University of Maine System Responds to Email Forbidding Religious Holiday Decorations on Orono Campus 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when the halls are decked and trees are topped. But at the University of Maine, you’ll find only snowflakes, snow men and lights.

“I noticed that there is a lack of decorations around campus which kind of is unfortunate because it looks nice. It’s the season of greetings and everyone is festive,” says Senior, Matthew Tarsetti.

Just this week, wreaths, Christmas trees and Santas adorned the Memorial Union– now they’re gone.

“Our trees had gotten taken down I know ATO was having a really nice event to raise food and coats,” says Alyson Binette a Sophomore.

Some UMaine staff got an email Monday expressly forbidding Christmas trees, wreaths, Christmas presents, Menorahs or candy canes to be used as decorations in any public areas.

“It’s really disappointing, but I feel like it would have been good to benefit the community,” says Binette.

The University released a statement saying in part,

“…the university makes every effort to ensure that all members – students, employees, alumni and the public – feel included and welcome on campus. Decorations on the UMaine campus are therefore reflective of the diversity found in our community.”

But students say banning all decorations with a religious affiliation doesn’t promote diversity.

“Embrace them all in a way that makes everyone feel included, recognized, but at the same time appreciated would be really cool,” says Senior, Ryan Walker.

“I think we should celebrate cultures rather than try to hide them,” Tarsetti says.

Employees in the student bookstore say they were told not to use the phrase, “Merry Christmas.”

“We sit here and we talk about how we’re a university that’s about welcoming all different types of people, all walks of life, we have all these different groups like the LGBT, we have up the flag for that…why can’t we support every religion and hang up decorations for every religion?,” says Graduate Student, Meghan Blackford.

Dan Demeritt is the spokesman for the University of Maine system.

He called TV-5 early Thursday morning to say the email is a misrepresentation of school policy and a clarifying one will be sent out Thursday.

Dermeritt says the Christmas spirit is “alive and welcome” at the University of Maine.

Demeritt also forwarded TV-5 an email from Connor Scott, identified as a brother of The Beta Upsilon Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega and¬†University of Maine Board of Trustees Student Representative. It says, “the trees were taken down, as they are every other year, when the philanthropy ended. This year it was this past Sunday, the 7th. This is something that happens every year – though the dates may change a little year to year – and shouldn’t be a surprise to the campus.”