UMaine bans Christmas decorations in the name of diversity

Students have a "Save Christmas at UMaine" event planned for Friday, the last day of classes.

Decorations previously displayed in the Memorial Union student center have been removed.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—except at the University of Maine.

UMaine faculty and staff received an email on Monday forbidding candy canes, Christmas trees, Christmas presents, Menorahs, and wreaths in public areas on campus.

“Just wanted to remind everyone that Aux Services is not to decorate any public areas with Christmas or any other religious themed decorations,” the email states. “Winter holiday decorations are fine but we need to not display any decoration that could be perceived as religious.”

“This includes xmas trees, wreaths, xmas presents, menorahs, candy canes, etc.,” the email says. “What is allowed our [sic] winter themes, snowmen, plain trees without presents underneath, decorative lights, but not on trees, snow flakes, [sic] etc.”

According to a statement from the university, UMaine's holiday decorations decision was made to better promote diversity on campus.

“[T]he university makes every effort to ensure that all members – students, employees, alumni and the public–feel included and welcome on campus. Decorations on the UMaine campus are therefore reflective of the diversity found in our community,” UMaine said in a statement obtained by Campus Reform

However, UMaine Dean of Students Robert Dana said Thursday morning on WVOM, a local radio station, that the the university isn't "the Grinch," and the email was not a "university missive." Dana said the university welcomes diversity, and the email had been sent by a "supervisor" who was trying to make the university more "inclusive." 

"We respect the Constitution," Dana said. "There's freedom of speech, freedom of religion."

According to WABI, a local CBS affiliate, lights, snowflakes, and snowmen were the only holiday decorations still on campus; Christmas trees and wreaths which were in the Memorial Union student center are now gone.

“We sit here and we talk about how we’re a university that’s about welcoming all different types of people, all walks of life, we have all these different groups like the LGBT, we have up the flag for that…why can’t we support every religion and hang up decorations for every religion?” Meghan Blackford, a UMaine graduate student, told WABI.

Margaret Howson, a junior political science and psychology major at UMaine told Campus Reform that the decision to ban Christmas decorations actually clashes with the university's call for diversity.

"This measure systematically excludes and alienates everyone and anyone who has ever celebrated a holiday during December," Howson told Campus Reform. "Rather than encouraging and practicing inclusion, the administration has chosen to systematically exclude all religious holidays on campus. If the university really wants to foster diversity and encourage inclusion of all cultures, it should encourage all students, all staff, and all faculty to freely practice and celebrate their religious holidays as is their constitutional right." 

Students have also planned a “Save Christmas at UMaine” event for Friday, the last day of classes. According to a Facebook event page, UMaine students are encouraged to wear Santa hats or other holiday-themed apparel on Friday.

"I'm so excited to see my peers standing up for their right to practice their religions and religious holidays freely," Howson said of the event. 

At time of publication, more than 225 students had RSVP’d that they would be attending.

“This is effort is not targeted to solely support one religion or belief, but to maintain a loving, cheer themed environment for all,” the event description says.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn