Dorothy Day? Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.? What does a Crusader for Justice look like?

By Fred Boehrer


Last year Fr. Boroughs asked the Holy Cross community to explore and provide input on the following question: “In what ways do you think the Crusader moniker and mascot are appropriate or inappropriate, representations of the College, given our mission, values and identity?” As of February 3, 2018, Fr. Boroughs and the Board of Trustees decided that the Crusader moniker is an appropriate representation of the College. While many alumni, students, faculty and staff agree with this decision, others do not concur. The decision has been made, and it sounds like the moniker is final, for at least a while. However, the next step in the process is the Crusader mascot. The letter detailing the decision to keep the Crusader moniker sent out to the Holy Cross community asks, “With this in mind, the Board also 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.”

Fr. Borough’s and the Board of Trustees’ decision that we are not in fact tied to the Crusades is said and done, but we are left with a great deal of ambiguity in what the next steps are for addressing the Crusader mascot. Fr. Borough commented about HC’s thinking of Crusader’s for social justice in the video, “We talk sometimes about Martin Luther King or Dorothy Day as crusaders for justice. That spirit is really I think how the Holy Cross community sees itself in this terminology. Not as connected to tragic wars that happened in the 11th, 12th, and 13th century.” But, how can we as a school carry on as Crusaders for justice while our mascot is a Crusader for killing Muslims and Jews?

Out of the 28 schools in the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, not one other school has a problematic mascot. As a Catholic who’s involved with campus ministry, I’m not necessarily asking HC to “de-Christianize” our mascot by branding ourselves as the “Peacocks” or the “Wolfpack.” But what about a mascot similar to the Siena Saints? Or the Providence Friars? If we are serious about our reimaging as Crusaders for social justice, why not have a student parade around the sideline in a foam Dorothy Day outfit with a bread basket in one hand and a ladle of soup in the other?  

While I’m upset with the decision to maintain the Crusader moniker, I understand the complexity to appeal to everyone. I believe that the main theme at the center of this decision is that, in the end, money talks. The generosity of alumni and friends of our HC community is the reason why we have such a large endowment and why we still remain as one of a handful of colleges and universities that are need-blind and meet student’s needs. So, as much as I object to Fr. Borough’s and the Board’s hypocritical decision, I understand that many donors to HC will quickly resist any change to the moniker, even a reimaging of our mascot. This will affect the bottom line for students like me who depend on donations to cover tuition we otherwise would be unable to pay. My parents decided to follow in the footsteps of the Fr. Borough’s approved “crusader for social justice,” Dorothy Day, and took a vow of poverty when they opened the Albany Catholic Worker house. I’m beyond grateful for HC’s generosity, especially after being denied from schools like Syracuse University, whose admission officer said they solely rejected me because of my family’s limited financial means – even though my father is an S.U. alum.

But what is next? The Board’s call “to access the visual representation of a Holy Cross Crusader” in terms with the new definition of “crusaders for human rights, social justice, and care for the environment; for respect for different perspectives, cultures, traditions, and identities; and for service in the world, especially to the underserved and vulnerable” is great, but how will this happen? Will another listening committee be formed? Will the college rely on feedback from only alumni? Faculty? Staff? What about the current student body? More importantly when are we addressing this? The ambiguity of the call could lead to the Board feeling content with reconvening not until another few years.

As I’ll likely no longer be a student during the next round of listening sessions in regards to the mascot I have some suggestions. The big question is what does the visual representation of a crusader for justice look like. I think stripping away the sword from Iggy is not enough. We need a mascot that we as a community can rely on and rally behind. A professor mentioned an idea for a mascot fashion show in an effort to showcase possible candidates in an educational, and not to mention hilarious, manner.

So to students and alumni, who want serious change to the reimaging of our HC identity, make more money. Join the board of trustees. Donate a building. As long as money is involved, HC seems to have no problem turning it’s back to Jesus’ own words; “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called (children) of God.” I call out the Holy Cross community, Fr. Boroughs, and our Board of Trustees to prove my pessimism wrong. Show me the visual representation of our new Crusader identity. If you take me up on the Dorothy Day idea I’ll even pledge 100% of my salary from my year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.  


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  1. 14 February 2018
    Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.
    College of the Holy Cross
    Fenwick Hall 119
    P.O. Box PRES
    College of the Holy Cross
    Worcester, Mass. 01610-2395

    To the Board of Trustees and President of the College of the Holy Cross:

    In an email dated 03 February, the following announcement was made:
    “After a process of individual discernment over the past three weeks and then thorough group discussion this morning, the members of the Board reaffirmed that we at Holy Cross will continue to be known as the Crusaders.”
    To paraphrase the line spoken by the old knight who was guarding The Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989):
    “You chose poorly.”

