Universities strive for 'Christmas'-free campuses
As another Christmas quickly approaches, colleges across the country are issuing their annual guidelines on how to make the season as inclusive as possible.
At the University of California, Irvine, for instance, individual departments are encouraged to “focus on celebrating a special occasion, instead of a specific holiday,” suggesting that they have a “year-end celebration” or celebrate “seasonal themes such as fall, winter, or spring.”
"The holiday season should be considered an opportunity to demonstrate cultural sensitivity and inclusivity."
The California university also requests that academic departments “ensure that office celebrations are not indirectly celebrating religious holidays,” suggesting that they display “diverse symbols representing a variety of faith traditions along with secular ones.”
The State University of New York, Brockport has issued similar guidance on “culturally sensitive holiday decorations,” even advising employees to “consider a grab bag instead of a ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange.”
“Keep decorations general and nonspecific to any religion. Create a winter theme with lights and color rather than religious icons, or include decorations from all the cultural traditions represented in your department,” the guidelines add, saying the “holiday season should be considered an opportunity to demonstrate cultural sensitivity and inclusivity.”
Similarly, Ohio University put out a guide on “holiday expenditures,” noting that decorations cannot be purchased with university funds, but that any decorations “displayed in public areas” should “be secular in nature.”
The same paragraph mentions campus policy 42.501, which pertains to “the safe and appropriate use of decorations,” yet the policy contains no provisions on requiring secular-themed decorations, and the university did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for clarification.
Meanwhile, Life University is sponsoring a holiday decorating contest, but will judge participants on “inclusiveness, or how the decorations are respectful of all the religious winter holidays,” along with three other criteria.
Eastern Connecticut’s Public Liberal Arts University is offering students the chance to participate in “an inclusive holiday decorating party,” while numerous other institutions have omitted the word “Christmas” from their annual “tree lighting” ceremonies.
Among them is Mercyhurst University, a Catholic college in Pennsylvania, which refers to its celebration as the “annual holiday tree lighting.”
Not to be outdone, the University of Alabama’s student newspaper ran an editorial attacking President Trump for returning a nativity scene to the White House grounds, calling the move “disrespectful.”
“Bringing back the nativity scene is a slap in the face to the remaining religions thriving within America,” the editorial declared. “Placing the nativity scene on the grounds of the most important house in the United States is sending the message that their president forgets those who do not practice Christianity.”
UPDATE: Mercyhurst University had initially described its annual tree lighting as a “holiday tree lighting,” but after Campus Reform’s reporting, the school changed the name of the annual celebration to a “Christmas tree lighting.”
CORRECTION: This story originally stated the the nativity scene editorial was published by Harvard University's student newspaper, rather than the University of Alabama's. The article has also been corrected to reflect that Ohio University does not allow decorations to be purchased with university funds.
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