The Jesuit College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, announced over the weekend that the school will keep its century-old sports moniker "Crusader" despite concerns that Muslims could find it offensive.
"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 college's president, the Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, and Chair of the Board of Trustees John Mahoney wrote in a message to the school community.
"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."
They explained that the moniker was chosen by students of the school in 1925 to represent their values.
"The literal definition of the word, 'one who is marked by the cross of Christ,' was appropriate for our institution's Jesuit and Catholic intellectual and spiritual tradition. Our students, faculty, staff, and alumni have continued in that tradition, and through their work and lives have defined what it means to be a Holy Cross Crusader," the school's leaders said.
"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. We engage in dialogue between faith and reason and uphold the importance of reflective learning, critical thinking, thoughtful analysis and holistic education that encompasses the health of body, mind and spirit," they added.
The debate over the appropriateness of the College of the Holy Cross' moniker has been a point of contention for a number of years. In the fall of 2015, Boroughs set up a committee to discuss whether a number of buildings on the school's campus should be renamed in light of the complicated history of The Crusades.
In the Final Committee Report, released in March 2016, the authors noted to Boroughs: "We feel obligated to note how our community conversations regarding the naming of Mulledy and Healy halls became the occasion for some criticism of the College mascot and the use of the image of a sword-wielding Crusader in the Athletics wordmark as distinctly out-of-step with our stated institutional mission. For example, in a listening session, five faculty members expressed their desire for the College to rid itself of the 'Crusader' mascot, with a consensus among them that, as one of them says, 'our much more offensive mascot,' is a matter of greater moment than the names of buildings."
Last Friday, the editors of the college's student newspaper also announced they were changing the name of the publication from The Crusader to The Spire.
"It is important to note that the student newspaper is editorially independent of the College, and that their decision-making process was completely separate from the Board's. In engaging in their own process of research and dialogue, these students have demonstrated a commitment to the kind of self-reflection and critical thinking we seek to nurture here at Holy Cross, and they have made a difficult decision with thoughtfulness and purpose," the college's leaders said.