You may have seen the news of Princeton's courageous decision to rename the “masters” of its residential colleges as “heads” in response to the unrest at Missouri, Yale, etc.
As an alumnus/a/x of the university, I wholly support this decision. Given that Princeton has mostly discarded other contingent artifacts of its historic origins in the medieval university, such as humane learning and the pursuit of truth, it is fitting that vestigial titles such as “master” are abandoned too, in favor of less fraught terms like “head.”
While this is surely a step in the right direction, I'm still troubled by the unacknowledged cephalocentrism that is presupposed in elevating certain, historically-privileged body parts above others. Furthermore, although in the medieval university it may have been common and acceptable for leaders to “use their heads” when addressing matters of common concern, surely this is inappropriate in the modern university. Therefore, I propose that Princeton change heads of colleges' titles to “asses.” Not only would this help to reclaim a historically marginalized part of the body, taking on the designation “ass of the college” would describe their role more aptly, and would reflect the way that most of us no doubt perceive their role in the college and their relationships with students and faculty fellows. I urge you to join with me in advocating for effective change that makes Princeton a more affirming community.
Hobey Baker, ’14