Last of the Crusader, First of the Spires

The two editorials below appeared in this week’s issue of the Crusader to explain why we are changing our name. James Gallagher wrote the “Last of the Crusader” part, and Jack Godar wrote “Up Next: The Spire”

The Last of The Crusader

On January 7, 1955, our predecessors at The Tomahawk had the following to say: “The Tomahawk has become an accepted tradition at Holy Cross and should not be seriously changed, of course, without good reason. There are good reasons.” Today, we announce a similar decision. This will be the final issue of The Crusader.

   The decision of The Tomahawk’s editors was quite simple and uncontroversial. By the 1950’s, Holy Cross had moved beyond the Native American imagery that dominated its early years. The Tomahawk was a vestige of a bygone era; keeping the name would have been an exercise in blind traditionalism. Today’s decision is, admittedly, a far more difficult one. Holy Cross’ crusader, as a motif and concept, has been synonymous with the school since 1925, when it was adopted as its official symbol. Men and women have been proud to call themselves Holy Cross Crusaders for nearly a century. The decision to break with that tradition, then, was not taken lightly or hastily.

   The editorial board’s examination of the newspaper’s name was prompted by a letter, signed by nearly fifty faculty members, which was submitted to the managing editors of The Crusader one year ago. It argued that, given the rising tide of xenophobia in the American political sphere and the fact that The Crusader shared a name with a KKK-sponsored newspaper, perhaps a name change should be considered. The letter was critically examined by last year’s editorial board, headed by Megan Izzo ‘17 and Jonathan Thompson ‘17, who published it and duly initiated a process to evaluate the name of our campus’ newspaper. That process included a public discussion in Rehm Library and the paper’s affiliation with the college’s lecture series on the Crusades and the crusader image. Under the current editorial leadership, The Crusader has published opinions from all sides and received and considered plenty of private correspondence on the matter. Ultimately, several lengthy board meetings bequeathed this result: a name change.

   As the editors of The Tomahawk understood, a fundamental break with tradition requires an exceptionally strong rationale, and we believe that such cause exists. Prompted by the faculty letter, the editorial board studied the history of the Crusades and the use of the term ‘crusader’ on the Holy Cross campus. Ultimately, the nominal association with a poorly-circulated KKK newspaper (which took its name far later than this paper) did not figure at all in the final decision. What did matter to us was the ultimate legacy of the crusaders themselves. No matter how long ago the Crusades took place, this paper does not wish to be associated with the massacres (i.e. burning synagogues with innocent men, women, and children inside) and conquest that took place therein. Surely, the word ‘crusade’ has come to mean ‘an energetic campaign’ in common parlance, but can a school whose mascot wields a sword and shield really lay claim to this interpretation? An editorial in this very paper in October of 1925 explained the Holy Cross Crusader mascot as one associated with “the zeal and ardor of knightly valor, imbuing her sons with the fervor of legendary memoirs.” Those ‘legendary memoirs’ cut to the very heart of the types of religious violence that this paper sees no need to associate itself with.

   That being said, the history of The Crusader is that of sixty-three years of vibrant student voices; it has covered everything from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the beginning of coeducation at HC. It leaves behind a legacy that all should be proud of. We certainly are.

    The name change is most certainly not about appeasing faculty or creating ‘safe spaces,’ but rather it ensures that our extraordinary newspaper can continue to provide a platform for all students at the College of the Holy Cross. The editorial board’s decision was made independent of the administration, and we offer no advice or hopes for the Board of Trustees’ decision on the mascot tomorrow. What we can promise is that we will report on it fairly, as we have on all things Holy Cross since 1925. This newspaper, whether called The Tomahawk, The CrusaderThe Spire or The Purple People Eater, will continue to deliver journalism and opinion with integrity.

We hope you’ll support us.

Up Next: The Spire

Over the course of discussing whether or not to change the name of The Crusader, one thing was always clear: if we were going to change the name of the paper, the new name must be representative of Holy Cross’ proud tradition and students’ connection with the school. Ideally, it would convey some sort of experience universal to all those who have attended this fine institution throughout its long and storied history. With that in mind, the new name of the official campus newspaper of Holy Cross, effective next week, is

The Spire.

