• Joel Brown

    Staff Writer

    Portrait of Joel Brown. An older white man with greying brown hair, beard, and mustache and wearing glasses, white collared shirt, and navy blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey background.

    Joel Brown is a staff writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. He’s written more than 700 stories for the Boston Globe and has also written for the Boston Herald and the Greenfield Recorder. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 38 comments on Time to Retire the Rhett Name? You Can Weigh In

  1. BU should retire the name Rhett because of its association with Rhett Butler and the Confederacy. There are many positive and uplifting names, mottos and symbols we could choose instead.

  2. A fictional character in a movie who owned fictional slaves because the author thought is so, might not be just cause. It sounds more like people are going out of their way to prove how sensitive they are (pretending?) to be caught up in a cause.

    Rhett and Scarlet are a love story. Scarlet is our school color so Rhett became a natural name for the Boston Terrier BU has chosen as a mascot. People are trying so hard to out sensitize (sic) each other for some nonexistent prize of PC correctness.

    Maybe we could name the mascot Marty or Luther or King. Perhaps after a BU alum thought to plagiarize his Doctoral Dissertation. A document the University fought hard to keep the original of offering the his family a photocopy to be displayed in Atlanta

    But why not go with the University’s latest catch-phrase “f*ckit won’t cut it”. The mascot could be called F*ckit. Imagine an arena of 5000 students and guests SCREAMING F*ckit as the former Rhett skates onto the ice.

    Frankly, I am a little more concerned with NOT getting a matching contribution to my 403B while a magnificently ugly building is apparently desperately needed to be built during a time of fiscal concern at Boston University.

  3. Rhett has been around longer then anybody today on campus has been alive. Keep the tradition going.gone with the wind was a movie. If there names were Peter and Jennifer are those names now racist. Keep the BU tradition going don’t forget MLK went to this university.

  4. Stay ‘woke’ BU .. you’re doing an amazing job of alienating your alumni base .. awesome!

    This may be one of the more genuinely stupid ideas to come from the woke left .. seriously.

    A few years ago, I wrote a letter for a wonderful young woman named ‘Scarlett’ who really wanted to attend BU .. she was admitted, but perhaps should now have her name erased too. I’m not sure how many other Scarlett’s (or Rhett’s for that matter) there are in the alumni base, but to simply review history (or the cast from ‘Roots’ a movie from the ‘70s), there are plenty of people named John, or William, or Thomas, etc etc etc, who may also have once owned slaves .. should we cancel all of these people from the memory banks of BU too?

    Take a look at the Red Sox, and the stupid move to erase Tom Yawkey – and Yawkey Way .. there are folks that will NEVER forgive Sox management for that move, and yet the team is hardly likely to even be able to say that they’ve picked up ‘one new fan’ as a result of the move. Is such a decision ‘really about what’s popular or not’? Nope. But it does demonstrate a disregard for the team and it’s long and distinguished history, only to satisfy a moment of social justice wokeness. Lose the fans, perhaps some of the most dedicated – not cause they’re racists, or because they may have been enormous fans of all the Yawkey family have done for the City, but maybe just because they honor traditions – good, bad, sometimes ugly, but always uniquely it’s own.

    I’m honestly not sure what’s happened to the BU I attended from ‘79-‘83 .. but it’s gone.

    Go ahead .. change the name .. what does it really matter anyway.


  5. Stop this nonsense! There’s nothing racist about the name. Stop catering to people’s demands just because they are sensitive enough to consider that everything is racist, including wonder bread!! I know someone by the name of Rhett. Should he go change his name just because idiots thinks the name is racist? This is absurd and a waste of time. Keep Rhett!

    1. BU should not change the name Rhett. This performative activism is just a PR charade and a waste of money. There are far more important issues that the university should be addressing right now.

  6. F*ckit won’t cut it? Acceptable? No, exceptable. Get a committee to determine if Boston University wishes to be connected to this slogan. Stop following the “pc people” looking for any issue to connect to racism. Rhett is just fine as a name for a mascot. Let’s just wait for the next complaint from someone else. Soon we will have committees to decide what we say everyday. Soon you’ll need permission to name your children.

    1. Agreed. How that “student led group” is allowed to have a filthy name, but a fictional character reference is not allowed is beyond me. “Rhett loves Scarlet” is the reason the dog’s named Rhett – it’s cute and I’m hard pressed to find any people in real life who are offended by it.

      If they do change the name (even though I’m against it) name the mascot “Iggy”. It’s cute

  7. Changing the name Rhett to a one that is less associated with racism is great. But there are also larger priorities that BU needs to respond to in order to make POC feel welcome on campus. This feels like a distraction.

  8. This is dumb, why is this even an issue? The time being spent by BU faculty to investigate this issue is a waste of resources.

    Most BU students/alumni probably don’t want the name to change anyway, seeing as only 1/8 comments on this article are in support of changing the name.

