A Pennsylvania university is searching for a new mascot and nickname to replace its longtime "Crusaders" moniker, which the school says is "at odds" with its "values and commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.”
Susquehanna University is asking people to submit their top choices for a replacement by Jan. 25. The top contenders -- which might include the Bobcarts or River Otters -- will then be submitted to the university president, who will in turn present them to the school's board of trustees, a university spokeswoman told FoxNews.com Tuesday.
The school's board of trustees voted in October to replace the Crusader name, after consulting with alumni, students, faculty and staff.
"An institution’s mascot and nickname should be beloved and unifying symbols."
- School President L. Jay Lemons
The Crusader name, which was first used by a Philadelphia sports writer in 1924, was a reference to then-Susquehanna athletic director Luther Grossman’s “crusade” to bring integrity to intercollegiate athletics.
"Many critics of the term Crusader feel that connotations of the word — related to the medieval Crusaders who used violence in the name of religion — are at odds with the university’s increasing diversity and its commitment to embracing and respecting difference," the school said in a statement obtained by FoxNews.com.
"Moreover, many students have long indicated a desire for an unambiguous mascot that they could rally behind," the school said.
In June, the Board of Trustees asked President L. Jay Lemons to engage in a conversation with the school community about the name and mascot, and to return to them with a recommendation as to whether to keep Crusader or make a change.
According to the school, Lemons carefully listened to input from students, alumni, staff and faculty over the next several months and decided the name and mascot should be changed.
“Symbols are important and powerful,” he wrote in his recommendation to the board. “An institution’s mascot and nickname should be beloved and unifying symbols,” he noted, adding that has not been the case with the Susquehanna Crusader for some time.
“Our ambivalence and discomfort with the ‘Crusader’ nickname has contributed to its decline. We have not been able to attach our identity to our own unique definition of Crusader," he said. "To continue down that path would be unproductive and at odds with the university’s commitment to building an inclusive campus where individuals of all cultures are welcome.”
There are several colleges and universities around the country that currently bear the nickname, "Crusaders," such as the College of the Holy Cross, Valparaiso University, North Greenville University, Northwest Nazarene University, Evangel University, William Carey University, Belmont Abbey College, Clarke University and Dallas Christian College.
In 2000, Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., dropped its Crusaders name and changed it to Thunder. Other schools have since followed suit, including Maranatha Baptist University in 2014, Eastern Nazarene College in 2009, University of the Incarnate Word in 2004 and Point Loma Nazarene University in 2003, which changed its name to the Sea Lions.
The school said Monday it had narrowed its list of 400 suggestions to five choices: the Susquehanna Bobcats, Explorers, Phoenix, River Hawks and River Otters. The school is urging the university community to rank which of the names they like best in an online survey to be submitted by January 25.