   This new name is a reference to the twin spires that dot the top of Fenwick Hall, a building that has served as the heart of this campus for almost the entirety of Holy Cross’ history. Every student at Holy Cross has stepped into Fenwick at one point or another, and the spires of Fenwick stand tall and proud on Mount St. James for all to see. They are an iconic feature of Holy Cross and are an architectural hallmark of the campus. Thus, The Spire is an incredibly appropriate name for our newspaper.

   The editorial board is aware that some members of the Holy Cross community feel that changing the name of the newspaper to something other than The Crusader is disrespectful to the Holy Cross tradition. With that in mind, and acknowledging that the crusader mascot is an extremely important part of Holy Cross’ history, it was imperative to us that the new name hold similar weight. It is indisputable that the spires of Fenwick Hall are just as much a part of that tradition as the crusader —indeed, one of the earliest books about Holy Cross’ history is titled The Spires of Fenwick.

   In 1843, Bishop Fenwick of Boston founded the College of the Holy Cross. That same year, the cornerstone for Fenwick Hall was laid. The original Fenwick Hall was a Greek Revival building much like the current one, but with only one spire. In 1852, a fire burnt Fenwick Hall to the ground, leaving the future of Holy Cross in doubt. However, through persistence and resilience, Fenwick was rebuilt and Holy Cross developed into the treasured institution that it is today, the spires of Fenwick Hall standing tall all the while.

   In 1842, Bishop Fenwick wrote a letter discussing his plans for this new college. In it he wrote, “Next May I shall lay the foundation of a splendid College in Worcester…It is calculated to contain 100 boys and I shall take them for $125 per an. & supply them with everything but clothes. Will not this be a bold undertaking? Nevertheless I will try it. It will stand on a beautiful eminence & will command the view of the whole town of Worcester…”

   Holy Cross is a little bit bigger than 100 students now, not all the students are boys, and tuition is no longer $125 a year(sadly), but Fenwick Hall still stands on a beautiful eminence, a beacon for the whole city of Worcester. It is safe to say to say that Fenwick’s bold undertaking paid off.

   The Spire, thus, is not just a homage to the bricks and mortar that make up the physical spires, but rather to the resilience, faith, and courage of those who made Holy Cross into what it is, as well as those on campus now and in the future who will shape what Holy Cross will become. While no one knows what the future holds, two things are certain: the spires of Fenwick Hall will stand tall on Mount St. James, and this student newspaper will be around to document the extraordinary accomplishments of the Holy Cross community. With this in mind, we ask for your help in sustaining Holy Cross’ only official student newspaper, The Spire.

Will this not be a bold undertaking?

17 replies »

  1. I couldn’t quite articulate the reasons why I was not entirely comfortable with “The Crusader”. You have done that and I am supportive of your efforts. Thank you.


  2. I would have hoped to see a better sourced argument. Simply asserting that the editorial board studied the history of the Crusades without providing at least some evidence is not persuasive. Were there abuses on the Crusades? Of course. But many who participated saw the Crusades as a struggle to defend Christianity. Some have been canonized, many were martyred (see Baibars massacre at Antioch). None of this is dispositive but surely deserved mention in the editorial. Hopefully the Trustees will do better.


