The College of the Holy Cross will remain home of the Crusaders.
The school’s board of trustees voted on Saturday to keep their moniker after a months-long review exploring whether the nickname, which the school has used for nearly a century, was appropriate.
It is, they decided.
“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,” said the school’s president, the Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, and the board’s chair, John J. Mahoney, in a statement.
“We are not simply crusaders, we are Holy Cross Crusaders.”
The statement said, however, that the school would “assess how the visual representation of a Holy Cross Crusader can best align” with its mission and values.
A school spokesman, John Hill, declined to elaborate on whether that meant the school would change its athletic logo.
The decision comes after Boroughs convened a nine-person working group last fall to collect input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni about the name, the college said on its website.
It also follows a decision by the independent student paper, The Crusader, to change its name.
On Friday, the newspaper announced in an editorial that it was changing its name to the The Spire. The newspaper and Hill said the student editors’ process was separate from the college’s.
For the college, the issue was raised in 2016, when a similar report questioned the suitability of a hall named after the school’s founder, the Rev. Thomas F. Mulledy, who had ties to slavery. In that report, the group suggested the college also examine whether Crusaders was an appropriate nickname.
“This was a very important discussion for our community to have and, as we know, there’s a lot of passion in our Holy Cross community,” Mahoney said in a video statement to the college’s community.
Later, he said the main concerns the school heard were that the name was offensive because of its connection to the medieval Crusades.
“Our community does not tie the Crusader name to the Crusades,” he said.
In the same video, Boroughs commended the community for engaging in the debate “so thoughtfully and respectfully.” He said the school sees itself as crusaders in the way the word has been applied to people like Martin Luther King, Jr., or Dorothy Day.
“We’re crusaders for the importance of the intellectual life and thinking critically and analytically,” Boroughs said. “We’re crusaders for social justice and caring for the underserved. We’re crusaders for making a difference in our world. . .”
The college first started calling athletic teams the Crusaders in 1920.
In the student newspaper’s editorial, the editors wrote they did not wish to be associated with the medieval knights.
“No matter how long ago the Crusades took place, this paper does not wish to be associated with the massacres (i.e. burning synagogues with innocent men, women, and children inside) and conquest that took place therein,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote.
The newspaper’s process was prompted by a letter signed by nearly 50 faculty members encouraging the students to reexamine whether the name was appropriate “given the rising tide of xenophobia in the American political sphere” and the fact that it shared its name with a KKK newspaper, the editorial said.
In an interview before the college announced its decision, Jack Godar and James Gallagher, seniors at Holy Cross and co-editors-in-chief of The Spire, said the move to change the newspaper’s name was more about the legacy of the crusaders than the political climate or the KKK newspaper cited by the faculty members.
They said their decision differed from the one the school faced.
“I think our decision was a bit easier because we were able to find a name that was just as, if not more, associated with the college’s history and tradition,” Godar said.
The new name comes from the spires on Fenwick Hall, which they said has been at the center of campus since Holy Cross’s inception in 1843. The editors said it’s the oldest tradition at Holy Cross, and it has outlasted other monikers and mascots that the school discarded.
“The Crusader hasn’t been a part of Holy Cross’s history the entire time,” like the spires have, Godar said.
The editors said many students on campus hate the Crusader name and many others identify with it, so “emotions are running high.”
“Everyone knows where everyone else stands,” Gallagher said. “It’s divisive, but I wouldn’t say the campus is divided. It’s not something that’s ruining friendships but it’s something people feel strongly about.”Dylan McGuinness can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him n Twitter at @DylMcGuinness.