Students at Loyola University, a Catholic university in Chicago, are questioning why administrators are placing a greater emphasis on Christmas than on other religious holidays.
In an article in the school’s student newspaper entitled, “Religious Holidays Aren’t Represented Equally on Campus,” students argue that Loyola fails to honor other religious holidays, such as Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.
“So far, in honor of the Christmas season, Loyola has put up lights and trees in various campus buildings,” student Sajedah Al-khzaleh wrote. “The university participated in its Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony Nov. 28 in the Damen Student Center, which included Santa Claus, an ice rink, hot chocolate and art decorations.”
“But the Eid is celebrated only among Loyola Muslim students themselves, which includes a morning prayer service and a dinner, according to Ahmed. Decorations aren’t hung on campus buildings nor activities hosted by the university,” she continued.
Student Sajid Ahmed also lamented the fact that Loyola doesn’t deck out the campus in decorations to celebrate Eid. “Eid [at Loyola] is a bit dampened just because you have to go about your normal routine along with Eid,” Ahmed explained. “At home it’d be a big family thing, dress up and go to the mosque. We’d spend the day together and celebrate … compared to that, college Eid has been less.”
“For someone who lives far away and doesn’t have the opportunity to meet up with family, I would say making Loyola’s Eid as festive as possible would be great so that [Muslim students] can feel connected with their heritage and with their religion,” Ahmed added.
The article admits that students who celebrate the Muslim holiday are granted time off from their classes to celebrate with friends and family. Of the 16,437 students enrolled at Loyola University Chicago, approximately 800 are Muslim.
Bruce Goodwin, the associate director of the student complex, argued that the institution’s religious affiliation directs the types of decorations that are hung around campus during the holidays. “I don’t think [demographics] ever come to our minds in terms of the decisions that we make with Christmas,” Goodwin explained. “I think what guides it … doesn’t have to do with faith, it has to do with that most common sort of feeling [of the season].”
“We feel that we do a good job at the student center of allowing other faiths to [join the holiday season],” Goodwin added. “We pride ourselves on wanting to make sure we’re aware. We always lend ourselves the conversation.”
Goodwin also added that the university attempts to use religiously-neutral decorations when possible, including banners that read “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”