Student Take: ‘Secret Santa,’ Dreidels Deemed Insensitive at UTK  secretsanta1 

By Michael Hensley

Before the semester could come to an official close, the University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion decided to send a final message to its students on how best to celebrate the holiday season.

In order to create an “inclusive and welcoming environment,” the office recommended that the campus community follow a certain set of practices, some of those which include:

1) 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.

2) Holiday parties and celebrations should not play games with religious and cultural themes–for example, “Dreidel” or “Secret Santa.” If you want to exchange gifts, then refer to it in a general way, such as a practical
joke gift exchange or secret gift exchange.

3) Décor selection should be general, not specific to any religion or culture. Identify specific dates when décor can be put up and when it must come down.

4) Refreshment selection should be general, not specific to any religion or culture.

5) Most importantly, celebrate your religious and cultural holidays in ways that are respectful and inclusive of our students, your colleagues, and our university.

The campus thought police have spoken yet again, folks—pack up those Christmas decorations and Santa cookies because they might just offend somebody. There comes a time when we students must ask ourselves what role a campus administration should play.

As we have seen on Rocky Top and all across the country, many universities feel it is their obligation and responsibility to promote a cultural and societal change, one in which students must avoid sharing their personal beliefs to avoid offending those
whose views may differ.

Here is a radical suggestion: how about we celebrate our cultural differences rather than hide them under the cloak of campus inclusivity? I would encourage academic leaders to place more faith in their students. Our college campuses across the country
are home to some of the world’s best and brightest students, those who understand how to respect others who may have a different set of values and beliefs.

Going forward, let us place a stronger focus on the open exchange of ideas. Let us learn from one another. Most importantly, let us not forget who we are as a people and country. After all, future generations are depending on us—we only have one chance
to get this right.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

 Michael Hensley is the chairman of Young Americans for Freedom at the University of Tennessee. 



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