The College Republicans plan to kick off the holiday season tonight with a party, but not everyone is in the Christmas spirit.
To advertise its Christmas party, the College Republicans hung up signs in residence halls that some students deemed offensive. The signs advertise a “College Republicans Holiday Party,” but the word “Holiday” is crossed out and replaced with “Christmas.”
The sign goes on to say, “Come thank the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) for messing up our holiday. Show them how much you care with a Christmas card.”
The event is advertised as taking place “Wednesday, December 5, 2007 in the year of our Lord.”
Terence Grado, president of the College Republicans, said the signs are meant to be controversial, but that their purpose is not to offend.
“We wanted to raise awareness on how Christmas is often neglected in the public sphere and oftentimes it’s the work of the ACLU who brings lawsuits against those who want to celebrate the Christian holiday,” he said.
Grado said students will make mock Christmas cards for the ACLU wishing it a merry Christmas at the party.
He added, however, that not every member of the College Republicans is Christian and that if any of the College Republicans or other students don’t want to celebrate Christmas, that’s fine.
Some students, however, have called the fliers offensive.
German Rozencranc, president of Hillel/Jewish Student Union, said friends and Hillel members have told him they were stunned to see the signs hanging up in their residence halls.
“The reason so many people are up in arms about this sign is because of its blatant disregard to other religious and social sects of the College,” he said via e-mail.
Rozencranc said the College Republicans, as members of the College community, should have used advertising that would make all students feel welcome at the event. Instead, he said, they perpetuated ideas of radicalism and conservatism.
“(T)o unleash a publicity campaign that centers on bashing the ACLU and more so on deliberately alienating people is utterly unacceptable,” Rozencranc said.
Abby Stern, freshman mathematics/secondary education major, and Michele Meisner, freshman statistics major, are both residents of Cromwell Hall who said they were shocked when they saw the signs in their residence hall.
“I feel that the sign was sending the wrong message,” Stern said. “It said something along the lines of ‘Thank the ACLU for ruining our holiday.’ I feel that this is inappropriate because it is sending the message that Republicans on campus can only be Christian.”
Stern added that the advertisements reflect negatively on the College and the types of students who attend it.
Grado maintained that the signs were only intended to advertise an event and that the group does not discriminate against non-Christians. He said some members of the College Republicans who actually helped hang up the posters are not Christian.
“What we’re just trying to say here is we want everyone to be able to celebrate the holiday as they want,” he said. “If people want to celebrate Hanukkah, fine. If people want to celebrate Kwanzaa, great. We want to be able to celebrate Christmas and we want to be able to say it out loud.”
Regardless, Meisner said that is not the message the signs project.
“When I read the sign that was not the impression that I got, and regardless of the intent it came across as offensive,” she said.
Stern said she and Meisner both agree that if the College Republicans wanted to send a less offensive message the members should have thought of a different advertising strategy.
The office of Student Activities and Leadership Development did approve the sign. Tim Asher, director of Student Activities and Leadership Development, said on Monday that there is nothing about the sign that would prevent his office from approving it. However, he added that with signs like these, his office usually sits down with the student who made the sign to discuss the possible reception it will receive from the College community.
“Most of the time, I think students are very willing to say, ‘That’s not what we intended,'” he said.
He said students who are offended by the signs should speak directly to the College Republicans about their concerns.
“If they’re dissatisfied, I hope students will reach out to the College Republicans,” Asher said.
Grado said some of the concerns students have raised about the signs are legitimate and that his group doesn’t want to portray itself as being comprised only of Christians.
“We believe everyone should be able to celebrate their holiday, but we want to celebrate Christmas,” he said. “We don’t think there’s a problem with saying, ‘Merry Christmas.'”