  9. The name Rhett should absolutely be changed, if BU is indeed committed to being a welcoming university for all. People are missing the point that anyone named Rhett or Scarlett is an issue- it’s not at all. But this mascot from what i understand was *specifically* named for a character in what I think all can agree was an extremely racist movie. It portrayed slaves as dumb and happy. Why be connected with that? I say name the mascot BUddy. That is welcoming to all.

  10. I think it should be changed, because it is a pun (Nobody loves Scarlett more than Rhett) that is in reference to a movie that is 80 years old. This year’s freshmen were born in 2002 or 2003. Their *grandparents* were likely not even alive when this movie came out!

    I entered BU in 2003 (CAS07) and the spring and summer before attending, I would wear my BU t-shirt with the cute/angry arms-folded Rhett on it and people would say, “Oh what’s your mascot? What’s his name? Uh, that’s a weird name, why is that his name?” and it would turn into this awkward description of “Well it’s a reference from a 60 year old movie where the male lead Rhett was in love with the female lead Scarlett and the school colors are scarlet so it’s a pun, get it?” I always received a tepid grimace or forced smile in return: they were not familiar with the reference, and the pun did not land.

    A pop culture reference, to something that is no longer in the pop culture, and is no longer relevant, is no longer funny. It’s time to retire the name Rhett for something that is timeless and specific to BU.

  11. I have found the above comments interesting and enlightening. I am in favor of changing the name of the mascot.

    I am a white guy who grew up outside Richmond, Va and I am totally unaffected by what this terrier is named. There are people who do not associate the name “Rhett” with a romantic southern gentleman but instead with a racist, slave-owning rapist (same person, right?). The impact of changing the dog’s name is minimally negative on somebody like me (again, I, like most people, have no dog in this fight) but the positive impact for a more-affected person is much more significant. Therefore, it makes sense to me to cater to people who are more impacted by the name of the dog than I am.

    Second note I think is worth addressing is the idea of what this name represents. This is not a person’s name (people in the US rarely choose their names, so it does not make sense to hold their name against them. Ask all the Adolfs born in Germany in the 1930s). This is the name of the mascot representing a school. If the response to somebody who feels uncomfortable due to the name is “suck it up, it’s tradition (insert whatever phrase about status quo normative policies because they already exist),” that is a bigger problem with the University.

    Now, I have no power over the naming of the terrier and as I stated, not a huge personal interest in the outcome. I just wanted to point out some ideas I had for why changing the name may just be worthwhile.

  12. Keep the name! What a disappointment to see BU getting dragged down into this nonsense. I believe BU should take a leadership role in setting an example of intelligence, reasonableness, and avoiding extreme political correctness (and other extreme nonsense).

    Perhaps, based on “Rhett” sentiment, the BU President, Robert A. Brown, should change his name. Obviously, the name “Robert” is racist because
    Robert E. Lee was a General in the Confederate Army. (sarcasm)

    I’m all about BU maintaining its stellar reputation, focusing on meaningful issues … and setting the example for other organizations and individuals that promote ridiculousness.

    1. Robert E. Lee is just a name. But when that specific name is chosen by an organization, it aligns that organization with the name. The Central Virginia region of the Boy Scouts of America realized this back in 2003 when they changed their name from “The Robert E. Lee Council” to “The Heart of Virginia Council.” There were probably boys in the organization who were named Robert in his honor but renaming was the right thing to do. And that was almost 18 years ago.

      1. Comparing Robert E. Lee and his actual deeds and history to a 1930s fictional movie character called Rhett who didn’t actually exist is a bit of a stretch as an example to justify renaming the mascot.

        Robert E. Lee isn’t “just a name”, unless you completely missed The Civil War in history class.

  13. While Rhett’s name came from history and previous tradition, BU’s adoption of Rhett began the formation of new traditions and memories associated with Rhett.
    Changing Rhett’s name feels like punishing a child for their father’s crimes. We don’t need to erode the happy memories of BU because of the origins of Rhett’s name. Please keep the name and preserve the memories of BU’s past.

  14. It’s extremely disheartening to read these comments — eg, “prvileged, white pc fanatics”– that’s quite an assumption. Just shows that if you scratch the surface a little all the racism and defensiveness comes to the surface. Too bad. I hope that BU does the right thing.

  15. Back in the late 1970s, the BU hockey team was the best in the country. Watching games at Walter Brown Arena was the only time the campus came together. One night, Northeastern was the opponent and in between periods, their mascot, a furry husky, glided around the rink. The husky was an assured skater, zooming down the ice to the cheers of the NU contingent.

    We did not expect an appearance by the BU mascot because as far as we knew, BU didn’t have one.

    Just then, a skater entered the rink dressed in a black graduation gown wearing a plastic terrier head. Was this the BU mascot?

    The person wearing the terrier head was not a confident skater, wobbling around the ice with the terrier head rocking back and forth. The husky zoomed around the terrier, making 360s.

    Then it happened.

    When the terrier attempted to stop short, its plastic head fell off. The skater chased the rolling head, grabbed it, and skated off the ice. BU fans joined NU fans in laughing and clapping. The event was somehow fitting for 1970s BU, where being sardonic and detached was more valued than school spirit.

    Now we come to today’s debate.

