By: Kylee D. Miller
When Clarke University first announced it was changing its nickname from the Crusaders to Pride, I was livid. I contacted many of my friends and complained about a variety of things. This is stupid! I argued. Or social justice warrior nonsense run amuck. Compared to other schools’ names ours was hardly the most offensive and they haven’t been forced to change. Pride is a feeling not a mascot! And it’s not an intimidating mascot at that!
I first stepped foot onto Clarke’s campus in the spring of 2007. I was a senior in high school and hoping to play college volleyball. My mother and I took a campus tour and I was instantly, irretrievably, in love with everything Clarke. During that visit, Admissions handed me my first Clarke shirt that read: Clarke College. I bought my second shirt ten minutes later, which sported a lion with Crusaders stretched across the front and Clarke College down the sleeve.
What I didn’t know until a few years later was that in 2007 Clarke was undergoing the first of many changes I would see. The BVM Sisters, among others, were displeased with the male Crusader mascot dressed as a knight. The school wanted to distance itself from the negative associations “Crusaders” had and called for a change. Many new names were floated – including the Clarke Phoenix, which made sense given the school had literally arisen from its own ashes after the 1984 fire – but at that time the decision was made to adopt a new lion mascot and keep the Crusaders nickname. There was much to do about that change and many people disagreed with it. I, being an 18-year-old newly admitted student, just thought the lion looked cool.
During my four years, I was instantly recognizable as a Clarke student. I owned nearly every shirt and accessory the bookstore sold. Then in 2010, much of my Clarke gear was no longer accurate because we were no longer Clarke College. Instead we had taken on the appropriate tag of: University. I didn’t mind. I was given a new window sticker for my car and put it on within an hour. Some people complained about the switch to University and would have preferred we remained Clarke College. It was a tradition after all. But this name change went very smoothly and was indicative of how the current situation will likely progress.
I’ve read that some people are concerned about the cost to the sports teams as they move to switch their equipment and uniforms to reflect the new nickname. I can tell you from experience that the previous name change was pretty awesome for student-athletes because we were given new uniforms and equipment to replace what previously had college on it. From my perspective, Clarke knew there would be a need for new uniforms and equipment when they implemented the change so they ensured the necessary funds were available in the budget. We never went without anything.
Another complaint I have seen is that Crusaders isn’t associated with a violent religious war anymore. It means Crusading for something, like justice or equality. That’s true, it has taken on additional meaning, but it does not change the fact that the Crusades were a violent time in world history. It’s like if we had been called the Clarke Conquistadors for the last forty years. The Conquistadors came to the New World for God, Glory, and Gold. They brought with them small pox, oppression, and cultural genocide. The Crusaders fought in the Crusades for similar reasons with similar effect. Except the Crusaders didn’t technically win. Thousands of people were killed, including children who were sent to fight as Crusaders, and no amount of added meaning can wash away that history.
I never personally found the nickname Crusaders offensive and still don’t. But at best, it’s a neutral nickname, and at worst, it has extremely negative connotations. So the question then becomes, why keep something that has no benefit and runs the risk of hurting you? Why not go with something like Pride that can still be a strong nickname, but doesn’t conjure up violent images of death? A prospective athlete likely won’t care what their team nickname will be. They’ll care about the team and the school. The crowds will still cheer and the players will continue to give their all to the sport they love.
I did not like the nickname Pride very much either initially. It’s an emotion after all. But then I did some research. Two high schools in my area are thinking of adopting this same nickname and it’s becoming much more common. I also realized that a Pride of Lions is much more intimidating than some guy in full body armor carrying a lance when he can barley move. Whenever I’ve encountered a Pride of Lions, I’ve been very thankful they are well fed and behind a thick glass wall. Pride is a positive nickname with positive associations.
Losing the alliteration of Clarke Crusaders does kind of suck since all alliterations are awesome. But not having an alliteration does not mean Pride can’t be awesome too. That’s what my Clarke logic professor would call a faulty syllogism. (Like all bunnies have whiskers, all bunnies are mammals; therefore, all mammals have whiskers.) It’s not accurate. Pride can be awesome, we just have to let it. Change sucks. It’s hard to deal with and can be upsetting. But Clarke has this handled.
Besides, it’s not the Crusaders nickname that makes Clarke, Clarke. As long as the school that I loved is still teaching critical thinking, still encouraging personal growth, and still providing opportunities to its students, it will continue to have my support.
As for ‘Pride’? Warn the bookstore. I’ll want a t-shirt in the fall.
Kylee D. Miller, Clarke Class of 2012, is a former four-year Clarke volleyball player. She is currently a practicing attorney in Rockford, Illinois.