Holy Cross Explores Institutional History

By Allyson Noenickx

In recent months, the College of the Holy Cross has taken steps to review and address some of its problematic history and its connection with the institution of slavery. These initiatives began last fall when Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.,  president, commissioned the Mulledy/Healy Legacy Committee to offer recommendations regarding the potential renaming of Healy and Mulledy residence halls. This process has prompted discussions about other aspects of the College’s historical past  and present, including a review of the Crusader mascot. Memorialization processes are likely to come next.

Over the summer, Fr. Boroughs announced his final decision concerning the renaming of Mulledy and Healy halls in a letter to the campus community. Boroughs wrote, “There was no desire to change the name of Healy Hall; and there was no clear mandate to change the name of Mulledy Hall.” Fr. Boroughs agreed with the Committee’s recommendation that the name of Healy Hall remain unchanged. “The Healy brothers’ success at the College and their extraordinary professional lives which followed, as well as their own struggles with their racial identity in the context of the prejudicial social norms of the time, need to be remembered, understood and discussed by future generations of students, faculty and staff,” he said.

In addition, Boroughs’ letter addressed the conflicting feelings present on campus in regards to renaming Mulledy Hall in a manner that would recognize the past but pave the way toward a positive future. “I can appreciate the value of keeping Fr. Mulledy’s name on the residence hall as a way of ensuring that our history is told in full, and I can see the value in making a change so that it is clear that we are making a break with past injustice.” In an effort to combine what he called “the best of both instincts,” Boroughs announced that Mulledy Hall would be renamed Brooks-Mulledy Hall. This decision was met with mixed reactions by the student body.

“Though President Boroughs claims in his response to the report that there is ‘no clear mandate’ from the Committee regarding renaming Mulledy Hall, it seems clear to me that there are two recommendations: retain the name, or rename it to Presidents Hall,” said SGA Co-President Emily Breakell ’17, who declined an offer to become the head resident assistant of Brooks-Mulledy Hall this year due in part to concerns about these changes. “I find it interesting that the President diverged from the Committee’s recommendations in his decision,” said Breakell. “We do not see that happening at Georgetown, for example, where President DeGioia implemented the exact recommendations of the committee that he commissioned.”

The Committee has also sparked dialogue about other problematic historical ties and the next steps the College should take in addressing them. In their report the Committee expressed some faculty members’concerns regarding the use of the “Crusader” as a mascot. The report stated, “‘Our much more offensive mascot’ is a matter of greater moment than the names of buildings.” Boroughs also addressed these concerns suggesting that there may be more reviews to come. “The Committee’s report also signals that members of our community, on-and off-campus, would like us to consider the appropriateness of the ‘Crusader’ mascot in light of our  commitment  to  interreligious understanding,” stated Boroughs. “The administration will consider how best to engage in dialogue on this topic when the new academic year begins.”

No committee to review the appropriateness of the Crusader mascot has yet been formed, as Fr. Boroughs is currently assembling several other committees for the 2016-2017 academic year, including the search committees for the next vice president for student affairs and vice president for communications.

Fr. Boroughs also announced the next steps in educating students, faculty, staff, and alumni about the College’s historical connection to slavery and how this history will be memorialized on campus.   “I am grateful that some members of the Committee have volunteered to begin the next phase of this work in the fall by forming a new committee to develop a plan for memorializing this facet of our institutional history,” he stated.

The committee is set to begin its work sometime during the fall semester, after Fr. Boroughs recruits additional members and defines the committee’s objective.

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