Frat house cannot hang its own Christmas wreath, university insists

A fraternity landed in trouble with Emory University for decorating its house with a wreath and garland.

The university filed an incident report, claiming the decoration violated school policy.

Fraternity and sorority students at Emory University are not allowed to hang their own exterior Christmas decorations. 

That policy was news to members of the Atlanta university’s Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity when Josh Gamse, assistant director of sorority and fraternity life, informed the chapter Dec. 3 that its wreath was violating school policy. 

”Since this is the second violation of the policy, an incident report will be submitted to the Office of Student Conduct,” Gasme wrote in an email obtained by Campus Reform. 

Emory’s policy states, “Exterior holiday decorations must not be installed or removed by students. Violators of this policy will face disciplinary actions.” 

Housing Operations must handle installation and removal, according to the policy. 

Davis Van Inwegen, ATO’s house improvement chair, told Campus Reform that this rule is new and that the fraternity was not sufficiently informed by the university about the change.

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In a separate Dec. 3 email obtained by Campus Reform, Gamse informed Van Inwegen that the link the fraternity was “an outdated version of the policy. This is the one that is currently up on the housing website,” referring to the “Housing Policy” page on Emory’s website. 

Van Inwegen told Campus Reform that ATO did not know the policy was outdated because a Google search direct its members to an old set of regulations that did not contain the exterior installation restriction. 

”I just did the same google [sic] search and I see it too, but it is not the correct version,” Gamse told Van Inwegen in that Dec. 3 exchange. “I have reached out to IT to see if there is anything we can do about the outdated version on Google.”

Speaking with Campus Reform, Van Inwegen explained that the mention of a “second violation” in Gamse’s email likely referred to inflatable polar bears the fraternity placed on its balcony prior to Thanksgiving, unaware the items were in violation of the updated policy. 

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Conducting an online search, Campus Reform discovered that the link Gamse did direct ATO to on Dec. 3 did not contain the new restriction in the version updated July 31. 

Explaining to Gamse that the fraternity had used “Emory housing policy 2021-2022” Google search, Van Inwegen included a screenshot of what he and other ATO members believed was the correct set of regulations. 

“There are no lights, decoration hung on light fixtures, or any other conceivable violation under rule 1.21 and 1.21.1 that we know of,” he said in the email, “[we] are totally confused as to what rules we violated.”

Van Inwegen told Gamse that his fraternity followed policy “to a T given the available information.”

Van Inwegen told Campus Reform that he has seen some houses “with Christmas decorations that were there one day and gone the next.”

Campus Reform reached out to Emory to ask if they informed fraternity and sorority leadership about the change in policy and whether the university would pursue disciplinary action given the confusion. This article will be updated accordingly.