  3. With so much going on in the world today, so much ‘political correctness’ – it is a sad day indeed to see the editors of the Holy Cross newspaper, The Crusader, fail to have the depth of understanding of what it means to be a Holy Cross Crusader. A HC Crusader is one who works for the common good, who strives to help his/her neighbor, who lives a life of education, resolve, honor, faith, leadership. I don’t doubt there is ugliness in the history of the Crusades. Frankly there is ugliness in every culture’s past. Which doesn’t make it right, it makes it a part of history. Aren’t we supposed to learn from our history and move forward to be better people? No one is denying history. But is that really who the HC Crusader is today? And who it has been for decades? I do know that a HC Crusader is one who crusades for good, for honor, for faith, for peace, for integrity, for compassion, for education, for justice, for kindness. And why shouldn’t that continue? Why shouldn’t we be proud to be Crusaders moving forward, leading the way with education and compassion and faith? I am particularly disappointed in the editors of The Crusader for the timing of their announcement. The editor told the media it was ‘a coincidence.’ I know one thing for sure, the Holy Cross I know taught us never to take a stand and then hide behind a ‘coincidence.’ The timing of the editorial announcement was shrewd perhaps, but not honorable. Let us hope and pray the Board considers the past, present and future of what being a HC Crusader really means to our community and to the world. I am proud to be a HC Crusader.


  4. The Spire is perfect..readily identifiable to all as Holy Cross. Next stop: clip the tops off all the crosses sprinkled over the campus and rename the College “Holy Crossroads.”
    The present name infers a Christian influence(or worse , Catholic) and you can then put to rest the demons haunting our past.


  5. Wow I had no idea that this was happening until it happened. How do I feel? I would have to say perplexed. I have always disliked the Holy Cross name but not the Crusader aspect of the school’s identity. Like Martha Sullivan I have always thought of each of us as crusaders in the journey of life and that for good or for bad a crusader is someone who’s out there making a difference in the world. If anything I always wanted the school’s name to change because to me it doesn’t signify why I went to Holy Cross. I didn’t go to Holy Cross because it was a Catholic religious based school, far from it, but I did go because I liked the culture of a school inhabited by kids who grew up in a Catholic culture. To me, Holy Cross, makes it sound like everyone is walking around preaching the gospel of Jesus whereas if anything the Jesuits taught me to question everything (not preach)including religion.I found that the principles of the teachings of Jesus are present but not a heavy hand in making sure all of us go out and preach the word of the Lord; so for me I was always ok with Crusader and frankly quite liked it. And if I wanted to change anything it would be the school name.


  6. I agree with the aforementioned comment regarding your process. The college had a transparent process with open sessions, surveys, and other ways to communicate with alums, faculty, staff, current students, parents, and the many stakeholders involved with the discussion. They invited dialogue and received a range of responses. You made your decision in an executive way as an editorial board, without the kind of critical thinking and thoughtful dialogue of disparate viewpoints that HC fosters. Sad and short-sighted.


  7. Thank to the editorial board for your thoughtfulness, your leadership, your courage, and the homage you pay to our school’s history with the paper’s new name, The Spire.


  8. My complements to the editorial board. Your analysis and decision are much more in keeping with reality than the spin in the college’s statement. That knight on horseback, brandishing his sword and shield is not crusading for “human rights, social justice, and care for the environment.” And what of the college motto, “In this sign you will conquer”. The trustees’ request to the college to change the graphics is evidence of the weakness of their decision. The motto, the moniker, and the mascot all worked at one time, but not now. “The Spire” is a fine new name for the paper, and I look forward to seeing a Spire on the sidelines of Fitton Field, rather like the California Redwood at Stanford.


  9. I would think if “Crusader” is objectionable then why not “Holy Cross”. How many innocents were killed by religious zealots over the years? I mean the Inquisition, forcing native populations to adopt Christianity under the cross, etc. come on, let’s go all the way and get rid of it all!


  10. I commend you on dissociating the Holy Cross student newspaper from the “Crusader” name and for clear and succinct reasoning. Clearly “Holy Cross” is a paradox referring to the sacrifice of Jesus that redeemed us, and “Holy Cross Crusaders” refers to a group of soldiers who left a particularly shabby and brutal record invading and trampling my wife’s land of origin, Lebanon. If the Normans who subdued Ireland a thousand years ago had called themselves “Crusaders”, I wonder how long it would have taken the Board of Trustees and its constituencies to reject the term. So why are Middle Easterners valued differently?


