YDN, other students, and alumni. There have been calls to rename Calhoun College, named for John C. Calhoun, a fervent supporter of slavery.