‘Head of house’ to replace ‘housemaster’ title

The “housemaster” title was changed to “head of house” yesterday after several housemasters requested a new title in January.

Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 said that the now-heads of house felt that the term was “gendered, carrie[d] negative historical connotations, and ha[d] created confusion and feelings of offense outside our community.”

“Head of house” was chosen over popular alternatives such as “house dean,” “house maven,” and “Dumbledore,” striking a balance between professionalism and Harry Potter nostalgia.

Students cited gender-neutrality as a pro, and believed that “head of house” was more inclusive of non-faculty spouses and partners than “Housemaster,” Barnhart said in an email to undergraduate and graduate housemasters.

Barnhart asked an ad-hoc group of faculty and staff to recommend action on the new title, and they agreed that “head of house” does not carry the “gendered and colonial baggage” that “housemaster” does.

They also said that “this change is consistent with our ongoing self-review and efforts to use language that reflects the MIT of today, not yesterday,” while simultaneously celebrating the new title’s “rich heritage in the English education system.”

Barnhart believes that “it will take time for ‘Head of House’ to become part of our daily lexicon,” but wants the community to use it and its informal variations (such as “Head of Ashdown House”) as much as possible.

She said that updates to websites and paperwork would begin during the remainder of the semester.

The Tech will continue to recognize both terms and will use the new term to the extent it is adopted in the community.