Grinch sighting: Emory University students told wreaths violate school policies, must be removed

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Emory University students have been instructed to take down Christmas decorations because they violate the school’s policies.

Campus Reform reported that members of the university’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity were told Dec. 3 that a Christmas wreath hanging on the front of their residence violated school policy to the extent of requiring an incident report.

“Since this is the second violation of the policy, an incident report will be submitted to the Office of Student Conduct,” noted Josh Gamse, assistant director of sorority and fraternity life, in an email to the fraternity’s students, according to Campus Reform.

The institution’s policy says that “exterior holiday decorations must not be installed or removed by students” and that “violators of this policy will face disciplinary actions.”

The fraternity’s house improvement chairman, David Van Inwegen, said that ATO had not been advised of the school’s policy, adding that he believes the first infraction came from inflatable polar bears that the frat displayed over Thanksgiving. However, he added that he wasn’t aware of the policy.

He added that the fraternity was directed to an outdated policy when members did a Google search to check on current rules. The old set they were sent to by the search engine did not mention anything about Christmas decorations.

“In a separate Dec. 3 email obtained by Campus ReformGamse informed Van Inwegen that the link the fraternity was ‘an outdated version of the policy. This is the one that is currently up on the housing website,’ referring to the ‘Housing Policy’ page on Emory’s website,” Campus Reform reported.

“I just did the same google [sic] search and I see it too, but it is not the correct version,” Gamse told Van Inwegen in that exchange. “I have reached out to IT to see if there is anything we can do about the outdated version on Google.”

“There are no lights, decoration hung on light fixtures, or any other conceivable violation under rule 1.21 and 1.21.1 that we know of,” Van Inwegen told Campus Reform. “[We] are totally confused as to what rules we violated.”

He went on to say that the fraternity followed policy “to a T given the available information,” adding that this holiday season he has seen some houses “with Christmas decorations that were there one day and gone the next.”

Separately, Campus Reform reported this week that a federal judge ordered the University of Iowa to pay $1.9 million in fees and damages “after two student groups won a series of religious discrimination lawsuits against the university.”

The suits accused the university of discriminating against the organizations over their refusal to allow openly gay students from serving as leaders.

“What the university did here was clearly unconstitutional,” the 8th Circuit’s decision noted. “It targeted religious groups for differential treatment under the human rights policy — while carving out exemptions and ignoring other violative groups with missions they presumably supported.”

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