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Jan 11, 2016

      Are US universities declaring war on Christmas?

A set of online recommendations from the university’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion – while apparently largely unknown to most students and faculty members as they made their holiday plans – are now being much discussed, after legislators started criticising the recommendations and calling for the resignation of Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, even though there are no signs at all that he was involved in writing or enforcing the document.

Among the recommendations: “Holiday parties and celebrations should celebrate and build upon workplace relationships and team morale with no emphasis on religion or culture. Ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise.” And: “Consider having a New Year’s party and include décor and food from multiple religions and cultures. Use it as an opportunity to reinvigorate individuals for the new year’s goals and priorities.” Some have noted that Tennessee has an obligation as a public university not to endorse any religion, the theme of the guidance is about being inclusive more than about legalities.

Amid the outrage, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion posted a new note on its website, reiterating that the guidance was only advice and not policy. And the office stated explicitly that many people can and do celebrate Christmas at the university. “We honor Christmas as one of the celebrations of the season and the birth of Jesus and the corresponding Christmas observance is one of the Christian holidays on our cultural and religious holidays calendar,” says the statement.