Saturday, December 11, 2010

University Silences Christmas Bells

From here.
The clock tower at Southern Illinois University has played Christmas carols for nearly 15 years. But this year, someone complained – and that led university officials to briefly silence the holiday tradition until they could add a more diverse selection of music.

“We got a complaint about not being inclusive in the music,” university chancellor Rita Cheng told Fox News Radio.

She backed off comments she made to a local television station that claimed the music was indeed removed because it was “religious” and “offensive to non-Christians.”

“No one really complained about it being religious,” she told Fox News Radio. “They asked that their religion also be reflected in the music.”

A longer version of the story is here.

Alas, Southern Illinois University is where I earned one of my two undergraduate degrees (the one in Religious Studies and Psychology). It was a site of campus radicalism in the late 1960's and has always been inclined more toward political correctness than common sense. But silencing the carillon in the clock tower at Pulliam Hall because it played Christmas music makes me ashamed of and embarrassed for my alma mater.

If the University wants to do something to help students of other faiths to celebrate their holidays, that is a fine idea. But have you ever heard of a Hanukkah carol? How about a Ramadan hymn? And how good would Hindu music sound being played on bells in a clock tower?

The longer version of the article has the University Chancellor saying that "the university staff assured her they could add other religious songs to the chimes without taking away from the Christian element." Yeah, well, my other undergraduate degree happens to be in music, and all I can say is "Good luck with that!" (sarcasm intended). Most non-western music doesn't even use the same diatonic scale as western music, and wouldn't necessarily sound good even if you could get it to play. Ah, but there I go trying to interject common sense into a discussion that is obviously more about political correctness.

If you want to help students of other faiths celebrate their holidays, then do something that is appropriate to their tradition on their holidays. But carols on bells are a very unique way of celebrating a holiday that is special to most of your students, alumni, and local residents. So how about using a little common sense and let Christmas be Christmas.


JC Fremont said...

How sad. I can't imagine *any* other religious music than Christian on western-style bells. No doubt the people who complained will receive their comeuppance someday.

Free Range Anglican said...

Perhaps someone should tip them off about this one:

Robert S. Munday said...

@ Free Range Anglican: The video link you posted: Steve Martin: "Atheists Don't Have No Songs" is one of the most hilariously funny things I have heard in a long time.

When I get a moment, I may bump your comment up to a full post and embed the video.