College Has Yet To Replace House Master Title

After unanimously agreeing to change their collective titles last December, Harvard’s House masters have yet to agree on a replacement.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana issued a statement in December announcing that the leaders of Harvard’s 12 residential Houses had “unanimously” agreed to change their title to “suggest a new title that reflects the current realities of the role,” and would announce the replacement sometime early in 2016. Some students have criticized the title for a perceived association with slavery.

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But, according to House masters in Winthrop, Mather, Eliot, and Adams, progress on a new title has been slow going.

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., co-master of Winthrop House, said “no” when asked whether discussions on a new name had begun.

“We're going to discuss [the name change] when spring semester starts,” he wrote in an email last Thursday.


In an email, College spokesperson Rachael Dane confirmed that no decision on a new name has been made yet.

“The House Masters have been in discussion and are considering several options for new titles. They have not yet shared their discussions with Dean Smith for his consideration,” she wrote in a separate follow up email, referring to Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith.

That, however, has not stopped speculation on potential replacement titles.

Adams House co-master Sean Palfrey ’67 wrote in an email that some potential replacements were less preferable. For example, Palfrey wrote that he found the title “leader”—as Khurana has referred to House masters in recent emails—too boring a title, whereas some more ornate words like “magister” or “rector” are too old-fashioned or religious.

Discussion around House masters’ controversial titles began late last semester, during a tumultuous period of racial protests and activism on campuses nationwide. Within Harvard’s own gates, a group of Harvard Latino students issued a set of demands to University President Drew G. Faust, one of which requested changing the existing nomenclature.

House Master Name Change Timeline

House masters have been publicly supportive of the change.

Mather House co-master Michael D. Rosengarten wrote in an email that “this change is a meaningful and important illustration of the sensitivity and the caring of those of us who are the heads of the Harvard Houses.”

Additionally, Khurana—a co-master of Cabot House himself—said he was “personally uncomfortable” with the term just one day before he sent out an email signed by all 24 of the College’s resident House masters announcing the title’s planned change.

The House leaders’ docket committee, “a senior College team member,” and the House masters themselves will decide the new title, Khurana wrote in his original email announcing the change.

—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.

—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ignacio_sabate.


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