Boston University is considering renaming its school mascot because its nickname is tied to one of the main characters of "Gone With the Wind," a novel and movie adaptation that glamorizes slavery.
A committee has been formed to consider renaming the mascot, Rhett the Terrier, University President Robert Brown said in an email to the community.
The name “pays tribute to a fictional character associated with the Confederacy, slavery, and sexual assault,” Brown said in the email, which was first reported by The Daily Free Press, an independent school paper.
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It's not clear when the terrier, adopted as the mascot by a student vote in 1922, got the name Rhett, according to Brown, but it involves a play on words with scarlet, one of the school's colors.
"Sometime after Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling novel, 'Gone with the Wind,' was published in 1936, the mascot was named after its male protagonist–Rhett Butler. Why? Because Rhett loved the heroine, Scarlett O’Hara," the school publication BU Today wrote in a 2018 article.
But Butler the character joins the Confederacy in the Civil War, and the book and Oscar-winning movie it was based on treated the antebellum South, which was built on slavery, as romantic. That's something critics have long taken issue with, and which led to the removal last month of the movie from the new streaming platform HBO Max so more historical context could be added for its audiences.
In his letter, Brown said, "it is reasonable for people to question why, at a university founded by abolitionists, we have a mascot nicknamed for a character in a film whose racist depictions are completely at odds with our own tradition. It is time to address this question."
BU's dean of the College of Fine Arts, Harvey Young, and Vice President for Alumni Relations Steve Hall have been asked to lead a committee of alumni, undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and members of the athletics department, on whether Rhett the mascot's name should be changed.
Brown asked for a recommendation by mid-October.