Miscommunication leads ResLife to reemphasize the importance of diversity in holiday celebration

By Joshua Kinne ’13

Ordal Christmas decorating 2010. Some might be surprised to know this tradition will continue. Photo by Kim Stone

“Even back in Luther’s time he recognized that Catholicism wasn’t the only answer,” said Director of Residential Programs Jeff Olsen Krengel. “There are other perspectives out there, and we can’t just negate them.” Olsen Krengel says that holiday celebration is important to PLU, regardless of the holiday being celebrated.

In August, Pacific Lutheran University Resident Assistants gathered together for annual training. During a workshop called ‘Building Inclusive Communities’, Christmas and holiday celebrations were brought up.

“We thought we were being clear,” said Jeff. “Now that the holiday season is right around the corner, these kinds of issues are popping back up. We’ve had multiple RA’s approach us about this issue recently.”

Through an apparent miscommunication, RAs around campus have been halting holiday plans and packaging holiday decorations. According to Jeff, nobody in the Residents Hall Council said Christmas celebrations and decorations were off limits.

“We heard through the grapevine that RAs were hesitant to decorate and hold parties,” Said Olsen Krengel. “RAs can still hold holiday parties and hang decorations, but they should be considerate of residents and their beliefs.”

“We just don’t want anybody to feel left out. Everybody should have a place at PLU, especially in their own rooms. We told RAs that they should consider their residents before decorating and celebrating the holidays, and some mistook that as us canceling Christmas!”

Pacific Lutheran University has strong holiday traditions. As a Lutheran school, PLU has a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, Christmas celebrations at University chapel, an annual Christmas concert and many other Lutheran celebrations around campus. Jeff says PLU should respect its traditions, but strive to accommodate its diverse religious community.

Despite the miscommunication between RAs and ResLife, Olsen Krengel sees this as an opportunity to further explore the importance of diversity and interreligious holiday celebration.

Director of Residential Programs Jeff Olsen Krengel Courtesy of Jeff Olsen Krengel

“This is one of those topics where the answers aren’t black and white. Everybody has the right answer. RAs should strive to include everyone in their wing’s religious beliefs.”

Olsen Krengel says that dorms like Ordal and Hong International Hall have the right idea when it comes to religious inclusivity. Those dorms are trying to keep celebrations and decorations nonspecific to better accommodate students of varying faith.

“Hong has a celebration that appeals to all of the different languages and cultural traditions, while Ordal is using inclusive words like ‘holiday’ instead of Christmas. Ordal and Hong are doing it right, and hopefully the other dorms will do it right as well.”

Ordal has an annual Christmas party that includes Christmas decorations around the hall. This year, they’re calling it a Holiday Party instead to accommodate non-Christian students.

Olsen Krengel says efforts like this can go a long way toward fostering an inclusive home environment for all religions.

“RAs, put up your decorations and celebrate your holidays. Don’t forget your residents, but we want you to feel at home too, “ he said.

So, to be clear, RAs can still hold all holiday parties and hang all of their decorations, Residential Life just encourages halls to be inclusive in their celebrations.

“Just make sure you follow the fire codes.”

Categories: Student Life

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