WORCESTER, Mass. (ChurchMilitant.com) - College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts is considering changing its "Crusader" moniker and mascot for fear of offending Muslims.
On February 6, 48 members of the Holy Cross faculty co-signed a letter to the editors of The Crusader, the school newspaper, asking them, along with the student body, to begin discussions about changing the name of the paper in response to the growing anti-Muslim tensions in the United States and the fact that the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) official newspaper has the same name as the school paper.
"In response to the growing anti-Muslim tensions in our country, and to the fact that the Ku Klux Klan official newspaper shares the same name as our own," the letter begins, "we the undersigned faculty members encourage the Editorial Board, and the Holy Cross student body in general, to initiate a discussion about changing the name of the Holy Cross student newspaper 'The Crusader.'"
The faculty quote the college mission statement in their defense of accepting and supporting people of different cultures: "Informed by the presence of diverse interpretations of the human experience, Holy Cross seeks to build a community marked by freedom, mutual respect, and civility."
The Crusader replied to the faculty letter with a response, in which it expressed "solidarity" with the faculty's concerns, and encouraged dialogue on the issue.
"We, the Editors-in-Chief, wish to voice our solidarity with the 48 members of Holy Cross faculty who have proposed a discussion on the propriety of the name The Crusader," the response begins. After inviting students to attend several events discussing the potential name change, the editors announced the paper would be publishing commentary on the issue.
"Over the remainder of the semester, we will be publishing a series of editorials on the topic of The Crusader’s name from students, faculty, and staff alike," they said.
The letter concludes with reference to the paper's storied past since 1925, emphasizing that the connection between the name and imagery of the Crusader align with its college's Catholic mission and goals.
After the editor's response to the letter, College president Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J. assembled a committee of students, alumni, faculty and staff to hold discussions this fall concerning the appropriateness of the Crusader moniker and mascot.
The group is to weigh in 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?"
The committee held two campus events to dialogue on the subject and maintained an open online comment forum, which closed November 26. The group is presenting its findings to Boroughs and the College Board of Trustees in January. The Board of Trustees will make their final decision whether to keep or change the moniker and mascot at their February meeting.
The Crusader mascot depicts a warrior, "an armored sword-wielding, cross-bearing icon of the Christian knights of the Crusades," a centuries-long struggle to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslim invaders.
The Crusader has been a part of Holy Cross' history since the 1920s, when the college first used it in reference to athletic teams. Many clubs and organizations have adopted the name since. Last Spring, the College hosted a panel discussion on the meaning of "Crusader" in history and the Crusades.
The school clarified the debate on November 26 in the Boston Herald:
The Crusader name is an undeniable part of the College of the Holy Cross' history. At the same time, as an institution of higher learning, we acknowledge our responsibility to thoughtfully examine the sensitivities and implications this name may bear. Our Holy Cross community is passionate about the College and our mission, values and tradition, and as we expected, the discussion of our mascot and moniker has been spirited. Our community has engaged in this conversation in a manner consistent with our approach to all discussions at Holy Cross, with deep thought and respect for different persepectives and opinions.
Church Militant reached out to Holy Cross for comments, but as of press time, we have received no response.