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Everyone knows that UD’s mascot is the Crusader—or do they? When I visited campus for the first time in February 2020, I was 14 years old, and the Groundhog celebration of that year had taken place only a couple of weeks prior.
It was a dreary day, and I was walking on the mall, heading into Haggar when I saw someone in a big groundhog suit DJ-ing and dancing with a few students standing around him smoking cigarettes.
I was with my mother and we looked at each other and laughed. Throughout the day, I had heard various bits of what Groundhog was and that it was a pretty important event for the university. This led me to put the pieces together in my head, and I thought, “Oh, that must mean UD’s mascot is a groundhog!”
I was, apparently, incorrect about this. I went on believing it was true, however, until shortly before I enrolled last spring. I was a little confused, of course, but even more curious about why the groundhog seemed to be such a vital part of UD.
Why didn’t I know UD’s mascot was the Crusader? I was puzzled about this question for a long time. When I told Dr. Roper of this puzzle, he told me, “I think your experience of not even knowing about our official symbol is interesting and telling.”
This is an important phenomenon to consider because a university’s mascot is what the university decides to broadcast about itself to the world. The fact that I thought an unofficial mascot was the official one while visiting campus says something about how UD students perceive themselves.
At the University of Dallas, we are the Crusaders — an army of soldiers in a holy war, fighting for our country, our culture and our faith. The groundhog represents something completely different from that. The groundhog does not represent our mission as a university, but rather the essence of our community.
What I saw before I was a student here was the spirit of the university, as opposed to its identity as an academic institution. The groundhog represents the zeal and spirit of UD students, and in some ways, I think it also represents a student body independent of its administration.
The Groundhog celebration began as a student initiative when the university was less than 10 years old, and students sustained it themselves for decades.
In this way, the groundhog has been an iconic symbol of UD’s party culture since the beginning. The Crusader has also been UD’s official mascot for decades, which makes the two of them an inseparable pair. Groundhog is our communal identity, while the Crusader is our institutional identity.
Our community has a party culture that strongly resembles medieval festivals, which is why I think a medieval-themed Charity Week worked so well. Our institution is academically rigorous and “playfully serious” as Dr. Roper likes to say, and these two different identities of the university come together beautifully.
“The two mesh well, and they don’t necessarily have to relate, but they have to complement each other. I think they complement each other pretty well,” said Prof. Stefan Novinski, chair of the drama department.
What the phrase “the seriously playful and the playfully serious” means is that UD knows how to have fun and how to study hard. This is exactly what it means to live life to the fullest, and that is something to be proud of. Without the groundhog or the Crusader, UD is not UD. If you ask “Which is it?” I will tell you that UD is both, and that’s how we like it.