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February 3, 2018

Holy Cross to keep 'Crusaders' name

Grant Welker Merchandise at the Holy Cross bookstore last year featured shirts with and without the Crusader name.

The College of the Holy Cross will keep its longtime Crusaders name for its athletics program, electing to stick with tradition amid concerns the name is synonymous with long-ago holy wars and no longer fitting with a modern college.

Holy Cross announced the decision after a board of trustees meeting Saturday.

Holy Cross President Philip L. Boroughs and trustees chairman John J. Mahoney issued a statement describing why they decided to keep the Crusader name.

“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,” Boroughs and Mahoney said. “We are not simply crusaders, we are Holy Cross Crusaders.”

The decision on Saturday came a day after the Holy Cross student newspaper said it would change its name to The Spire. It has long been called The Crusader, a name it happens to share with a publication of the Ku Klux Klan.

"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 paper's editorial said.

Holy Cross will stick with the Crusader name even as other colleges have been moving away from monikers that some today find offensive.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams changed from the Mohawks to the Trailblazers in 2002, and Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy changed from the Crusaders to the Lions in 2009. Elsewhere, Stanford University changed from the Indians to the Cardinal in 1972 and Dartmouth College from the Indians to the Big Green in 1974.

Just last month, Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians announced starting next year they will no longer use a logo that features a cartoonish image of a smiling Native American.

The process toward the name change began in 2016 when Holy Cross formed a committee to study the pasts of Thomas Mulledy, the founding president of Holy Cross, and James Healy, the first valedictorian.

The committee found Mulledy sold 272 slaves when he was a leader at Georgetown University in the 1830s. Healy's family owned slaves when they lived in Georgia, and proceeds from selling slaves helped pay to rebuild Fenwick Hall at Holy Cross when it burned down in 1852, the committee said.

The committee called the Crusader name and logo "distinctly out-of-step with our stated institutional mission” and suggested the college study the issue further.

The college elected not to take the names of Mulledy and Healy off of buildings on campus named for each. Boroughs said last year that Healy’s name would remain because of contributions he made to the school. Mulledy Hall was changed to Brooks-Mulledy Hall, named also for John Brooks, a Holy Cross president for 24 years who actively recruited minority students.

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