    The nostalgia evoked by Gone With The Wind was a poisonous one. It was more than just entertainment. It altered the historical record by what it included, romanticized, and what it left out.

    When the Boston terrier was chosen in the 1920s, it was the result of a student vote. This was not the case for naming Rhett. While no vote occurred in 1983 when Rhett was created, the enterprising student who designed it deserves credit for creating a popular, successful mascot. It’s time now however, to change the name. How about Terrie?

    Finally, we can have this debate amicably. in this charged time, let’s remember we’re in the same community. Let’s not lose our heads, like the skating terrier in the 1970s.

  16. this is simply silly! who exactly is offended? keep the name. all boys and men with the name Rhett are racists by this logic. too much virtue-signalling creating an issue where none existed and the vast majority of students and alumni had no idea about the loose “gone with the wind” connection.
    is the description of the uniform colors “scarlet and white” also offensive and racist? someone has way too much time on their hands looking for ways to be offended or to be very woke. there are far bigger issues to deal with than this.

  17. This doesn’t even matter. This is all a distraction from the actual problems at BU.

    Let’s talk about how I’ve never had a POC professor.

    Let’s talk about how (at least in my School) resources are being stripped away and unequally putting strain on Black and Brown students.

    Let’s talk about how BU abuses the name of Martin Luther King Jr. but fails time and time again to hold up his values.


    Let’s talk about how BU not two semesters ago allowed Ben Shapiro to speak on our campus, spitting in the face of all of its Black students and used University resources to do so.

    Let’s talk about how BU makes performative actions instead of enacting actual change.

    I’m tired of the bs.

    1. I support keeping the name “Rhett” but am accepting of anything BU decides on the name.

      Also, the instructions above ask to avoid off-topic comments. But since off-topic comments were brought up in the previous comment …

      Let’s talk about how some people can make unsubstantiated assertions with no evidence or facts.

      Let’s talk about how some people enjoy free speech for themselves … but not for others with different views.

      Let’s talk about how BU is an awesome University with substantial diversification across faculty, students, programs, funding, and values. Where are the evidence and facts to substantiate this? Just read a few issues of BU Today, check out the BU website — or, read reputable 3rd-party publications documenting BUs stellar diversification values and actions.

      Go BU! Go Rhett! (or, whatever name BU chooses).

  18. If you look up the name Rhett in Wikipedia, you will see 14 notable examples of Rhett as a given name, 5 of Rhett as a surname, 1 as a stage name, and 2 as a fictional character name (Rhett Butler, and of course the little BU mascot). Of Rhett as a given name, one of interest is Washington Nationals pro baseball player Rhett Wiseman: b. In Boston, MA, president of his high school class, Vanderbilt U grad, and Jewish. Read his comments of his arrival at his southern college when an ignorant remark was made to him by a fellow student that he was the “first Jewish kid I’ve ever met!” Rhett Bernstein, b. In San Diego CA., plays soccer for Miami FC and is a Brown U grad, and is also Jewish. He chose #18 for his jersey which is Chai in Hebrew, meaning life. The wiki entry illustrates that first or given names are not owned by anyone, widely assigned by parents, writers, schools, etc., and that diverse people and characters may all bear the same name. As for GWTW, an interesting note is that both Scarlett and Rhett were aligned in their thinking that the southern men and women and their politics were “silly and hysterical” (Scarlett) with their talk of ‘’States rights’’and “Patriotism and The Cause.” Rhett said the South is “going to get licked.” The character of Mammy is “at the book’s moral center.” As the story unfolds, Rhett and Mammy came to have mutual respect for each other. The novel has a “strong feminist theme.” Yes, the book is obviously offensive and totally cringeworthy in many of its racist portrayals and assumptions, and reflects our U.S. history. however there is still much nuance and humanity to be found in its cast of characters. Quotes are from a July 2015 article in The Atlantic magazine: Finding Humanity in GWTW. Incidentally, the name Rhett means ‘counsel’ or ‘advice’.

  19. I didn’t know the history behind the name. History is important! I remember my experiences at BU with the terrier mascot as being one of fun and excitement. Every time I see his image, I smile and think about my BU days. Right now, I’m at the Miami Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute in Coral Gables, FL, waiting to have my hand examined from a dog bite that happened last Monday night. A German Sheppard broke out of his fence to attack my French Bulldog Maximo (accent on the a) and I pinned him down and put my hand in his mouth to stop him from further biting my dog. Maximo is named after Maximo Gomez, a Dominican, and general in the Cuban war of independence. So, if we’re changing the name, I submit Maximo or the Italian equivalent of Massimo. Either way, I’ll always smile when I see the BU mascot

  20. I think the name could be changed from Rhett to something new since there is a history of making changes to the mascot’s name.

    It is worth noting that the actor who portrayed him, Clark Gable, was an advocate of desegregation and threatened to walk off the film set when segregation was brought to his attention. He also tried without success to desegregate the movie premiere in Atlanta – but Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy and was the first Black winner of an Oscar, encouraged him to attend the premiere when he threatened to boycott it.

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