Dec. 8, 2016, at 2:47 p.m.
According to a report on a national web site, Campus Reform, Ole Miss changed the name of its annual event called “A Grand Ole Christmas” to “Hotty Toddy Holiday” in an effort to “create a more inclusive environment.”
The report by investigative reporter Peter Fricke says “that for more than six years ole Miss has celebrated the start of the Christmas season with a festive event ‘A Grand Ole Christmas. This year, however, the event was renamed ‘HottyToddy Holiday’ in an effort to be more inclusive,” he wrote.
The Student Activities Association co-director of special events told the News Watch 99 team, the campus news broadcast station, “We really wanted to change the atmosphere from last year and that would explain the name change. Grand Ole Christmas’ connoted too much Christianity on campus and so we wanted to have a more inclusive environment for the holidays this year.”
The event took place on Dec. 2. It started in the Circle, in front of the Lycuem. To start the event, a Christmas tree was lit in the Circle. Although, the event’s name was changed because it “connoted too much Christianity on campus,” the Ole Miss Gospel Choir helped provide the music for the Hotty Toddy Holidays event.
Tom Epps, communications director at the University of Mississippi, sent this statement from Bradley Baker, the Director of the Ole Miss Student Union”
“In planning for the annual holiday event, the Student Activities Association Executive Council took the initiative to rebrand and rename the event to ‘Hotty Toddy Holidays’ in an effort to provide a more inclusive and respectful event for the entire Ole Miss community. As a student-led organization with the motto ‘Events for Students, By Students,’ the Executive Council took the opportunity to enhance the event by making it more welcoming and appreciated by all attendees.”
It is important to note that although Baker is the director of the Ole Miss Student Union, he is not over the Student Activities Association.
Jonathan Scott, Interim Director of Public Relations at the University of Mississippi, sent Hottytoddy.com a statement about the mission of the Ole Miss Student Union.
“The mission of the Ole Miss Student Union is to enhance social, cultural, and educational opportunities for students and the university community through innovative and entertaining activities and programs. Serving as a programming resource for the university, the Ole Miss Student Union often partners with campus organizations and departments to sponsor a variety of events and activities. Committed to the development of leadership and citizenship among students, the Ole Miss Student Union strives to promote excellence in student activities programming. Pageants, musical entertainment, special events, and the movie series are among the more than 125 events sponsored each year,” Scott said.
Rev. Eddie Willis, the pastor of Taylor United Methodist Church and the Ole Miss Wesley Foundation, said the Wesley Foundation had a Christmas observance on Dec. 3 with about 60 to 70 Ole Miss students. They sung Christmas carols, read the story of Christmas from the Book of Luke and had communion together, a sacrament found in the New Testament of the Bible.
“I don’t believe this party was ever a religious observance on campus. It sounds as if the SAA wants to include everyone in a one-time holiday celebration at the end of each semester,” Willis said. “I have many friends that are of different faiths and religions and understand being inclusive and sensitive to their feelings.”
Willis also said that this is a time that our local churches and campus ministries, like the Wesley Foundation, to proclaim the Gospel.
“However, the SAA is planning its event during the time of celebrating the Christian holiday of Christmas. Whether it’s an organization’s holiday party or a corporation that is using this season for its own focus, this is all the more reason for our local churches and campus ministries, like the Wesley Foundation I serve, to proclaim the Gospel,” Willis said. “I will celebrate Christ-mas and I will choose to observe and respect my friends of different faiths and not change the names or focus of their holidays.”
HottyToddy.com is checking campus sources and will have more on this later today.