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U-Tenn: Don’t make your ‘holiday party a Christmas party in disguise’

 

Image via screenshot.

Image via screenshot.

Many universities want to be diverse, welcoming, inclusive, sensitive. But MRCTV’s blog has highlighted the crazy steps the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tenn.-Knoxville has taken when it comes to being “fully committed to a diverse, welcoming, and inclusive environment.”

The office pretty much seems to be bending over backwards this holiday season, and may even be attempting to erase Christmas. For the very first point of a holiday guide released by the office reads:

  • 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.

Wait, why? It’s the Christmas season. What’s wrong with purposefully having a Christmas party? If an office wishes to have a holiday party for the sake of being inclusive, that’s fine. There shouldn’t have to be any concerns about “a Christmas party in disguise.”

The first point is bad enough, but others just make it worse, and very much seem to endorse a view against Christmas all in the name of being so obsessively inclusive apparently:

  • If sending holiday cards to campus and community partners, send a non-denominational card or token of your gratitude.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Others aren’t as against Christmas, but are still problematic. They go without saying, or seem unnecessary, or to be trying too hard. When there is such an emphasis at being multi-cultural, the efforts are too much and too obvious. Some are a good idea, but the intent is ruined by the office. Diversity shouldn’t feel or be forced, or it may lose its meaning:

  • 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.
  • Supervisors and managers not endorse, or be perceived as endorsing, religion generally or a specific religion.
  • If an individual chooses not to participate in a holiday party or celebration, do not pressure the person to participate. Participation should be voluntary.
  • If a potluck-style party or celebration is planned, encourage employees to bring food items that reflect their personal religions, cultures, and celebrations. Use this as an opportunity for individuals to share what they brought and why it is meaningful to them.
  • 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.
  • Refreshment selection should be general, not specific to any religion or culture.
  • Most importantly, celebrate your religious and cultural holidays in ways that are respectful and inclusive of our students, your colleagues, and our university.

While the office says it merely “encourage[s]…implement[ing] the following best practices,” there is quite the tone here of a frightening authority controlling not just diversity, but simply holiday celebrations. Whether it’s a Christmas, Hanukkah, holiday, New Year’s Party or whatever, the office really does not need to be so involved.


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