Alvernia University Nickname to Change
Alvernia University has announced that it will change its university nickname, which has been “Crusaders” since the 1970s.
“The decision to choose a new institutional nickname and athletic mascot is the result of thorough reflection, guided by our Franciscan core values,” said Alvernia President Thomas F. Flynn, Ph.D. “We are excited about the opportunity ahead, especially since there is such widespread support for making this change.”
In preparing for this decision, President Flynn coordinated a process of consultation with student and alumni leaders, the faculty, and the Board of Trustees. Each group unanimously supported this change, as did key staff in athletics and other areas. For all at the university, a key factor was the strong, unanimous advocacy for the change by the leadership team of the university’s sponsors, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters.
A task force appointed by the president, and representing the university, will invite students, faculty, staff, and alumni to submit ideas for consideration. President Flynn plans to announce the new nickname in June, with the new name being put into use immediately.
According to Franciscan scholars, Alvernia’s patron saint, Francis of Assisi, marked a major transition in his spiritual journey when he turned away from the Crusades and pursued a life of peacemaking, including his famous trip to meet the Sultan, Malik al Kamil.
Alvernia sports teams assumed the name “Crusaders” in the 1970s with the launch of an intercollegiate athletic program at what was then a tiny, local college. Today, Alvernia is well established as a thriving regional institution, with increased visibility nationally as a student-centered “Distinctive Franciscan University,” part of the proud tradition of Catholic higher education.
“We have gained respect for our work in civic engagement and as an interfaith leader locally and nationally,” said President Flynn. “Overall, guided by the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, our Franciscan identity is far more central, intentional and prominent than in recent decades. And, like many others, both Catholics and those from other traditions, we are inspired by the message of a modern-day Francis who has been a prophetic voice for unity, inclusion and peacemaking.
“We appreciate the fact that other institutions have either made the same decision or chosen not to change, and we respect their varying conclusions,” said Flynn. “Above all, for us at Alvernia, we view this decision through the lens of our Franciscan identity and core values, which continue to be at the center of who we are as a university community.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Who made this decision?
A: Following consultation with, and the unanimous endorsement by, university campus leaders (officers of the Student Government and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, the Faculty Council, and the Alumni Council) as well as the leadership team of the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters and the full Board of Trustees, the final decision was made by President Flynn.
Q: What’s the reason behind dropping the “Crusader” nickname?
A: Our patron, St. Francis, changed his life course and spiritual journey when he turned away from the Crusades and pursued a path of peacemaking—including his famous trip to meet the Sultan, Malik al Kamil. This name change is in fidelity to our Franciscan mission and is congruent with the spirit of peace, harmony and inclusiveness that we, as Franciscans, strive for and that Pope Francis upholds.
Q: How did the idea to drop the “Crusader” nickname originate?
A: There was no precipitating factor for this change, but a growing sense among diverse campus leaders that the time was opportune for such a change, consistent with the Franciscan core values that guide the university and are the living legacy of our sponsors, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters. The Faculty and Board of Trustees and our student and alumni leaders all endorsed this change unanimously.
Q: How will the new name be selected?
A. A university-wide task force, appointed by the president, will seek suggestions for a new name from students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The task force will review all submissions and consult with leaders of the faculty, student body, alumni, athletic staff and administration, as well as with representatives of the Board of Trustees and the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters. Once the leading choices are identified, the task force will present the top selections to the president, who will make the final decision on the new name.
Q: Are there new names already being developed? If so, what are they?
A: The task force has not yet met, so no new names have been considered at this time.
Q: When will the new name be announced?
A: We plan to make a decision and announce the new name in June.
Q: Will the school’s team name remain the Crusaders through the remainder of the academic year?
A: Yes, through the spring of the year until a new nickname has been selected in June 2017.
Q: When will Alvernia sports teams start using the new name?
A: Alvernia’s sports teams will begin using the new name in the fall of 2017.
Q: Isn’t this really a matter of being politically correct, particularly in light of other colleges dropping the “Crusader” name?
