Campus, News

Myles Standish Hall renamed to 610 Beacon Street

Boston University will rename Myles Standish Hall to 610 Beacon St., following years of activism on campus calling for the removal of the controversial colonial military leader’s name from the dormitory.

The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees unanimously voted on May 16 to accept Interim President Kenneth Freeman’s recommendation to change the name. Freeman’s recommendation to rename the building comes before President-Elect Melissa Gilliam assumes office in July. 

Myles Standish Hall. The residence hall, formerly named after a military leader of the Plymouth Colony from the 1600s who fatally ambushed leaders of the Massachusett Tribe, will be renamed to its address, 610 Beacon Street. XIAOYA SHAO/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

In a letter obtained by The Daily Free Press, Freeman announced to the Faculty Council on May 23 that BU would remove Standish’s name from the building. The news was made public the same day. 

The decision came after the council sent a letter to the interim president on April 9 requesting he consider the change.

“In making my recommendation, I referenced the arguments and sentiments reflected in the Council’s recommendation and in the petitions and letters the Council referenced,” Freeman wrote in his letter. 

Since BU has “no restrictive covenants” or “gift agreements associated with the Myles Standish name,” the University was able to make this change, according to Freeman. 

In the letter, Freeman wrote that “it is helpful to have the option for a donor to name a major, highly visible building,” referring to the dorm, which was previously owned by the Myles Standish Hotel and bought by BU in 1945.

Standish is a recurring symbol throughout Massachusetts — including on the state’s seal. The state seal and flag features a Native American holding an arrow in his left hand and a bow in his right hand. Above the figure is a sword modeled after Standish’s, pointing downward, toward the Native figure’s head. 

Native Americans have said the seal’s imagery is offensive due to Standish’s violence toward local tribes. Standish is known to most for his role as commander of the militia of establishing Plymouth Colony, the first English colony. However, at a peaceful summit in 1623, Standish ambushed and murdered Indigenous war chiefs, warriors and several Wessagusset villagers, according to Massachusetts Tribal History. 

Standish also beheaded the tribal leader Wituwamat and displayed his head at the Plymouth Colony meetinghouse as a warning to other tribes. In fall 2021, The Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag and Travis Franks, a former postdoctoral associate at Kilachand Honors College,  petitioned to rename Myles Standish Hall to Wituwamat Memorial Hall in honor of the tribal leader Standish killed. The petition received more than 1,900 signatures. 

Former President Robert Brown rejected the petition, arguing the importance of honoring Standish’s contributions to Massachusetts history, as previously reported by The Daily Free Press.

“To remove his name from the residence hall would discount his significant role in our history,” Brown wrote in a 2021 letter obtained by the Daily Free Press. 

In response to Brown’s rejection, more than 170 student organizations on campus signed an open letter to Brown and the Board of Trustees in Fall 2022, urging them to rename the building to Wituwamat Memorial Hall.

“Boston University’s refusal to honor the wish of the Massachusett Tribe to rename Myles Standish Hall sends a message that the genocide of Indigenous People by European colonists is tolerable and worthy of praise and recognition,” the letter said.

In his letter, Freeman thanked those who wanted to maintain the building’s name as well as those who advocated to change it, particularly the 170 student organizations.

“This decision reflects their advocacy, too, and I am grateful to those faculty, staff, and students for initiating this conversation several years ago,” Freeman wrote.  

Anne Joseph, a senior at BU and an organizer of the open letter, was disappointed that the University did not rename the building to Wituwamat Memorial Hall. 

Joseph was upset that the University did not take students’ opinions into account because of their constant communication with administrators about the issue.

“Using our work [and] crediting it to kind of praise the work but not actually listening to what we said,” Joseph said. “It’s definitely disappointing.” 

Organizers are still advocating to rename Myles Standish Hall to Wituwamat Memorial Hall. Joseph said the “fight is not over” and they “will not disappear.”

Akwasi Antwi, a senior at BU and incoming student body president, said the renaming is “a long time coming.”

Antwi, who grew up in Massachusetts, said it “saddens” him to see Standish represented on his state’s flag. 

“Massachusetts is still a living breathing embodiment of actions that he took,” Antwi said. “Not only just Massachusetts, but the entire New England region is rooted in the history of oppressing Native Americans.”

He said students should feel “gratified but not satisfied” about BU’s decision to rename the dorm.

“I’d be cautious and advise the student body that this is not the time to just celebrate this one win,” Antwi said. “When just looking at our world right now and what BU is involved in, I think that there’s so much more to be done.”

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2 Comments

  1. I lived in Myles from 1980-82 and in my class (’84) there was a student at BU named Myles Standish, apparently a distant relative of the colonist. Does he have to change his name as well?

  2. Anthony DeLosa Jr.

    I lived at Myles Standish hall in 1974-75, the year that “million dollar Myles” had finished it’s renovations. It was, and is probably still, a nice dormitory to live. I don’t understand why the building had to change it’s name? it seems some of the “woke” students now at B.U. don’t know ALL the history involved. Myles Standish was the military captain of the new Plymouth Colony. He was put in that position because a dozen years earlier in the first colony at Jamestown Virginia, the Powhatan Indians killed most of the original 144 men and boys (only, no women ) at the colony via their attacks on the settlement such that only 38 of the original 144 men survived. ( old school genocide! ) To be fair, about half died from disease and famine.
    Myles standish protected the original Plymouth Colony from homicidal indigenous Indians so that the colony could survive and flourish. Myles Standish did his job and survived to celebrate the first Thanksgiving with the indigenous indians of Massachusetts in an effort to assimilate the two peoples and mitigate the frequency of attacks on the colonists, in part by, the Wituwamat and other tribesmen of the area. That is why Standish beheaded the chief of the Wituwamat indians after capture from an attack. To send a message to all the other indians to beware and let them know they will defend themselves. And they did…
    For this, those uninformed B.U. students want to rename the dormitory after a homocidal indian tribe that wanted to wipe out the Plymouth colony?! to wit, Massac husetts and Boston University would not exist today!

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