I am writing to protest the second annual “holiday” tree lighting. It is repulsive and wrong to attempt to impose a religious celebration upon the students of Stevens Institute of Technology, openly disregarding the beliefs of those among us who are atheist or agnostic. The fact that the word “holiday” is used clearly states the schools endorsement of religion, which is ostracizing and divisive. Indeed, it does not even take an engineering student to realize that the word “holiday” is a combination of the words “holy day”, and has always been used to denote days of religious significance.
The concept of holiness itself is a separation from the common or vulgar in demonstration of superior virtue. That such is encouraged by the school demonstrates the intellectual shallowness of the administration. Can one really be more virtuous or moral than another, and if so, by whose definition? Is it productive for the school to instigate moral competition among students, as if morality can somehow be graded like every other topic? The fact that this institution still uses such an outdated and controversial term is indicative of the narrow-mindedness of those in leadership, and shows just how entrenched the impositions of reactionaries and religious intolerance truly are at this school.
That the term “holiday” is discriminatory is plainly evident, but, perhaps more egregious is the dishonesty with which the term is used. We are not lighting the “holiday” candelabra or menorah, nor are we spinning the “holiday” dreidel. We are lighting the “holiday” tree. I would venture to guess as well that this “holiday” tree will be neither an oak tree, nor a maple tree, or even a willow tree. No, this will not be just any tree; this tree will be an evergreen tree—in all likelihood, pine. I submit to you that the collective intelligence of the student body is being openly insulted and that the tree which the school would pass as a “holiday” tree is, in fact, a Christmas tree! The evidence for this is simple: there is no other celebration within this time period which involves the lighting of a tree (again), specifically evergreen. The tyranny of using religious terms to project a belief upon the entire student body is exceeded by the shameful farce of attempting to involve the student body in a Christian celebration by trickery and deceit.
Students at Stevens should recognize this event for what it is; not only is it a deeply inappropriate allocation of school funds, but also an expression of religious discrimination. Students of faith should stand with those who deny a God, and Christians should stand in solidarity with students of other faiths in boycotting this event. No member of the Stevens community should be subjected to this indoctrination, and the deceptiveness with which this event has been marketed demonstrates the clear intent of the school to do so. Let us all condemn this shameful act, and work together to make this campus more inclusive and inviting to students of all beliefs and non-beliefs!
Have a happy season of celebration! (If you so choose.)