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.