Arguing that the word "Christmas" is offensive to some, the University of Mississippi has changed the name of its annual "A Grand Old Christmas" to the secular title "Hotty Toddy Holiday".
In a statement given to News Watch 99, Kayp Maye, the co-director of special events for the Student Activities Association, said the former name of the event "connoted too much Christianity on campus and so we wanted to have a more inclusive environment for the holidays this year."
She further explained that the school - ironically located in the heart of the Bible Belt - will also ban traditional Christmas colors for the event, replacing them with red, blue, and silver in order to "attract a more mature audience" with a Winter Wonderland as opposed to a Christmas theme.
According to the Daily Caller, the name "Hotty Toddy Holiday" is related to the "Hotty Toddy" chant used by football fans during tailgating parties. The full chant reportedly includes the words: "Hotty Toddy, gosh almighty, who the h*** are we? Hey! Flim flam, bim bam, Ole Miss, by damn."
However, amid public backlash, school officials quickly released a statement claiming that the whole situation was simply "taken out of context."
"The university's vice chancellor of student affairs, Brandi Hephner LaBanc, was told by a student that his quote to the news media about the event, 'Hotty Toddy Holiday,' was taken out of context and that he had insufficient time to give a thoughtful answer. He said the quote does not accurately express his Christian faith or the reason for the name given to the event.
"The vice chancellor said, 'This is a 21-year-old student who wanted to make all students feel welcome and come to this annual event. He is very sincere in his wish that he had expressed himself better. It is unfortunate that these reports, including repetition of incomplete information on social media, have misrepresented the nature of the event and his intent as a Christian to welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds."
The controversy comes just days after University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek came under fire for a memo posted on the school's Office for Diversity and Inclusion website suggesting that parties should be inclusive of all religions and holidays, not just Christmas.
"Holiday parties and celebrations should celebrate and build upon workplace relationships and team morale with no emphasis on religion or culture," the memo reads. "Ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise."
The Christian Science Monitor notes that the school's president, faculty, and students have defended Mr. Cheek's recommendation for cultural sensitivity. However, all nine of the state's Republican representatives in Congress have spoken out against it, condemning the memo as offensive to Christians.
Speaking to Fox News, US Rep. John J. Duncan of Tennessee said he was "personally embarrassed" about the post.
"I am saddened and very disappointed that the school from where I graduated would do this," Representative Duncan said in a statement. "The people I represent are disgusted by this action, and people at the university should be taken to task for it."
"The Office of Diversity is not welcoming to all and hostile to none as they claim," added Senator Delores Gresham in a statement. "They are very hostile to students and other Tennesseans with Christian and conservative values. By placing a virtual religious test regarding holiday events at this campus, every student who is a Christian is penalized."