Come and take it: Controversy grows over UT’s holiday party suggestions

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – There’s been more uproar over the University of Tennessee’s controversial workplace holiday party guidelines. Some state lawmakers have called for Chancellor Jimmy Cheek to resign, but groups of students and faculty have come to his defense by creating petitions.

Lawmakers, students, campus groups and administrators have all been talking about the inclusion guidelines and as of Friday, they were still on the university’s website.

UT junior, Clayton Dorman, tweeted this picture out on Friday with the words: “Come and Take It.”

UT Christmas Tree

“I think the guidelines are ludicrous,” said Dorman.

The 21-year-old came up with the idea to put a banner on the side of his fraternity house, Beta Upsilon Chi, a Christian fraternity. It’s in response to UT’s “best practices for inclusive holiday celebrations.” One stated “ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise.”

“It’s my God-given right to be able to have a Christmas party and telling me I can’t do that just really sent me over the edge,” said Dorman.

Dorman said when he went to study in his room and then came out, the banner wasn’t there anymore. Despite this, he said his tweet, which has also been removed, has generated a lot of discussion.

“The response has been more than I can imagine. I like to imagine that I am the voice for the silent majority,” said Dorman.

While some felt the guidelines target Christians, others like the Tyson House, a Christian campus ministry, said they’ve had no problems celebrating Christmas.

“I don’t feel persecuted at all. I don’t feel like my rights are infringed upon at all. We had a Christmas party on Wednesday and we’re going to have worship on Sunday,” said Pastor John Tirro of the Tyson House.

He wrote a letter to lawmakers who have criticized the guidelines. He wrote “Please calm down, have a cookie, and know that Christmas is safe and well at the University of Tennessee.”

“We’ve got crosses everywhere and we talk about Jesus all the time and nobody sets us on fire and nobody threatens us with losing our jobs,” said Tirro.

This is the second time in a few months that UT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion has been on the hot seat. They introduced gender-neutral pronouns on their website, which were eventually taken down.

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