Masters change their titles to 'head' of residential colleges

The masters of the residential colleges at Princeton University have changed their titles to "head of college," effective immediately.

"The former 'masters' of our six residential colleges have long been in conversation with the Office of the Dean of the College about their anachronistic, historically vexed titles," Dean of the College Jill Dolan said. "We believe that calling them 'head of college' better captures the spirit of their work and their contributions to campus residential life."

"Though we are aware that the term 'master' has a long history of use in universities (indeed since medieval times), it seems to me by now to be anachronistic and unfortunate for the positions we hold," said Sandra Bermann, head of Whitman College, Cotsen Professor of the Humanities and professor of comparative literature. "We are glad to take on the designation as 'head of the college' that describes our role more aptly."

"We think the name change is a good idea," said Jeff Nunokawa, the head of Rockefeller College and a professor of English. "We think the new title is a better name for who we are."

"The new title reflects the way I perceive my role in the college and my relationships with students and faculty fellows in Butler," added Nicole Shelton, head of Butler College and Stuart Professor of Psychology.

"I enthusiastically support the change adopted by our heads of college," President Christopher L. Eisgruber said. "The new title better describes their roles, and it does away with antiquated terminology that discomfited some students, faculty, and the heads of college themselves." 

The colleges — Butler, Forbes, Mathey, Rockefeller, Whitman and Wilson — offer an array of academic and social programs for undergraduate students. All freshmen and sophomores live in the colleges, and three of the colleges also have juniors and seniors.

Academic advising for freshmen and sophomores is centered at the colleges, and undergraduates also benefit from the guidance of residential college advisers, who are upperclass students, and resident graduate students.

Besides a head, each residential college is staffed by a dean, a director of studies, a director of student life and others. Faculty members have headed residential colleges under the title "master" since the modern system was put in place in the early 1980s.

"The new title resonates with their positions as people who lead communities where people live, as well as work and study, and provides a more accurate description of their important role in guiding our students through their curricular and co-curricular experiences," said Dolan, who is also the Annan Professor in English and professor of English and theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts. "We're pleased to be able to change our language to better reflect our intent and goals."

Rochelle Calhoun, the vice president for campus life, said the new title "better represents the relationship that the faculty cultivate in our residential colleges, one of academic leadership and community stewardship."