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BU to change the name of dorm named for English colonist who massacred Native Americans

Boston University's Myles Standish Hall in 2019.Lane Turner

Boston University will remove the name of Myles Standish, an English Plymouth Colony military leader who committed violent atrocities against Native Americans, from one of its campus dormitories, announced BU’s interim President Kenneth Freeman in a Thursday letter to the university’s faculty council.

Standish led the 1623 Massacre at Wessagusset, in which settlers lured members of the native Massachusett Tribe into a peace dinner before ambushing and brutally murdering them. Standish beheaded Wituwamat, a leader of the tribe’s Neponset Band, and publicly displayed the severed head on a pole for months afterward.

The decision to remove Standish’s name from the hall, which was approved earlier this month by the executive committee of the BU Board of Trustees, comes after years of advocacy by students and faculty. The name change campaign was most recently lead by Anna Ward, a lecturer in counseling psychology, and Laura Jiménez, an associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion and a senior lecturer in literacy education. Both are part of the university’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

To hear that the trustees had voted unanimously to remove Standish’s name was “enormously satisfying,” Jiménez said in an interview. “It’s a relief that this process was, at every step, about educating people about the issue and not necessarily convincing them that this is the right thing to do,” she said.


According to BU Today, Freeman, in his letter to faculty, thanked “the many people who advocated for the name change before I became president ad interim and, particularly, the 170 student organizations who called for the renaming. This decision reflects their advocacy, too, and I am grateful to those faculty, staff, and students for initiating this conversation several years ago.”

For now, the building — which marks the east entrance to campus — will be known by its address, 610 Beacon Street. The name change will also come with information in the building entryway that references the original name of the building and the role of Standish in Massachusetts history, according to BU Today.


Although Ward said she was “happily surprised” by the university’s announcement this week, she and Jiménez said the removal of Standish’s name is just a first step. There is more work to be done, the two faculty members said, to expand BU’s educational practices around Native American history and its relationship with the Massachusett and other regional tribes.

“That’s an important part of this — that we do take the next step, to not just simply remove the name, but then really honor the Indigenous people in the area and work with them to have this [building] be named in a way that’s important for everyone involved,” said Ward, who is a member of the Osage Nation and said she identifies as Indigenous.

“Removing the name is a great first step,” Ward said, noting that BU doesn’t offer a minor or major in Indigenous and Native studies. “Now it’s, what more can we do?”

Ward and Jiménez made their case for removing the name to the Wheelock Faculty Assembly last fall, the BU Today post says. After being provided with educational information about Standish’s history, the Wheelock faculty voted unanimously in favor of a name change, and faculty at six other BU schools and colleges also voted in support, according to BU Today.


The BU Faculty Council then voted overwhelmingly in favor of the name change in April before Freeman took the resolution to the trustees executive committee.

But before Ward and Jiménez garnered faculty support, the advocacy for the name change started years prior — among the student body. Undergraduate students Adam Shamsi and Anne Joseph first asked to have Standish’s name removed in 2022, BU Today reports. They also requested the building be renamed the Wituwamat Memorial Hall, as suggested by members of the Massachuset Tribe at Ponkapoag.

“If Standish’s actions were seen as detestable by members of his own colony, then why does Boston University find it necessary to celebrate him?” the students said in a 2022 open letter signed by numerous student organizations. “The glorification of settler colonialism evident in the hall named for ‘Myles Standish’ has an impact on our community.”

Shamsi and Joseph also penned an op-ed in BU Today that called the dormitory — which opened in 1928 as a luxury hotel before being acquired by BU in 1949 — a “symbol of continued oppression.” But their efforts were rejected by then-president Robert A. Brown, who BU Today at the time said he was not prepared to remove the name.

Ward said she was encouraged when she read the students’ op-ed in 2022, her first year as a BU lecturer. She had arrived to campus full of excitement for her new faculty position, her first academic venture after receiving her PhD. But her enthusiasm was dampened, or at least called into question, when the first building she saw on campus was named for Standish, she said.


“There had been that moment of pride and expectation for this point in my career moving forward ... I’m in this amazing university with these high new career aspirations, and just really almost instantly, thought, ‘Oh, wait, the first building I see on campus is Myles Standish Hall,’” said Ward, who isn’t from the Northeast but understood Standish’s history.

Ward and Jiménez said the university’s step to remove Standish’s name reflects the culminated efforts of students, faculty, and staff who learned the name’s history and called for change in recent years.

“We wanted to continue [the students’] work. We didn’t want to surpass or smother it,” Jiménez said. “We wanted to say, look this is what they did. Now it is our job to pick this up as faculty and continue it.”

Madeline Khaw can be reached at maddie.khaw@globe.com. Follow her @maddiekhaw.