Chief News Editor
After hours of discussion amongst the members of the board of trustees, they have made their decision: The crusader mascot and moniker of the College of the Holy Cross will remain. This decision, released in the form of a letter by President Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J. and a short video by President Boroughs and Board of Trustees Chair John J. Mahoney, comes after months of engaging dialogue and, at times, fierce debate, both among the Holy Cross community, and beyond.
Fr. Boroughs formed a working group in the fall of 2017 to facilitate campus-wide engagement with this issue as well as compile comments submitted by students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff, community members, and beyond. Also, Dan Kim, Vice President for Communications at the College, shared that over 1800 comments were submitted and presented to the Board of Trustees on Friday, February 2. The next day, the Trustees engaged in what Kim described as “robust discussion” as they considered every side and opinion that had been brought up.
In his letter to the campus community, Fr. Boroughs wrote, “While we acknowledge that the Crusades were among the darkest periods in Church history, we choose to associate ourselves with the modern definition of the word crusader, one which is representative of our Catholic Jesuit identity and our mission and values as an institution and community. We are not simply crusaders, we are Holy Cross Crusaders.”
The decision by the Trustees came just a day after the student newspaper’s decision to change their name from The Crusader to The Spire. The topic of the newspaper’s decision to move away from the crusader image as well as the college’s decision to keep it have both sparked media interest around the state, as the story was covered by major news outlets such as Fox25, The Worcester Telegram, and The Boston Globe, among others.
Just as they were during the discussion process, opinions on the decisions of the school and the newspaper are varied. Of the hundreds of online social media comments, many comments applaud the school for not “caving to political correctness,” while others express great disappointment, and still others applaud the engaging and thoughtful process used by the school. Many express great passion when discussing the issue, although many students on campus have also expressed ambivalence on the topic.
One individual shared the following comment on social media: “I would not have thought I would agree with this decision, but the more I thought about the most common definitions and references for the name, the more I found myself willing to embrace a reformed Crusader.” A student also commented, “I am glad that we will remain the Holy Cross Crusaders. We are crusading for social justice and we will continue to live this mission for years to come.”
Many commended the thoughtful, engaging discussions the college sponsored. Professor Mark Freeman of the Psychology department explained, “All one can ask for in a situation like this one is that the process of reflection and dialogue be open, forthright, and mindful of the relevant complexities. By all indications, this is the kind of process that has taken place.”
Although faculty had a variety of opinions as well, many expressed their dismay at the College’s decision. Professor Stephanie Yuhl and Professor Vickie Langhor both used the phrase “deeply disappointed” to describe their feelings toward the decision. Langhor shared “It may be relatively easy for many members of our community to dissociate the name ‘Crusader’ from the historical Crusades, but for many others, including members of groups victimized by the Crusades, this is more difficult, and I know Jewish members of the Holy Cross community who feel excluded and hurt by this decision. “
Professor Maria Rodrigues, Director of the LALC program, wrote, “I think the decision is a blow to the College’s effort toward increasing the diversity of its student body and recruiting faculty and staff.” Yuhl also said “Mascots and monikers are not sacred objects that cannot be changed. In fact, they are changed all the time when communities decide they no longer reflect the community accurately, or indeed have the potential to damage it.”
Professor David Schaefer of the Political Science department supported keeping the mascot, although he did express concerns regarding the common occurrence of the persecution of Jews being left out of discussions of the historical Crusades. Schaefer said, “Since Holy Cross has long enjoyed a healthy relationship with the local Jewish community, and nobody thinks of the team name as in any way connected with anti-Semitic prejudice, it doesn’t bother me that the team name will remain unchanged. And it is understandable that the College should want to avoid causing needless offense to its devoted alums.”
In his letter, Fr. Boroughs also expressed that the Board has asked the College administration to take this opportunity to assess how the visual representation of a Holy Cross Crusader can best align with this definition. Vice President Kim shared in an interview with the Spire that this process of appraising the imagery of the moniker has not yet begun, although the college will be discussing this issue in the future to ensure the imagery of the Crusader moniker reflects the mission of the school.
Some have expressed the view that the most important element of this process was the discussion rather than the final decision, and that the ability to engage in thoughtful dialogues about difficult topics is key to the Jesuit mission. Yuhl shared, “We should remember that the decision by the Trustees does not and should not necessarily mean that the issue is resolved once and for all for everybody with a stake in Holy Cross including students, faculty, staff, prospective students and parents. We are a liberal arts college in the Jesuit tradition and energized inquiry is at the heart of what we do. We need to get energized and keep asking questions about who we want to be and how to represent that accurately.”