A: Not at all. It’s a matter of being true to our Franciscan mission and our core values of service, humility, peacemaking, contemplation, and collegiality. This change is also a response to the spirit of peace, harmony, and inclusiveness that Franciscans aspire to and that Pope Francis upholds.
Q: Will the Crusaders name be completely removed from the campus?
A: We recognize that the Crusaders nickname is part of our university’s history. So, “Crusaders” will still appear on existing commemorative banners, trophies and other items from our past accomplishments. Once we have announced a new nickname, clubs, venues and other entities that currently use the Crusader nickname or reference to it, and represent the university in an official capacity, will be asked to change their name accordingly.
Q. What other colleges and universities changed their nickname from Crusaders?
A: Since 2000, we are aware of more than 10 colleges and universities that have changed their name from Crusaders to something else, as well as others who have chosen to retain the name. We respect either approach.
Q: Will the school’s colors change?
A: No. Maroon and gold will continue to be our school colors.
In support of a new university nickname and athletic mascot that matches our identity
Alvernia University has decided to change its institutional nickname and athletics mascot, which has been “Crusaders” since the 1970s. In the past few months, President Flynn has consulted with key university leaders and supporters, including the Faculty Council, the Alumni Council, and the combined leadership of our Student Government and Student Athlete Advisory Committee. All of them have adopted unanimous resolutions of support to make a formal change in the coming months. Our Board of Trustees has also voted unanimously to support this decision.
A decisive factor in all these deliberations has been the strong advocacy for this change by the leadership team of the university’s Catholic sponsors, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, and the universal commitment to our Franciscan mission and core values.
A task force representing the University community will be appointed by President Flynn to review potential new nicknames. Once the leading choices are identified, the task force will seek additional feedback from the campus and alumni representatives before presenting the top selections to the president for a final decision. We plan to announce our new nickname and athletic team mascot by mid-June 2017, with the new name to be used immediately.
History of the name “Crusaders”
According to Franciscan scholars, the name “Crusaders” traces its origin to a period of great interfaith and intercultural turmoil in human history. The Crusades were a series of religiously motivated wars, beginning in the late 11th century and lasting into the 13th century. Our own patron, St. Francis of Assisi, marked a major transition in his life and spiritual journey when he turned away from the Crusades and pursued a life of peacemaking, including his famous trip to meet the Sultan, Malik al Kamil. In doing so, he exemplified the Franciscan call over the centuries to be peacemakers by seeking “not to be understood but to understand.”
The name “Crusaders” at Alvernia
Alvernia sports teams assumed the name “Crusaders” in the 1970s by presidential declaration when a fledgling athletic program was launched.
As at other schools with the same nickname, some at Alvernia have viewed “Crusaders” as expressing commitment to and passion for a cause. In that regard, the name correlates with a positive, competitive image for athletics. While they may acknowledge the historical associations of the nickname, they consider it overall to be a positive image.
On the other hand, many others view the image as opposed to the peace and harmony of “right relationships” modeled by St. Francis and the spirit of inclusiveness for which Franciscans strive.
Why change now?
Much has changed in the last decade. Alvernia is now well established as a thriving regional institution, with increased visibility nationally as a student-centered “Distinctive Franciscan University,” part of the proud tradition of Catholic higher education. Our visibility and reputation among small to mid-sized private schools, and among Catholic universities, is growing. We have received national recognition for civic engagement and gained respect as an interfaith leader locally and nationally.
Overall, our Franciscan identity is far more central, intentional, and prominent than a decade ago. And, like many others, both Catholics and those from other traditions, we are inspired by the message of a modern-day Francis who has been a prophetic voice for unity, inclusion and peacemaking.
Our decision and ours alone
We are secure in the conviction that this decision is totally our own, while respecting that other institutions have either made the same decision or decided not to change. Our serious and wide-ranging internal reflection has focused on our Franciscan mission and core values. The opportunity to engage diverse leaders of the Alvernia community in these deliberations and the unanimous endorsement of key university governance bodies reflects overwhelming support for change. Now we have the opportunity to make a positive change and to build on the increasing energy and loyalty to Alvernia University.