The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Pulliam Christmas Songs: National News?

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I don’t like to get into the culture war on this blog, but I am going to have to make an exception for the Pulliam clock tower Christmas song controversy. Last Tuesday, I was on campus and I noticed that the Pulliam clock tower was playing “Christ Was Born on Christmas Day.” I thought it was odd that a state university was playing a religious song, but I didn’t pay much attention.

Then on Thursday I saw this in a Daily Egyptian article:

Brad Dillard said as of Wednesday, the clock tower will not chime its annual Christmas carols through the holiday season. He said ridding the clock tower of Christmas carols is an initiative put forth by the university to ensure that campus atmosphere is comfortable for people of all cultural backgrounds.

“After talking to the Chancellor’s office and the vice-chancellor’s office, we decided to stop the Christmas carols until we figure out something that is for every student,” said Dillard, associate director of the physical plant.

Now that he knows that the Christmas carols may make students uncomfortable, Dillard said the clock tower will remain without songs for the time being.

“It’s very important that we listen to what the students have to say and take it into account,” Dillard said. “There are a lot of voices out there that have different perspectives, and it’s important to take all of those into consideration.”

Fair enough, I thought. Someone called the university’s attention to the religious music and SIUC decided to stop playing it. I was impressed and so were two students quoted in the article.

The next day, the Southern Illinoisan reported that the Christmas songs would be back. The religious songs would be dropped until songs for other religions could be added. Secular Christmas songs would continue to play. The article noted that SIUC “received a few phone calls and a lot of e-mails regarding the supposed removal of Christian-based music Thursday, after the campus newspaper reported on the matter.”

This still seemed reasonable to me. I’d prefer that state organizations stay entirely separate from religious organizations, but it seemed like a fair compromise. I wouldn’t have written a post on it except that Fox News is now reporting on the story:

It’s unclear who complained, but Cheng denied the silenced chimes were part of a war on Christmas.

“Students who were on the campus from across the world raised the issue and we’re trying to be as responsive as possible and as inclusive,” she told Fox News Radio. “Christmas is a wonderful time of year and we don’t want to dampen the spirit and the good will people have.”

But that’s exactly what it’s done among some students and the Carbondale community. [Emphasis added.]

This is hardly national news so I have to question Fox’s decision to report on it. Still, aside from the war on Christmas stuff the Fox News article was far from the worst they’ve produced. Predictably, though, bloggers have now started posting some pretty hostile comments, which you can view here and here.

Worse, the Daily Egyptian reported Monday that there have been “multiple comments that were anti-Semitic” posted on social networking sites since the university dropped the Christmas songs.

I don’t like this kind of politics. Some other communities in the area have decided to jump into the culture wars. I don’t want Carbondale to follow them. We are a diverse community. We don’t need fanatics whipping up hatred toward religious or ethnic minorities. And for the record, there is no war on Christmas.

Comments are welcome.


Written by The Carbondale Observer

December 14, 2010 at 7:45 am

One Response

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  1. Last week I was under the impression that Pulliam’s clock tower would NOT be playing Christmas music. I then glanced at the article in Monday’s DE entitled “Clock tower tunes stir up community.” Not reading it very carefully, I was still under my same impression. But Monday afternoon I was within hearing distance of the clock tower and was surprised to hear Christmas music again. I’m not sure it was as “Christian” as “Christ was born on Christmas Day” or more more “secular” (e.g., Jingle Bells). But it was clearly a tune we hear almost exclusively at Christmas. Then an hour later, I heard a tune I had NEVER heard before. I (a Christian) was in the presence of a Jewish friend and a Muslim friend. NONE of us had ever heard that tune before. Perhaps it was a Kwanzaa tune. But all of us were (1) surprised that music was coming from Pulliam’s clock tower and (2) even more surprised that none of us ever heard that tune before.

    Perhaps we should contact the person who “programs” the music in the tower and find out the origin of the tunes on the playlist.

    I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Robert Reid, a Carbondale resident and a graduate of the SIU Lab School (which is now called Pulliam Hall) for initiating the effort to make the chimes of the clock tower functional again back in the 1980’s after they had fallen into disuse. However, I know that he has nothing to do with the music played, so we can’t blame (or credit) him for that.


    December 14, 2010 at 12:51 pm

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