July 4, 2020

Letter to the editor: Jewish alumnus responds to mascot change

During my four years at Capital University, I remember being asked several times by various older members of the Columbus Jewish community questions to the effect of, “What is a nice Jewish boy like you doing at Capital?”
When confronted with these kinds of questions I did my best to describe the recent growth of Jewish student life on campus, and to explain the many advantages Capital University’s location in Bexley could provide Jewish students. One issue remained difficult to rationalize, however, my university’s use of the Crusader mascot.
Happily, as time went on, and the visibility of Jewish student life on campus increased, these types of questions were asked less frequently. Indeed, I feel that during the years 2014-18 significant strides were made to bring Capital University and the local Jewish community closer together.  During my senior year, however, I was surprised to hear a local rabbi, who had just helped to lead an event sponsored by the President’s Office and the Jewish Student Association on campus, say, “Why would a Jewish student go to a university whose mascot is the Crusaders?”
This rabbi had just witnessed how Jewish life on Capital’s campus was not just possible, but actively supported. Nevertheless, the issue of the University’s mascot sprung into his mind. While the administration of Capital University has recently made many welcome changes, including officially guaranteeing that the religious holidays celebrated by non-Christian faiths are recognized as excused absences from class, as long as the Crusader remains the mascot of the University, many are likely to wonder just how deep the University’s commitment to diversity goes.
Capital is among the oldest institutions of higher education in Ohio, with its origins dating to 1830, but the Crusader has only been the university’s mascot since 1963. Capital’s mascot has changed before, and change is most certainly possible again. There are many possibilities I have heard suggested including, Purple Knights, Centurions, and Saints.
My four years at Capital were a time of enormous academic and professional growth, and I truly feel that Capital’s combination of dedicated faculty, staff, and an envious location near the center of Columbus, provide students with significant opportunities. I want to see as many students as possible consider enrolling at Capital. As long as our University’s mascot continues to be seen by many as a symbol of oppression and intolerance, however, the opportunities provided by Capital will continue to be perceived as being accessible only to certain types of students while others remain alienated.
Austin Reid
Class of 2018
Hillel at Ithaca College

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