The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) has traditionally held at least two Christmas events on campus, the ‘Christmas Tree Lighting’ and a ‘Grand Ole Christmas.’ This year the two events were held on December 2 but at different locations and with a major change. ‘Grand Ole Christmas’ was changed to ‘Hotty Toddy Holidays’. At first glance it doesn’t seem to be too big a deal until you hear the reason given for the change. According to Student Activities representative Kaypounyers “Kay P” Maye, “Grand Ole Christmas connoted too much Christianity on campus.” Maye said that “we wanted to have a more inclusive environment for the holiday this year.”
Alumni and others took offense and complained to administration about the name change and accused the school of pandering to political correctness. Statewide and national media covered the story. AFA issued an alert urging “the Ole Miss Student Activities Association to stop using its office to promote an anti-Christian climate and to apologize for using inflammatory language toward people of the Christian faith.”
In an attempt to address the backlash, Ole Miss issued a statement to quell the opposition. The university’s vice chancellor of student affairs, Brandi Hephner LaBanc, suggested that Maye’s politically correct statement “was taken out of context and that he had insufficient time to give a thoughtful answer.”
First, the plain spoken words - “too much Christianity on campus” - mean what they sound like. Second, the decision to remove ‘Christmas’ from the name of the event stemmed from prior, student opposition.
According to Jon Scott, interim Director of Publications at Ole Miss, the school had “heard from some student groups or individuals that they weren’t quite sure if they were welcome unless they were Christians, and they (Ole Miss) wanted to make sure everyone was welcome.” Scott said Ole Miss was “trying to be inviting and welcoming, not anti-Christian but pro-everyone.”
However, the statement “Grand Ole Christmas…connoted too much Christianity on campus” seems anything but “inviting and welcoming” to Christians. During the news report Maye prefaced the above comment with “We really wanted to…change the atmosphere from last year and that would explain the name change.” Then the statement about there being “too much Christianity on campus.” So for university officials to insinuate that Maye was caught off guard is disingenuous since Maye is on record saying his group “really wanted to change the atmosphere” and the name change was the result. In other words, it was a carefully thought through decision with “too much Christianity on campus” clearly being the reason.
The university’s response was that reports on this issue were incomplete or erroneous and attempted to divert attention away from the school’s politically correct actions by using the popular, liberal tactic—victimization. Those who emailed and complained about the school’s politically correct action received email responses from firstname.lastname@example.org. which stated, “We (Ole Miss) have been the victim of some very bad reporting.”
Wait a minute! It was Ole Miss’ tv station that first reported the news! This report is widely available on the internet.
The victimization response by Ole Miss seems to intentionally blur the two independent events: ‘Christmas Tree Lighting’ and ‘Hotty Toddy Holiday.’ The Ole Miss statement presented the two as a singular event. Scott, interim Director of Publications, also made the same statement. He said there was only one Christmas event, but he offered no examples when asked what made “Hotty Toddy Holiday” a distinctive, Christmas event.
Apparently, Ole Miss News reports are accurate and LeBanc and Scott are defending a false narrative. This must be why comments from incoming Ole Miss Chancellor Jeff Vitter are at odds with the views of Maye that are also defended by LeBanc. Chancellor Vitter responded to AFA stating the University of Mississippi does not agree with Maye’s comment that “Grand Ole Christmas . . . connoted too much Christianity on (the Ole Miss) campus.” Vitter said Maye’s comment “doesn’t reflect the view of UM (University of Mississippi),” and he closed his response to AFA with, “Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.”
What remains to be brought to light is if Ole Miss officials influenced Maye and the student association to change the name to ‘Hotty Toddy Holiday.’ Did vice chancellor LeBanc and/or other Ole Miss administration officials unduly influence the student association to change the name? If so, then this is a violation of MS law, the MS Student Religious Liberty Act of 2013 that protects the accommodation of student religion on MS public college campuses.
The politically correct response, when groups like those at Ole Miss complain about Christianity, is that all things “Christian” must go. When Christians defend their right to express their beliefs in the public square, they are not told to go to the back of the bus—but to “get off the bus,” or even better, “get under the bus.”
"This is PC run amok – [and] it's going on all over the country," said AFA president Tim Wildmon. "It happened recently at the University of Tennessee. So even in Bible Belt states like Tennessee and Mississippi, you will find this going on. We celebrate Christmas and the birth of Christ. The world is welcome to join in, but we can't deny that the whole celebration is centered around the birth of our Savior.”
So, you think Ole Miss student affairs will next tell us there's too much Jewishness in Hanukkah, too much Islam in Ramadan, and too much African-Americanism in Kwanzaa?