U of Minnesota wins Ebenezer Award for its ‘ill-advised’ memo on ‘neutral-themed’ holiday gatherings

U of Minnesota wins Ebenezer Award for its ‘ill-advised’ memo on ‘neutral-themed’ holiday gatherings
The University of Minnesota received the annual "Ebenezer Award" for a memo that recommended students and employees avoid religious-themed gatherings and displays during the holiday season. School officials are reportedly now saying the memo was "ill-advised." (MJ Kim/Getty Images)

The University of Minnesota recently received the annual “Ebenezer Award” from Becket, a religious liberty law firm, for a recent memo that recommended students and employees avoid religious-themed gatherings and displays during the holiday season.

School officials are now saying the memo was “ill-advised,” Campus Reform reported.

What’s the story?

The school’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources Sciences distributed the flyer at an event about “respecting religious diversity.” The memo explicitly advised avoiding items and colors associated with Christmas and Hanukkah, such as Christmas trees, wrapped gifts, and bows.

Among the list of recommendations, it suggested holding neutral-themed parties such as “winter celebration.”

It also called a number of Christmas and Hanukkah symbols “not appropriate.” Santa Claus, angels, the Star of Bethlehem, bells, and dreidels were included on the list.

What’s the Ebenezer Award?

The school received The Ebenezer Award from Becket, based in Washington, D.C., for being this year’s biggest Scrooge.

“A hearty bah-humbug toast to University officials who make Christian and Jewish students feel like second-class citizens at a time that should be full of brotherly love and giving,” Becket executive director Montse Alvarado told Campus Reform.

Becket’s annual award goes to the offender with “the most ridiculous affront to the Christmas and Hanukkah season,” and it’s considered “a present worse than coal itself,” according to Becket’s website.

What did school officials say about it?

“The actions of a single employee, whose attempt at a diversity training session was, to be blunt, ill-advised” and “does not constitute a policy on the part of the university,” University of Minnesota officials told Campus Reform in a statement.

The school went on to say it has no intentions of enacting such rules or guidelines.

“We do not have such a policy, would never implement such a policy, and any representation otherwise is incorrect,” school officials said.

In an earlier report, CFANS media contact Susan Thurston Hamerski said that the guidelines didn’t reflect university policy, but was a way to start conversations among employees and were “not for distribution,” according to Campus Reform.