By Allyson Noenickx, Chief News Editor
On Thursday Mar. 16, The Crusader and the Holy Cross Student Government Association Executive Cabinet hosted a Fishbowl Discussion on the suitability of the student newspaper’s name––The Crusader. The student-led conversation was prompted by a letter sent by 48 members of the Holy Cross Faculty to the Editors-in-Chief of The Crusader last month. In the letter, the faculty members encouraged the Editorial Board and the greater Holy Cross student body to initiate a discussion about the fate of the newspaper’s name “in response to the growing anti-Muslim tensions in our country, and to the fact that the Ku Klux Klan official newspaper shares the same name as our own.”
The Crusader’s Editors-in-Chief––Megan Izzo ’17 and Jonathan Thompson ’17––were joined by John Milligan ’17, Bridey McDevitt ’17, Michael DeSantis ’18, and Hanna Seariac ’20 in the Fishbowl Discussion moderated by Luke Reynolds ’18. Fishbowl Discussions explore ethical issues arising from current events or trends. In these fishbowl-style discussions, chairs are set in concentric circles and several students, faculty, staff, or alumni serve as “fish” who sit in the center ring and participate as the primary agents in a moderated discussion. Audience members observe from the outer circles, but are welcome to take turns filling one of the empty seats in the inner circle should they wish to contribute to the discussion at any point.
During the discussion students grappled with the implications of changing or maintaining the name of the student newspaper. Reynolds posed several predetermined questions to the group of six primary participants, asking them to consider what “the crusader” as a symbol means to them. The discussion quickly turned to the Ku Klux Klan’s publication of the same name––an issue that has risen to prominence since the last election cycle.
The Crusader adopted its current name in 1955 to replace The Tomahawk, announcing that the new name would better represent the values of Holy Cross and of the publication. During the discussion it was noted that the Ku Klux Klan did not adopt the name of their official newspaper until 1963.
Some expressed concerns over simply abandoning the term “crusader” instead of using this opportunity as a teaching moment and a chance to distinguish what “crusade” means to Holy Cross from what it might mean to the Ku Klux Klan. “The term crusade can be used in a variety of ways and obviously the KKK has chosen it as a name for a reason, and they are on a particular crusade; but I would argue, at least I hope, that we at Holy Cross are on a very different crusade. I don’t think the problem is that we have the same name as the newsletter of the Klan, but how we’re advocating for what crusade we are on. The more pertinent issue is to say to the Klan, ‘No, you are not crusaders; we are crusaders and this is what our crusade is,’” argued Milligan.
While the fact that the student newspaper shares a name with that of the KKK has been the focus of much national attention since the publication of the faculty letter last month, discussion participants attempted to look beyond the shared name and address the broader historical implications of the Crusades and whether “the crusader” is an appropriate namesake for a student newspaper at all.
“We as editors of the paper are very aware that simply sharing a name with the KKK isn’t a sufficient reason to change the name; the issue is much deeper than that. It’s really the same issue that has been at hand with the mascot,” said Izzo.
“We are here because of the faculty letter, not because of the KKK. Obviously they mentioned the KKK in their letter, but we are here because of the letter,” echoed Thompson.
Reynolds attempted to focus the discussion on the issue at hand––the student newspaper’s name––but some took the opportunity to discuss the broader issue of the suitability of “the crusader” as a mascot for the College. Students expressed concerns over the lack of inclusivity of “the crusader” as a symbol and the stereotypes surrounding it. “Some people are offended or do not feel welcome because of this name and I would pose to you, if you are for the crusader, is there something inherently offensive or unwelcoming or something that makes you feel unsafe about changing the name? Because as it currently stands, there are students in this room and students across campus who do not feel like their culture is welcome here because of the current name of the newspaper,” argued Ed DeLuca ’17, Student Government Association Co-President.
In response, others voiced concerns that the removal of “the crusader” could be perceived as a step away from the College’s Catholic and Jesuit identity. “Personally, I would be offended if we changed the name because I see it as a de-christianization of the school; I see it as part of a process of systematically removing Catholicism from the school,” said Seariac.
The hour-long discussion was followed by questions from audience members posed to the six primary discussion participants. The Fishbowl Discussion, which was attended by over 60 students and faculty, marked the first step in initiating a dialogue concerning the potential name change. Moving forward, The Crusader will issue a statement should the Editorial Board decide that a name change is appropriate.