    (I do understand the irony here, but I could not resist…)
    You had the opportunity to do the right thing. The choice you made was very disappointing.
    In that same letter to the Holy Cross community explaining the decision, Father Boroughs stated the following: “We are crusaders for human rights, social justice, and care for the environment; for respect for different perspectives, cultures, traditions, and identities; and for service in the world, especially to the underserved and vulnerable….”
    This was a nice attempt to rationalize the decision, but I think the word that is used today is “activist” rather than “crusader.”
    There was a video link in the letter in which Father Boroughs and Mr. Mahoney restated the reasons why the decision was made to keep the Holy Cross mascot and moniker. In that video Father Boroughs used the term “crusader” several times. Was he hoping that by repeating the word often it would make its meaning and connotation less negative? While that may be balm for the people who live in the bubble of Mount Saint James, it is hardly convincing for the more than one billion Muslims in the world.
    In the video Father Boroughs also mentioned that, at Holy Cross, people like Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day are referred to as “crusaders” for civil rights and social justice. If the two of them were alive today, I doubt that they would use that term to describe themselves.
    It was mentioned, later in the letter, that the editors of the Holy Cross student newspaper have decided to change the name of that publication. Holy Cross has at least done this well. The students mentored by the institution have more common sense and intestinal fortitude than the school administration and the Board.
    The “Crusader” moniker / mascot must go.
    I was the “Crusader” for the fall 1975 football season. At the time I was proud to do it and to represent Holy Cross in that fashion. But times have changed, and so has my point of view.
    When I left Holy Cross I entered the Navy (through the NROTC program) and I spent 4 years on active duty. One of my deployments was to the Persian Gulf. After the Navy I became a high school teacher. I maintained my affiliation with the Navy as a Reservist (as an intelligence officer) for 26 more years. My teaching responsibilities included courses on Islam and the history of the Middle East, and the Navy Reserve units with which I was affiliated were involved in the Persian Gulf conflict in the early 1990’s and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
    I am by no means an expert in the history of the Crusades. Having said that I know enough about it to realize that the Holy Cross mascot and moniker are problematic. I have felt strongly for quite some time that the mascot / moniker should be changed but I failed to write to the school to express my view. For that I feel remiss.
    I would like to make 5 points to support my argument that the mascot / moniker should be changed:
    1. I looked at the Holy Cross mission statement. Among other things it declares:
    “Dialogue about these questions among people from diverse academic disciplines and religious traditions requires everyone to acknowledge and respect differences. Dialogue also requires us to remain open to that sense of the whole which calls us to transcend ourselves and challenges us to seek that which might constitute our common humanity.”
    By refusing to make a change, the President and the Board failed that challenge.
    2. In the 2016 – 2017 school year, Holy Cross observed more that ten Muslim or Jewish religious holidays, and rightfully so. There is a glaring contradiction here: the school observes these holidays but at the same time has a mascot / moniker that celebrates a shameful part of Catholic history. While the intent of some of the Crusaders in the Middle Ages might have been noble, their actions were not. The Crusaders not only inflicted suffering on the peoples of the Levant, but they also devastated Jewish communities in Europe that were on their route. As my mother used to say: “Actions speak louder than words.”
    In this case, your lack of action speaks volumes.
    3. Father McFarland, in the third section of his April 2006 letter (Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue) mentioned the following:
    “The (Thirty-Fourth General) Congregation also pointed out that, The Holy Father has repeatedly asked Jesuits to make interreligious dialogue an apostolic priority in the third millennium….
    To fulfill this mission here at Holy Cross, we must become a community of many voices, representing many experiences, cultures, and religions…
    We also are working to diversify further our student body. Not only is this a question of justice for those often left out of the elite institutions of higher education, but it is necessary to create the kind of intellectual, social, and educational environment that our mission demands….
    Of course, one of the primary roles of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture is to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue, even as it explores critical moral and religious questions. Since its opening in 2001, the Center has made impressive strides with its lecture series, attracting a wide variety of theologians and religious thinkers…”
    Holy Cross had the opportunity, when considering the mascot / moniker issue, to further intercultural and interreligious dialogue. With the decision it made it missed that opportunity. Would there have been some pain involved in changing the mascot and moniker? Might some donors have withheld contributions to the Holy Cross Fund? Perhaps, but in the long run it would have been the right thing to do.
    “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
    (Mathew 6:24 / NIV)
    (Yes, I know: even the devil can quote scripture….)
    4. As you may recall, President Bush was criticized for the use of the word “crusade” after the attacks of 11 September 2001. By using that term he cast the resulting conflict as a divinely inspired “clash of civilizations,” and in so doing he played into the hands of Osama bin Laden and his twisted theological and historical narrative. In a sense you have done so as well. You debated the issue and made a conscious (and public) decision to maintain the “crusader” image as a symbol of the institution. Perception and optics are sometimes more important than your view of reality. It does not matter what you think “crusader” means; how does the rest of the world see it?
    5. Zaytuna College is an Islamic liberal arts college in Berkeley, California. What would be the reaction, both nationally and internationally, if their moniker was “The Zaytuna College Jihadists?” The word “jihad” has been translated as “struggle.” In Islamic theology it has been interpreted to describe the internal struggle of every Muslim who strives to follow the true path to Allah. Does that term have other meanings and connotations? It most certainly does; the more negative and violent meanings are the ones pictured by the world at large. Are the optics somehow different for Holy Cross because it is a western, Roman Catholic institution?
    The “Holy Cross Crusader,” both mascot and moniker, should be retired.
    A mistake was made, but unlike the character that chose poorly in the movie, you get another chance to make this right.
    Feel free to contact me if you feel it would be beneficial.
    Thank you for your consideration.
    Happy Ash Wednesday
    Francis C. Dachille
    Class of 1976
    1796 Steel Street
    Apt. 1206
    Louisville, CO 80027
    Cell: 847-254-1225


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