March 19, 2018

The Holy Cross compromise

A negotiation isn't successful until both sides are unhappy, and the hallmark of compromise is everyone getting something they want – but not everything. It's an art we seem to have lost the ability to create at the national level, at least among our political leaders.

In what may seem like an attempt to please everybody in the debate over its Crusader mascot, the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester at first glance may have appeared to have failed making anyone happy. Yet, after taking a step back, the college's approach to cutting the baby in two looks like it may have achieved an elusive balance.

In the board of trustees decision in January to keep the Crusader name, Holy Cross disappointed, and in some cases angered the faculty, students and other advocates who wanted the college to completely distance itself from the medieval Holy Wars where non-Christians were massacred. Those advocates even wrote a letter to school afterward, demanding to know what financial pressures influenced the decision. Now, in the school's decision on Wednesday to phase out its knight-and-sword logo and retire its costumed mascot, Holy Cross may have piqued its older alumni and other advocates who fondly remember the knight logo and its meaning to both athletics and as a symbol of the campus and their education.

Hurt feelings and initial overreactions aside – Holy Cross President Rev. Philip Boroughs just may have crafted a solution to both honor the school's history and remove it from the negative connotations of the mascot. After the January decision, Boroughs said the meaning of the school's mascot has evolved over time: the community of Holy Cross Crusaders – who in the college's Catholic and Jesuit tradition tries to do good across the globe and make positive contributions to society, faith and economic progress – is different than the medieval Crusaders, who in the name of religion fought in Holy Wars resulting in the slaughter of men, women and children, including many of the Muslim faith. The decision on Wednesday further clarifies Borough's strategy, as the eliminating of the knight-and-sword logo and the costumed mascot will further remove the college from association with the medieval Crusader. The primary utilization of the existing secondary logo – the interlocking HC on a shield – will help further brand the idea of an independent Holy Cross Crusader. While the sword was used to slay its enemies, the shield is used to protect its values.

With no clear victor, expect hurt feelings on both sides. Will the compromise have a deleterious effect on student applications, especially from minority backgrounds? Will resentful alumni who thought they had defended their mascot withhold with their checkbooks? Hard to say, but there is no denying the school recognized this debate as a watershed moment, and in the long tradition of its Jesuit order, engaged in a spirited debate where all voices appear to have been heard. Some feel the issue is critical, others see it as much ado about nothing. We think the school may well have put the camel through the eye of the needle with its artful compromise. Nobody got what they wanted, all appear heard, a compromise has been reached. Could this art of the compromise be brought to Washington, D.C.? Afterall, even if you don't like the decision, at least they stuck with the color purple.


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