DECK THE HALLS?

Holiday decorations putting religious sensitivities to the test on campus.

Ball State officials say the university's holiday decorations are intentionally secular. But some students think the presence of traditional Christmas symbols and colors speak otherwise.

Tom Smith, director of Facilities, Planning and Management, said Ball State's decorating scheme is "simply tradition and routine."

"We put the same lights up every year," Smith said, describing them as "not Christmas lights, but holiday lights."

The philosophy of secular decorating -- decorating for the holiday season instead of one particular religion -- has varying levels of acceptance with students.

Gerry Appel, a graduate assistant and Jewish student at Ball State, said he is not opposed to the decorations, but does feel they could be more secular and inclusive.

"As a minority religion we have to understand that most people here are Christians," Appel said. "Ball State tries being politically correct. For instance, the banner on the street says 'Happy Holidays.' But it's red and green with a Christmas wreath. That to me says Christmas. Why don't they just put that (Merry Christmas) up? They're not fooling anyone."

Appel said a better approach might be to use the Ball State colors for the greeting.

Alyssa Friedman, a sophomore public relations student who is also Jewish, said she enjoys seeing the decorations, but agrees they are decidedly Christian.

"They're pretty," Friedman said. "I don't really take offense to that, (but) it would be nice if they had a Menorah or something.

"On campus they made such a big deal about the lighting of the Christmas tree," Friedman said. "It's a big tradition. The tradition is that Ball State is Christian, and they fail to recognize diversity.

Smith said he is open to suggestions, but that it is "too late for changing this year. It's something to consider for the future."

In some other buildings on campus, the policy is absent but the decorations are not. In the Art and Journalism building, wreaths and bows adorn the Atrium. Appel said he is not offended by them, but questions their existence.

"Why do we have to decorate for the holidays at all? Isn't that what our homes are for?" Appel said. "Decorating the offices and personal spaces is fine, but I don't need to see a menorah or wreath in the Atrium."


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