Is Your Name Aligned With Your Values?
Think about the name of your organization. Is there anything offensive about it? What about your company motto, slogan or even nickname?
Over time, specific words and phrases become ingrained in an organization’s culture. This can lead to statements such as, “It’s just a name”, “It’s part of our history”, and “It’s always been there.”
To some it might seem just fine. But to others it might be considered offensive.
Pennsylvania-based Susquehanna University is a good case to consider.
What’s wrong with the name Crusaders?
Susquehanna University traces its roots back to 1858. Its mission is to educate students for productive, creative and reflective lives of achievement, leadership, and service in a diverse, dynamic and interdependent world.
The school has eight statements that make up their Guiding Values. [Sadly, these are not posted on their website. But I did find them in the university’s 2014 Strategic Plan.] One of these values statements begins: “A learning community that values diversity…”
Apparently the university’s Board of Trustees feels the school’s nickname “Crusaders” is at odds with this value. The university published the following statement:
“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.”
So in June 2015, the university’s president was asked to engage in conversation with the school community about the name and mascot, and make a recommendation as to whether to keep Crusader or make a change. With input from students, alumni, staff and faculty the school decided the name and mascot should be changed.
Know The Origin
So what exactly is the origin of the Crusaders nickname at Susquehanna University?
In 1924, a Philadelphia sports writer used the term “Crusader” in reference to Luther Grossman’s “crusade” to bring integrity to intercollegiate athletics. At the time Grossman was the athletic director of Susquehanna University. This led the school to adopt the name Crusaders as their nickname and team mascot.
Think about. An athletic director on a crusade to bring integrity to intercollegiate athletics. What a worthy goal! The name absolutely made sense – in 1924.
But the memory of Luther Grossman is long forgotten.
All that Susquehanna students, alumni, and fans see today are numerous jerseys, flags, and a mascot branded with the word “Crusaders”. Maybe some even think it’s ok to use violence to achieve their goals.
They have no idea about the origin of the name.
What About Your Company
Do you know the origin of your company name? Does it have a history that is still relevant today?
What about your organization’s motto, slogan, or tagline? Is it possible that some customers or employees might consider it offensive?
Are there any disconnects between your stated values (assuming you have them) and the well-known terms and phrases used by your organization?
Maybe it’s time to reassess.