By Nick Neely, Guest Writer
Red Square glows with the light of its Christmas tree. A lit-up cross stands nearby and a star marks the top of Harstad Hall. These decorations are part of the annual Campus Ministry tradition Light Up Red Square, which took place Tuesday.
However, the students decide how they decorate their residential halls.
“When it comes to the holidays and to religious imagery specifically, we work with each residence hall committee to make sure everyone’s views are represented,” Jes Takla, director of residential programs, said.
In Ordal Hall, for instance, members of the Residence Hall Council went from room to room to discuss possible winter decorations and activities with residents, Mercy Daramola, Ordal and Stuen Halls’ resident director, said.
Eventually, the residents decided on making gingerbread houses for their holiday activity.
For the holidays, Dining Services provides each residential hall with its own programmed end-of-semester meal. The residents plan these meals as well.
Residential Life also works with individual students to sponsor a program to address any topic, religious or not, Takla said.
“Either they take an ‘all’ approach, where every religious tradition is incorporated, or a more neutral approach where they do winter decorations,” Takla said. “Our goal is to be inclusive at all times … no one feels marginalized.”
Many students hold a common misconception that students can’t have Christmas trees in the hall, Daramola said. Christmas tress can be part of the residential hall decoration, but they must be agreed upon by all residents, Daramola said.
“The question comes up every year — ‘well if there’s a Christmas tree in Red Square, why can’t we have a Christmas tree in the halls?’” Daramola said. “And that’s just not true.”
While the residents in their entirety decide how they decorate the hall, each student can decorate their own room how they see fit. However, these decorations must adhere to fire safety standards.
Common violations include lights on exposed pipes, using a real tree, chaining too many lights together and not having enough clearance between lights and the ceiling, Daramola said. These restrictions apply to overall hall decorations as well.
“Our goal is to be inclusive at all times so no one feels marginalized,” Takla said. ◼︎