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The War on Christmas By: Ari Kaufman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A feisty controversy broke out last week within the Honors College at Florida Atlantic University, when a Political Science professor strongly objected to a small "candy tree" centered in the school's administration building.

For as long as most could remember, the small pine tree had been traditionally placed in the atrium of the Honors College's main building on the South Florida campus. The tree, donned with various sweets, served as a way for the school's faculty to wish the close-knit group of roughly 250 students good luck their twice-yearly exams. Additionally, the prior evening, many of the faculty members and administrators even took time to bake cookies and cakes for the students in the dining hall.

Few students saw the (holiday) tree as a religious symbol.

"I have been here for four years and the tree has always been there without controversy and it is a nice treat for us during finals. It is there in May (during spring finals) as well, so it does not represent any particular holiday," said Senior Psychology Major Maria Riccardi. 

However, Professor Martin Sweet was offended by the tree's presence. Posting "Not in My Name" signs in various spots of the campus alongside a listing of three other schools he deemed to be in violation of Separation of Church and State precedents, the professor called for a mandatory meeting the night before exams to discuss the matter; many students made time during their studies to attend.
Honors College President, Jered Velez, quickly rallied to support Dr. Sweet's cause. Velez penned a long letter of objection on behalf of the student body and posted in on an easel beside the tree. Other students, in deference, created a poster to go next to Velez's and Sweet's statements, stating the Velez in particular did not speak for them. Dozens of signatures were signed within the first few minutes.
Curiously, Velez also took the opportunity to place a large, framed multi-cultural "I am" statement of diversity next to the tree.
After a cursory meeting which managed to elicit the interest of local news cameras, a compromise was reached, allowing the "candy tree" to remain in place, and the students returned to their studies for exam period.
Although exact details of the meeting were scarce, seemingly few students, regardless of religion, took offense or umbrage to the tree:
"It's a candy bush. I don't understand why anyone would have a problem with it," Environmental Studies Major, Carmen Blubaugh, plainly stated as she departed the meeting.

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