Rice U. to abolish the term ‘master’: The reason should be obvious

Rice U. to abolish the term ‘master’: The reason should be obvious
Image: Vichy Deal/Shutterstock

It’s unclear at this point how the university will handle the matter of awarding the graduate degree that comes between baccalaureate and doctorate. Then there’s the whole separate matter of the “master/slave” terminology used to distinguish between, for example, the plug on an electric cord and the wall socket into which it is inserted respectively.

Anyhoo, as Campus Reform advises:

Rice University has announced that it will no longer refer to the heads of residential colleges as “Masters” because of the term’s association with slavery.

Residential colleges at Rice each have their own “faculty master” who lives in an adjacent house and “helps cultivate a variety of cultural and intellectual interests among the students, as well as supporting an effective system of self-government.”

According to The Rice Thresher, the school’s Committee of the Masters began discussing the name change in 2015, and officially endorsed the idea the following year by a 7-2 vote after concluding that the title “fails to capture the complex set of duties and roles expected of us” and could be “unnecessarily alienating to people of color,” which would “interfere with the colleges’ goals of creating an inclusive environment.”

In the grand scheme of things, the energy and thought wasted on this non-issue (plenty of words have multiple meanings) is far less egregious than the decision by Lebanon Valley College to rename Lynch Memorial Hall because of its tendency to trigger anxiety.

As for banning the terms “master” and “slave” in the electrical sense, Los Angeles County back in 2003 did just that. County officials asked manufacturers, suppliers, and contractors to stop using the terms on computer equipment, saying they are “unacceptable and offensive.:

The request … came after an unidentified worker spotted a videotape machine carrying devices labeled “master” and “slave” and filed a discrimination complaint with the county’s Office of Affirmative Action Compliance.

“Based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County, this is not an acceptable identification label,” Joe Sandoval, division manager of purchasing and contract services, said in a memo sent to County vendors.

A proposal at the time to substitute white bitch for “slave” and cracker for “master” was never adopted.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.


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