Faith-based university says symbol not representative of its core values

Interim President Colette Irwin-Knott of Valparaiso University (“Valpo”) announced today that it will retire its existing mascot, the Crusader. Irwin-Knott made the announcement in a video message to the campus community and alumni along with Student Body President Kaitlyn Steinhiser.

The decision was finalized this week after what has been a decades-long debate that has intensified during the past several years. The Crusader imagery related to the Crusades has been embraced and displayed by hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan.

“The negative connotation and violence associated with the Crusader imagery are not reflective of Valpo’s mission and values, which promote a welcoming and inclusive community,” Irwin-Knott said. “The university has carefully evaluated this matter, including establishing a task force to conduct due diligence and garner feedback from the entire campus community, alumni, parents and other key stakeholders. This is the decision that best reflects our values and community.”

The university will retire its Crusader imagery and logos over the coming months, while simultaneously forming a committee to engage the campus community in considering and adopting a new mascot. President-Elect José D. Padilla, who officially begins his new role on March 1, will oversee this committee.

The Faculty Senate and Student Senate passed resolutions calling on the University to retire the mascot. Steinhiser added, “The Student Senate feels that the purpose of a school mascot is for school spirit and to represent Valpo values, and the Crusader does not do that effectively.”

Additionally, the Valparaiso University alumni board of directors passed a resolution calling for the review of the use of the mascot, its appropriateness and alignment with the University’s values.

Valpo’s decision is in line with athletic teams across all levels – from interscholastic to professional sports programs – that are replacing offensive mascots with less divisive symbols. With this decision, the university is following the same course as virtually all other universities that carried the Crusader as their mascot or a symbol for their school.

“Valpo is and always has been a faith-based institution, and we want to make sure our symbolism is in alignment with our beliefs and speaks to the core values of the Lutheran ethos,” Irwin-Knott said. “At Valpo, we strive to seek truth, serve generously and cultivate hope. We do not believe having the Crusader as our mascot portrays these values.”

Valpo will share additional information as the process to identify a new mascot progresses.