University of Maine says candy cane ban a 'misunderstanding'

The University of Maine will allow the halls to be decked with candy canes, after all.

After an administrator sent out an e-mail to employees telling them "religious-themed" decorations -- which he said included the peppermint confections -- could not be placed in common areas on campus, students went into an uproar. And they got their Christmas wish.

School officials told that the incident was a misunderstanding and that the e-mail was sent out by a supervisor after a student had voiced concern over Christmas decorations in a dining hall and a lack of decorations for holidays of other religious faiths.

"We are not the Grinches of Maine, Dean of Students Robert Dana told "It was a big misunderstanding. The e-mail was in response to an issue a student had raised. His intent was to be inclusive."


Dana adds that that no holiday decorations, including candy canes, have been removed from campus.

"The University of Maine is a place where we welcome every faith tradition, and we welcome displays of those faith traditions,” Dana said.

The Dean's remarks came after Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Daniel Stirrup sent an edict out on Monday in response to one student's complaint about Christmas decorations at the 9,100-student school's main campus in Orono, according to the Bangor Daily News. In the e-mail, Stirrup said no "decoration that could be perceived as religious" should be put up.

"This includes xmas trees, wreaths, xmas presents, candy canes, etc.," he wrote, using an abbreviation for the holiday that some Christians find offensive. "What is allowed are winter themes, plain trees without presents underneath, decorative lights, but not on trees, snow flakes, etc. If you are unsure, best to not use or ask me for clarification.”

The message threw many on campus in an uproar, even leading to over 600 people to start a Facebook group, “Bring Cheer Back to UMaine.”

One posting on the groups page questions the potential absurdity of the policy.

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Another posting talks about possible peaceful protest in the quad.

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Ryan Low, interim vice president for administration and finance at the university, told the newspaper that Stirrup will not be disciplined for taking a “very conservative stance out of an abundance of caution.”

Dana insisted that holiday decorations were not banned and disavowed the email.

"It doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t look good, and it doesn’t reflect us,” Dana said about the email specifically. “We welcome displays of religious symbols in public spaces and residence hall rooms. We don’t advocate one religion over another.”

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