Cornell’s Insane Christmas Decoration Rules: No Santa Claus, Holly, or Trees with Bows

December 23, 2015

By Robby Soave at

At Cornell University, students and staff can celebrate the holidays by putting up snowflake decorations and trees. They can even put the snowflakes on the trees. But they can’t do anything else—if they decorate said trees with bows, garland, or lights, for instance, they will be in violation of Cornell’s Guidelines for Inclusive Seasonal Displays.

The guidelines, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, were actually issued by the university’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety—meaning that the university implicitly endorses the notion that emotional safety is just as important as physical safety. In other words, politically-incorrect holiday displays aren’t just offensive—they are considered a fire hazard.

Of course, we’re stretching the definition of “politically-incorrect” pretty thin here if Santa Claus counts. Check out the full list of forbidden decorations:


Winter Holiday Displays/Decorations that are Consistent with Cornell’s Commitment to Diversity and the University Assembly Guidelines:

  • Snowflakes
  • Trees (in accordance with Fire Safety Guidelines) decorated with snowflakes and other non-religious symbols

Winter Holiday Displays/Decorations that are Consistent with University Assembly Guidelines But Should be Basis of Dialogue Within Unit or Living Area

  • Trees decorated with bows, garland and lights (in accordance with Fire Safety Guidelines)
  • Wreaths with bows (in accordance with Fire Safety Guidelines)
  • Combination of snowflakes, (in accordance with Fire Safety Guidelines), Santa Claus figure, and dreidel
  • Holly

Winter Holiday Displays/Decorations that are NOT Consistent with Either University Assembly Guidelines or the University’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusiveness

  • Nativity scene
  • Menorah
  • Angels
  • Mistletoe
  • Stars at the top of trees
  • Crosses
  • Star of David

Cornell is a private university, and isn’t obligated to extend free speech rights to students and faculty. If administrators really want to purge religious iconography from campus, arguably, they can.

But I fail to see the point of doing so. Surely the goal of “inclusivity” is not well-served by telling students of a certain religious group that they can’t celebrate Christmas according to their own customs. Cornell administrators should really do the opposite of what they’re doing: they should encourage members of campus to participate in the holidays as much or as little as they want. The more displays, the better. This might even give students the opportunity to interact with tradition and belief systems that are different from their own, which is the ultimate goal of a college education.

Schools: Cornell University