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Cornell University Warns Mistletoe Isn’t ‘Inclusive’ Enough And Students Shouldn’t Use It

A guide to “inclusive” Christmas decorations created by Cornell University warns that any decorations that remotely evoke religion, which includes stars and mistletoe, are incompatible with the school’s commitment to diversity.

The guidelines are buried inside a Cornell publication concerning fire safety guidelines for holiday decorations, and were first noticed by the website Campus Reform. The first half of the document concerns certain banned fire hazards, such as candles and metallic Christmas trees.

The second half of the document, though, veers off into a discussion of how to make the Christmas season more “inclusive.”

“University members are reminded to be respectful of the religious diversity of our students and colleagues and are encouraged to use an inclusive approach in celebrating the holiday season,” the document says. Students are encouraged to be more “diverse” by either focusing on winter instead of Christmas or by including decorations for multiple holidays alongside secular decorations.

The university then rattles off a list of decorations that are “NOT consistent” with the school’s “commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.” The discouraged decorations include the following:

-Nativity scenes




-Stars (when placed on top of trees)


-Stars of David

While the religious connotations of nativity scenes or Stars of David is rather obvious, it’s not clear why mistletoe is considered as possibly offensive.

The schools says that holly, Santa Clauses, and wreaths might be acceptable decorations, but only after “dialogue within [a] living unit or area” to ensure nobody is offended.

Universities around the country have been issuing Christmas guidelines aimed at discouraging the display of religious symbols. A recent guidance email at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, for instance, warned against letting holiday parties become “Christmas parties in disguise” and discouraged using terms such as “Secret Santa” because they could offend people.

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