Thursday, December 09, 2004

Minds so open our decorations fell out 

I was surprised last week when I saw Salvation Army bellringers in front of the student union building on campus. If Target would ban them, then certainly Diversity State would as well. Alas, I haven't seen them this week.

What we also won't see on campus are decorations of any kind.

In past years, holiday decorations filled campus buildings and residence halls. Although there is no written policy, some students have claimed the university has taken a no-decorations stance to the holidays.

Residential Life President Larry Christiansen said that the residence halls are free to decorate, with exceptions. "Residential Life has no policy about decorating, except when it comes to eliminating fire hazards," Christiansen said. "We don't allow real trees in students' rooms and we ask that students limit the amount of paper on their doors, but they are free to decorate however they want in their rooms."

The Eagle Line, Residential Life's newsletter was handed out to students who live on campus this week. It provided decorating guidelines that only pertained to fire safety, not the content of the decorations.

Christansen, who has worked at SCSU since the end of October said that there seems to be a heightened sensitivity about cultures and holidays compared to other campuses he has worked at. Except for toy drive drop boxes, the residence hall lobbies are free of Christmas, Hanukkah or Ramadan reminders.

Freshman and Stearns Hall resident Joe Sanderson said he is disappointed with the lack of holiday spirit.

"I think decorations look nice," Sanderson said. "I can live without them, but it could be a little more festive."

This year, there is a controversy over whether or not the lit tree should remain on top of Sherburne Hall. KSTP Channel 5 visited campus on Tuesday and covered the story on the nightly news. Sophomore Matt Rydberd, a desk worker at Sherburne, said that the KSTP reporters referred to the tree as a "giant metal triangle."

I have not seen an official policy either, but Professor Dick Andzenge has an op-ed to the St. Cloud Times yesterday explaining the result of this ban.

A few years ago, two individuals associated with minority organizations at the university protested against the notion of a holiday season and the decorations on campus. They claimed that they were Christian holidays and that celebrating them was not sensitive to minorities. The university responded by disallowing the decorations. I considered that protest and the university's action at the time unfortunate, and still do.

...We should publicly demonstrate the spirit of celebration that the president used to usher in the academic year.

I urge him to rescind the prohibition on holiday decorations on campus. An open celebration of all the United States' cultural and religious holidays would not only entertain us, it would more importantly educate all members of the university community.

I recall in years past the student union would also sell Christmas holiday confections and cakes and pies, the better to soak up extra Husky bucks burning a hole in students' ID cards. Apparently these are gone as well.

So I've decided to see what the reaction will be when I put up this sign on my office door.

UPDATE (1:15pm): We all just got this wonderful announcement from the people who run the student union:
The Holly Day Art/Craft fair is still going on today until 4 p.m. so come on over to the Atwood Main Lounge for opportunities to purchase original one of a kind hand made items of pottery, stained glass, wood turnings, handmade clothing, lotions/soaps and more!
Note the "Holly Day" phrasing. I wonder how many of the things sold in Atwood, if displayed on campus after purchase, would be subject to Saigo's objection? Were they screened before sale?