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UM responds to criticism over ‘Hotty Toddy Holiday’ event

An annual Christmas holiday event at the University of Mississippi underwent a name change and created a firestorm of criticism on social media this week when several online media outlets reported the “Grand Ole Christmas” was re-branded “Hotty Toddy Holidays” by the co-director of the Student Activities Association in an effort to be more inclusive.

The university responded with the following statement that was released Wednesday:

Incomplete and sometimes erroneous reports have created misperceptions about a recent student-led event at the University of Mississippi that has for six years — including this year — involved a Christmas tree lighting and popular Christmas carols.

Last Wednesday night (Dec. 2), the Student Activities Association arranged for a Gospel Choir performance of “Emmanuel” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” as well as a performance of “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” by Miss University. Students also organized an ice skating event at the Ole Miss Student Union and photos with Santa Claus, as well as pizza, sweets and hot chocolate. Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks “lit” the Christmas tree.

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.

“This is a 21-year-old student who wanted to make all students feel welcome and come to this annual event,” the vice chancellor said. “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.

“This student organization led a celebration that continued to honor Christmas traditions while welcoming all students to a holiday gathering.”