  11. I am pleased and in -“spired” by the name change of our college newspaper.

    As a proud alumnus of Holy Cross ’72, I have often experienced uncomfortable feelings and thoughts about the college mascot, moniker, and newspaper’s name, The Crusader. As a Jew I was drawn to the religious environment that pervades our campus. In fact, I believe that I am a rabbi today in part because of the respect that religious identity is accorded there. It encouraged my own explorations of my traditions and what I discovered led me to a life of religious leadership and interfaith activities.

    The centuries in which the Crusades took place were a dark period in Jewish history. Jews were no more than second-class citizens – actually, they were not considered citizens at all in the countries ruled by the Christian Church. An infidel was the term applied to Jews and Muslims and other non-Christians throughout the Middle Ages.

    While the Crusades may have been seen positively as a campaign to win souls for Christ, the result was the slaughter and massacre of myriads of innocent people whose religious faith was different. It is painful for millions of people today to recall that historical period. The image of a Crusader conjures up that nightmarish era in human history.

    In an article that appeared on February 6, 2015, in the Washington Post by Jay Michaelson of the religious News Service, he wrote, “Along the way, the Crusaders massacred. To take but one example, the Rhineland Massacres of 1096 are remembered to this day as some of the most horrific examples of anti-Semitic violence prior to the Holocaust. (Why go to the Holy Land to fight nonbelievers, many wondered, when they live right among us?) The Jewish communities of Cologne, Speyer, Worms, and Mainz were decimated. There were more than 5,000 victims.

    And that was only one example. Tens of thousands of people (both soldiers and civilians) were killed in the conquest of Jerusalem. The Crusaders themselves suffered; historians estimate that only one in 20 survived to even reach the Holy Land. It is estimated that 1.7 million people died in total.
    And this is all at a time in which the world population was approximately 300 million — less than 5 percent its current total.”

    For me, someone who has devoted his life to interfaith dialogue and the building of mutual respect between differing religious groups, there is another aspect to this debate that needs to be carefully considered as well. In the 1960’s, Pope John XXIII, one of my childhood heroes, a man who changed the course of interfaith history, opened up the world of interreligious dialogue through the process of Vatican II, the 50th anniversary of which we recently observed. That turning point, a revolution in thinking, would lead to a reversal of the tragic history of religious interaction of the two millennia that preceded it.

    On of the highlights of my rabbinic career was a pilgrimage to Israel and the Holy Land led by Fr. Jim Hayes ’72 and me along with 40 of our Holy Cross classmates. Of the 22 visits there, the first having taken place during my junior year abroad, this was the most meaningful, enabling all of us to see holiness through the eyes of others, realizing that our unique perspectives were not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, it expanded our ability to bring respect to differing points of view about very sensitive and personal topics.

    While we each believe in the truth of our faiths, we have come to understand that God’s breadth includes the possibility of other faiths in covenant with the Deity. It is not necessary to convince “the other” of the wrongness of their faith in order to have confidence that your own path to God is valid. Proselyting has receded to make room for serious interfaith inquiry, seeking to understand for the sake of understanding and respect and not for a passionate and by virtue of its definition disrespectful attempt to convert another to the “one true faith.”

    Replacement theology, supersessionism, and triumphalism, the terms used to describe the approach nearly two thousand years ago of early Christianity to Judaism, and of Islam to Christianity and Judaism six centuries later, have been overshadowed by a worldview that seeks respect and peace between varying groups, including religious ones.

    The Crusader as one who champions the conquering army of zealots intent on saving the world in a particular fashion while not making room for others who take seriously the covenant they perceive to be Divine, should be put in its proper place of history and not continue to represent modern seekers of a different kind of interfaith respect and understanding as we hope to pursue today.

    The education and learning that I experienced at the College of the Holy Cross between 1968 and 1972 and the forward thinking environment I have witnessed on my many visits to our campus over the years reinforces that approach. The decision by the student board of our newspaper to call itself “The Spire” is a credit to this high level of education and sophistication found on our campus. The future is bright.

    Rabbi Norman M. Cohen ‘72


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