Fighting for an option to be no one's master
By Kevin Gale
Western graduate students no longer want to be servants to the title masters on their degrees, a term some of them see as gender specific.
Western's Society of Graduate Students voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing graduate students in masters programs to put the term magisteriate instead of masters on their Western degrees at last night's council meeting.
The decision now means SOGS will petition Senate to adopt the recommendation that graduating students be given the choice of nomenclature on their degree.
A second motion was also passed which, if accepted by Senate, would allow current Western masters degree holders the option to change their degree to a magisteriate.
"It's a non-existent word for a non-existent problem," said Kenneth Hilborn, Western history professor and Senator. "[Magisteriate] is not in any established dictionary. It's feminist clap-trap."
"When I hit my thumbnail with a hammer I use words that aren't in the dictionary," said Mike Hohner, SOGS VP-academic, adding the word masters is considered offensive by some graduate students.
In 1995, the same idea was brought forth to Senate along with the idea of allowing for the substitution of the designation of bachelor with the designation of baccalaureate.
Baccalaureate was accepted and magisteriate was defeated. Hilborn said Senate had a good laugh debating the magisteriate designation. "It provided good comic relief after the budget discussion," he said.
Yvonne Darnell, SOGS graduate school of library and information sciences councillor, said the term masters is sexist. "Mastering something as a verb is not sexist, but in this case it is used as a title. You don't bachelor a subject or doctor a subject," she said.
The important aspect of the motion is that it gives students a choice and the university should grant that choice, SOGS president Andrew Hui, said.
Hohner said since the university allowed the designation baccalaureate to be printed on degrees at the students discretion back in 1995, the granting of a magisteriate designation is the next logical step. "It's time for the university to move out of the dark ages of prehistory and into the enlightened age," he said.
Currently, Concordia University in Montreal and York University are the only two schools in Canada that have adopted the magisteriate designation. "We are becoming trendsetters somewhat," Hohner said.
The term masters has no gender specific reference, said Greg Moran, Western's VP-academic. "I'm perfectly content with the designation of master. It has been widely established and well recognized," he said.
It does not make sense to debate the issue once again after it was debated so recently, Moran said. He added the decision would have to go through the graduate program and policy board before reaching Senate. He said he believes the board will be reluctant to bring the motion to Senate again so soon.
SOGS will now try to get Senate approval of the motion at the April 20 meeting.