October 18, 2013
Community to have say in changing tiger mascotA tiger. The Caped Crusader. The Crusaders. All are terms that Susquehanna associates with its mascot. The question still remains of what exactly a Crusader is and why a tiger is used to represent it.
The physical embodiment of the tiger as the mascot has become more prominent on campus during the past few years, due to what Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Phil Winger correlates with the arrival of Associate Dean of Students for Student Support Caroline Mercado.
He said: "My sense is that it's not had the prominence in my time here that most students are familiar with coming out of strong high school traditions. It hasn't been a real rallying point. When Caro started, especially with her work with first-year students, [the presence of the mascot] could really be improved on."
Sophomore Erin McGarrah said: "I don't feel that the tiger has as big of a presence as it could because the Crusader aspect is more visible on campus, especially since it is what's on the clothing at the bookstore. At my high school, we were the foxes, and the fox logo was everywhere. There was no doubt that we were the foxes."
In a move to change the view that the mascot has on Susquehanna's campus, the Office of Student Activities and the Office of Alumni Relations are currently working on presenting the student body with a new physical embodiment of the Crusader.
Director of Student Activities Brent Papson said this would involve the Susquehanna community, including alumni and students, choosing between an updated tiger, a squirrel or a creature, with no correlation to the historical image.
Papson said: "I don't think it's necessarily about being okay with a name, but moving to some sort of creature, whether it's the tiger or something else [that] people will be able to recognize Crusader for what it is originally meant to be. If we do some sort of knight or something that represents historical Crusaders, it's only going to muddy the waters and create confusion."
By choosing to involve students in the process, Papson said he hopes it will change some of the conflicts that community members see with the current mascot situation.
Papson said: "My hope is that with this process, students will feel like they have a voice. We will never have an agreement on what will come out of it, but at least we will have something to point to that shows students had their say."
Although campus leaders have begun talking about changing the mascot, Papson said that they are hoping to roll out a revamped mascot, whether it is a tiger, a squirrel or a creature, by the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic school year.
Provost Linda McMillan said: "Maybe [with a new physical embodiment of the mascot], the Crusader piece becomes less important and we don't have to have a big fight about it. Less and less that's front and center about it, and maybe it eventually will become a historical part of us. [Maybe we could say] there was a time when we were called the Crusaders because of this."
The question that McGarrah and many students are asking is: "We're a tiger, but we're the Crusaders?" If the community votes to change the Crusader to something different, the question would only slightly change, "We're a squirrel/creature, but we're the Crusaders?" Along with that question comes possible discomfort with the word Crusader.
McMillan said: "When I got here in 1989, there was a level of discomfort with 'Crusader.' We were long past the idea of a guy on a horse in armor. Even in 1989, we thought maybe that's not the way we want to portray ourselves."
McMillan, whose academic study is focused in medieval history, said the Crusaders were not an exemplary moment in history. There is a common association of violence in the name of religion related to Crusader. It is sometimes also construed as an anti-Semitic notion. The term, she said, has a way of not making the Islamic community feel welcome.
McMillan said, "Those connotations are out there, and for better or for worse, we have to deal with them."
What most people do not know is the word Crusaders was given to Susquehanna by Stony McLinn, the sports editor of the Philadelphia Public Ledger in the late 1920s, when Luther Grossman, the Susquehanna athletic director at the time, went on a campaign to have only amateur athletes play on Susquehanna's teams.
According to Emeritus Professor of History and author of the book "Susquehanna University, 1858-2000: A Goodly Heritage" Donald Housley, McLinn said that Grossman's work was that of 'Crusaders' who "put its athletics on a strictly amateur basis. Sports for all and sports for their own sake."
Despite McLinn's positive twist on the word Crusader, McMillan said: "When you take a word, or a phrase, or an idea, or a historical reality, and say 'Okay, we're going to take this and create our own little spin on it,' you can do that. But you can't lose the larger cultural context."
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