U of MN Refutes Memo that Calls Santa Claus & Christmas Trees “Not Appropriate”
In the name of “diversity,” a memo distributed by a U of MN employee at a lunch meeting told attendees Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and bows and wrapped gifts were “not appropriate for gatherings and displays at this time of year.”
According to the Star Tribune, the document was part of a lunch-hour discussion series called “Dean’s Dialogues.” Students, faculty, and staff in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences were given the handout at the luncheon to “spark a dialogue” on religious diversity and holidays. Recipients of the memo were asked to keep campus holiday parties “neutral-themed” and use decorations that were “not specific to any one religion” on campus. Religious decorations were considered acceptable if they were put up in personal spaces that did “not have a meaningful public function” and weren’t public areas.
In general, the following are not appropriate for gatherings and displays at this time of year since they typically represent specific religious iconography:
Santa Claus, Angels, Christmas trees, Star of Bethlehem, Dreidels, Nativity scene, Bows/wrapped gifts, Menorah, Bells, Doves, Red and Green or Blue and White/Silver decoration themes (red and green are representative of the Christian tradition as blue and white/silver are for Jewish Hanukkah that is also celebrated at this time of year).
The handout also directed anyone “concerned” about “inappropriate religious celebrations in your work or learning environment” to contact the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
The backlash on social media over the document caused U of MN officials to tell the Star Tribune the memo was a “well-intentioned but ill-advised attempt to spark a dialogue” and merely advisory rather than an enforced policy. It was only distributed to individuals who participated in the Agricultural College’s lunch discussion on religious diversity.
Officials also told the Strib the U is not waging a war on Christmas, pointing to its own red and green decorations around campus and the joint appearance of the university’s president with Santa at the U of MN’s cancer center.
A University representative further clarified and distanced the school from the memo by stating:
“There is no ‘Religious Diversity and the Holidays’ memo. The actions of a single employee, whose attempt at a diversity training session was, to be blunt, ill-advised, does not constitute a policy on the part of the University. The document in question was created by one individual as part of a session for a segment of employees within one area of the University. It was not provided by, reviewed by, or approved by the University of Minnesota; the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; or the University’s Office of Equity and Diversity. The document was not distributed broadly to CFANS employees (or anyone else at the University of Minnesota, for that matter).”
The controversial handout is not a first on college campuses. Several universities across the country have made “recommendations” and “guidelines” concerning the use of Christmas-related words to be more “inclusive.” Nine out of ten Americans (90 percent) say they celebrate Christmas, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.