The University of Minnesota has come under criticism after its agricultural college handed out a memo warning some students and staff to avoid using decorations, music and food "specific to any one religion" at campus holiday parties, including Christmas trees, menorahs and images of Santa Claus.
The memo was handed out at a Dec. 6 lunch meeting of students, faculty and staff in the agricultural college, the Star Tribune reported . In addition to warning against incorporating jolly Saint Nick into a party theme, the school listed dreidels, doves, and the colors red and green as inappropriate.
When news of the memo hit the internet, it triggered pushback on the university's Facebook page, eliciting comments such as "Boo!" and "Go find a safe space and crawl into it."
School spokesman Evan Lapiska said the backlash inaccurately portrayed the memo as official university policy. He said it was only shared during a lunch-hour discussion for students, faculty and staff in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
"It was a well-intentioned but ill-advised attempt to spark a dialogue," he said.
Lapiska said that the idea of banning the listed symbols "is not something that the university would put forth or consider in any way, shape or form as potential policy."
He also pointed out that the university's campus is decorated around the holidays. University President Eric Kaler has made an appearance with Santa at the university's cancer center.
"Certainly there will be a conversation, if it hasn't already taken place, to see how we can learn from this moving forward and avoid a situation like this in the future," Lapiska said.