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‘Masters’ title change not a threat to free speech

By Thresher Editorial Board     11/9/16 8:00am

With most college masters in support of changing their title (see p.1), it does not seem reasonable to invalidate their concerns and their desire for a title more fitting for their roles within the residential college system.

Opponents of the change often cite the academic sense of the term “master.” However, consider Rice’s context: William Marsh Rice was a slave owner and used his riches to found the school. The same man stated only white students may attend Rice, so it is only last year that Rice celebrated the 50th anniversary of black students on its campus. The ramifications of slavery will never cease to exist here. Facetious arguments claiming we must now change the title of “master’s degree” create illogical comparisons: Unlike an academic degree, college masters are in a position of authority over students which implies an inherent power imbalance.

Others say the change reflects an overly sensitive culture of political correctness that could lead to a slippery slope of increasingly restrained freedom of speech. However, this notion suggests either we keep the masters title and our liberties intact, or we change the name and risk crumbling the foundations on which our freedom rests, an argument that leaves no room for nuance. Thus, criticism of changing the term reflects a lack of deeper critical thinking about the connotations of the college master title within the appropriate historical context.

As a newspaper, we ourselves are deeply concerned with freedom of speech, and any restrictions thereof. Yet we do not see how changing the title of the college masters to something more thoughtful will inevitably lead to a culture of speech silenced and repressed.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

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