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The College of the Holy Cross will no longer be using the knight mascot in association with the “Crusader” name, according to a letter to the campus community by President Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J. on Wednesday, March 14. The college will “phase out the use of all knight-related imagery” as well as “retire [the] costumed mascot” and exclusively use the “interlocking HC on a purple shield” logo.
This announcement came after the February 3 decision by the Board of Trustees to keep the Crusader as the school’s moniker. In his letter announcing this previous decision, Boroughs explained “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.”
Because of this decision to disassociate the Holy Cross Crusaders from the medieval Crusades, concerns arose about the relevance of the knight mascot. In the February letter, Boroughs wrote, “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.”
While the March 14 letter did not elaborate on the process the Board used to come to their most recent decision, it included the following: “Upon reflection on this contemporary definition, it is clear that our current visual representations of the Crusader do not align with this understanding. For some, knight imagery alone could convey nobility, chivalry and bravery. However, the visual depiction of a knight, in conjunction with the moniker Crusader, inevitably ties us directly to the reality of the religious wars and the violence of the Crusades. This imagery stands in contrast to our stated values.”
The decision by the College gained significant press attention, and some of the most prominent New England and Massachusetts news sources published stories. While opinions are mixed on campus, opinions online tended to be much more negative, with an overwhelming majority upset with Holy Cross’ decision. Comments on The Worcester Telegram and CBS Boston articles described the decision as “embarrassing,” “ridiculous,” “an outrage,” and “utter madness.”
“I understand these decisions will be a disappointment to some of you,” Boroughs wrote in his announcement letter, “but I trust our community’s support for Holy Cross and for our athletic teams will continue unwaveringly.”
For some, however, the removal of the knight comes as a step in the right direction, if not the ideal outcome. Katie Bowles and Bred Boehrer are two seniors who organized and helped write the “Open Letter to Father Boroughs and the Board of Trustees,” which appeared in the February 16 edition of the Spire and was signed by more than 100 students, faculty, and alumni.
The letter expressed students’ concerns regarding the decision to keep the Crusader mascot and moniker. These concerns included the ability to redefine a word with strong historical connotations, lack of transparency in the decision-making process, and the importance of continuing this discussion despite the administration’s announcement.
Following the news of the removal of the knight, Bowles expressed that, although her hope was for the Crusader name to be eliminated, she viewed the removal of the knight as a win. She shared, “I am taking the College’s decision as a victory. I really believe that it is a step in the right direction: away from our identity being tied to the Crusades.”
Boehrer echoed this sentiment, saying, “While I wasn’t necessarily happy with the decision to remain the Crusaders, I’m happy Father Boroughs acknowledged the hypocritical nature of keeping our current ‘Knight from the Crusades’ imagery.”
Maria Rodrigues, a political science professor and the director of the LALC program, shared that she was still unhappy with the decision for a reason different from many critics: “It is hard to have an opinion on removing the knight imagery … Of course, it is a step in the ‘right direction,’ but if the ‘direction’ is, in my opinion, a misguided one, it seems to me an exercise in futility … Jesuit spirituality is associated to an array of beautiful images, from Ignatius’ abandoning his weapons at the foot of Our Lady, to Xavier’s passionate letters, and Peter Faber’s devotion to the unity of the Body of Christ (the Host). But it is hard to see how any of these symbols would mesh well with the moniker ‘Crusader’….”
In his recent letter, Boroughs shared not only the decision to remove the knight, but also examples of what it means to be a Crusader in 2018. He cited the immersion trips that hundreds of students participate in and the impressive careers of alumni who work to break down inequality and who serve as “advocates for the transformation of society.”
Boroughs concluded his letter by writing “I want to thank all of you who have participated in this discussion about our identity. These conversations aren’t easy, but they are necessary. I am hopeful we have emerged with an even stronger sense of who we are and what we stand for, and that you all remain as proud as I am to be a part of the Holy Cross community.”
Photo Courtesy of CBS Boston