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UNC-Chapel Hill library drops Christmas trees

Posted December 5, 2008

— Christmas trees will not be displayed in the two main libraries at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill this year, library staff decided.

In previous years, a Christmas tree stood in the lobby of both the Wilson and Davis libraries, but Sarah Michalak, associate provost of University Libraries, decided against putting them up this year.

The Christmas tree display had been set up in Wilson Library for the past 30 years and in Davis Library since it opened in 1984.

Michalak said she eliminated the displays after getting questions and complaints from employees and library users about the Christian display. She said that it didn't seem right to celebrate one set of customs when libraries offer information about all belief systems around the world without judgment.

Michalak said there are no Christmas trees in the libraries at Duke and North Carolina State University.

Reaction among students was mixed, with some criticizing the decision as politically correct and others suggested adding decorations from other religions to the display.

"As Americans, we have a tendency to reinvent the wheel to make one person feel more comfortable," sophomore Jocelyn Frelier said.

"Unless a lot of people had a problem with it, they probably could have left them there," freshman Alma Barasorda said.

Student Rakhee Devasthali, who is Hindu, said she didn't feel strongly enough about the decorations to ask for them to be taken down, but she hoped the debate would make people think about what a symbol means to different people.

"It would nice if an institution like UNC would be more multicultural and, like, more mindful of like the other students who are here," Devasthali said. "I think it looks nice and you feel like you are in a holiday mood, but really they are not putting up a menorah or anything for anybody else's religious holiday."

Since the decision to not put up the trees was made, the Chancellor's Office has gotten more than 40 complaints via email, university officials said. They have received some positive feedback to Chancellor Holden Thorp's response to the issue, officials said.

Thorp said that each department decides on their own about holiday decorations and that the library staff put "a lot of thought" into their decision.

"The university administration doesn't get involved in decisions like that. Departments can choose to put up a tree or not," Thorp said. "And if you take a walk across campus, I think you'll see that."

On Friday, wreaths hung in other places on campus Friday, and Christmas trees, menorahs and stockings decorated the Student Union, Student Stores and Memorial Hall. A "Twelve Days of Christmas" display was up in the Carolina Inn, and the Nutcracker and The Star of Bethlehem will be shown at UNC venues, the chancellor said.

"Christmas is recognized on this campus," Thorp said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • ptahandatum Dec 8, 2008

    Well, if xtianity is based on the bible, no wonder it is so full of contradictions. I'm glad the tree is gone, and I will be equally glad when the xtians aren't allowed to ram their brand of religion down other peoples throats as well. Xtians claim to be persecuted, but if you look at the facts, you'll find other wise.

  • jetset Dec 5, 2008

    I think this is actually pretty sad. Maybe the staff didn't want to take the time to put lights and decorations on the tree. Really, a "christmas" tree has as much to do with Christmas as Santa Claus. I don't think Christians really associate a "tree" with believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I think these so called smarter than thou people are so hung up on offending different religions that they aren't thinking straight. I feel sorry for them. Can they not enjoy life in general for worrying about offending someone? Heaven forbid!! :>(

  • news4u Dec 5, 2008

    From the North Carolina Journal, October, 30, 1793, I quote the remainder of the account of the Laying of the Cornerstone of the University of North Carolina as follows: “The Rev. Dr. McCorkle then addressed the Trustees and spectators in an excellent discourse suited to the occasion; of which the following is an extract:

  • news4u Dec 5, 2008

    The Rev. Dr. McCorkle then addressed the Trustees and spectators in an excellent discourse suited to the occasion; of which the following is an extract:
    “Observing on the natural and necessary connexion between learning and religion, and the importance of religion to the promotion of national happiness and national undertakings, he said, ‘It is our duty to acknowledge the sacred scriptural truth, “Except the Lord do build the house, they labour in vain who build it; except the Lord watcheth the city, the watchman watcheth but in vain.” For my own part I feel myself penetrated with a sense of these truths, and this I feel not only as a minister of religion, but also as a citizen of the State, as a member of civil as well as religious society. These unaffected feelings of my heart give me leave to express with that plainness and honesty which becomes a preacher of the Gospel, and a minister of Jesus Christ.

  • knowyourrole Dec 5, 2008


    "You cannot separate the xmas tree from the xtian religion. You may try with all your might (and angels), but it cannot be separated."

    Christianity is based on the bible. Where is the biblical evidence for your claim? Nowhere in the bible is there any mention of a "Christmas tree." If there is, please cite the book and verse. The gift giving comes from the story of the Wise Men who brought gifts, but where's the tree in all this? By the way, it is Christmas, not "xmas." Does the mention of Christ's name offend you?

  • news4u Dec 5, 2008

    NC - Not Christian anymore.

  • ptahandatum Dec 5, 2008

    You cannot separate the xmas tree from the xtian religion. You may try with all your might (and angels), but it cannot be separated.

    Lies will be lies, and that's all they will ever be. If you're so confident of your religion, then why are you complaining so much?

  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Dec 5, 2008

    Never another donation for these guys. Political correctness run totally amok. Absolutely insane!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rtpdude Dec 5, 2008

    I just want to send a big thank you to everyone who posted and kept me entertained at work today. This discussion on whether UNC should or should not have a Christmas tree this year is hilarious. Keep the posts coming.

  • huladick Dec 5, 2008

    Now I will hafta burn my UNC stuff and start wearing Dook colors...