I attended the recent teach-in on the Crusader mascot that was sponsored by the Compassionate Campus Faculty Learning Community, of which I am a member. The information presented made it clear to me that it is time to change our mascot. Here in the Midwest we may not realize how negatively our mascot is viewed in the parts of the world where the Crusaders committed atrocities during the Middle Ages.
One presenter reported that while travelling to Asian countries, VU recruiters have to be very careful not to bring any materials that depict or even refer to the mascot. A faculty member reported that his hometown has a monument to the victims of the Crusaders, so when his four-year-old niece asked him what VU’s mascot is, he just told her “the Valpo.” He dreads the day when she goes online and discovers the truth. One student reported that when he was thinking about attending VU, the Crusader mascot almost made him reconsider. A Muslim student who grew up in Valparaiso could not understand why a school he admires would have such a negative mascot.
Once before in our history we have changed mascots. Our first mascot was a German knight called the Uhlan, a symbol that was proposed and then voted on by readers of The Torch. However, due to anti-German sentiment during WW II, that mascot was suddenly changed (not in an open democratic process) to the Crusader. Let’s consider changing our mascot once again to something that depicts VU in a more positive light. Maybe The Torch could again lead the way by holding a contest for a more inclusive mascot?
To learn more about this issue and to post your comments, you can go to facebook.com/groups/CompassionateCampusVU/.
Director of Faculty Development