By: Andrea Carlson, Abigail DeSantis, and Olivia Geishauser
The University of Tampa is attended by students from all 50 states, 132 countries and of many different cultures according to the university website. Throughout the year students celebrate their cultures through holidays like Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hannakuah, Diwali and more.
A survey was taken by eleven UT students that are members of diversity and religious clubs on campus about holiday celebrations on campus. Over half of students said they did not feel that UT provides an adequate variety of holiday celebration options.
Ninety percent of students in the survey said they celebrate Christmas while ten percent celebrate Diwali and Dussehra, Hindu festivals.
No matter what holiday students celebrate, there are events and activities available on and off campus. Many of these are not always known by most students.
Christmas celebrations mentioned in the survey by students included winter bash, making snow globes and Christmas cards, ice skating, cookie decorating, light shows and more.
An anonymous member of the Indian Cultural Association said they attended a Diwali celebration and Garba, a Hindu dance celebration.
The university website says, “the University is independent and non-sectarian, religious/spiritual beliefs and practices are highly respected and encouraged.”
“There is a place at the University of Tampa for every community member and every holiday celebrated here,” said Ian McGinnity, director of community engagement. “UT appreciates and recognizes all religious and faith traditions, including students who do not have one. There are student organizations focused on this as well as the Faith, Values and Spirituality Committee out of Wellness and in conjunction with the Sykes Chapel.”
According to McGinnity, if students are worried about not being able to celebrate their holiday in Tampa, the student religious and spiritual organizations plan different events each year.
There are multiple religious and cultural clubs on campus including Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU), Chabad Jewish Student Union, HILLEL, Black Student Union, Associations for Asian and Pacific Islanders, Brazilian and Indian Students and Unity: Diversity and Inclusion.
Many clubs listed above provide religious or cultural holiday celebrations throughout the school year.
CRU vice-president, Lauren Marolf mentioned that the club does an on-campus Christmas party yearly.
“Students do not have to be a Christain, any other religion, or a part of our organization to attend our events,” said Marolf. “Students can benefit (from the club) by building friendships and community through a common celebration of holidays during the holiday season.”
According to Marolf, CRU feels fully supported by the university as a club and religious group on campus.
One Jewish organization on campus, HILLEL, provides students the ability to celebrate almost every Jewish holiday on campus that falls during the school year. This year they have celebrated Rosh Hashanah by providing breakfast to their students.
Many of their events are considered “schmooze”, which means their group talks and enjoys each other’s company.
If students would like to visit a synagogue for a holiday, there are two synagogues in Tampa that are open. Jordan Chastanet, the president of HILLEL, and Harrison Tulchiner, administrative vice president for HILLEL, provide information for interested students.
According to Chastanet and Tulchiner, not much is provided by UT for their organizations.
“Rooms are provided, but other than that not much,” said Chastanet and Tulchiner. “Student government provides the money.”
Being a part of a small student organization, Chastanet and Tulchiner say that instead of feeling as though their organization is not supported, they feel “unseen” by the university.
Chastanet and Tulchiner mentioned that most of their activities come from Suncoast HILLEL, which is in charge of the University of Tampa, Eckerd and USF. They provide them with their budget, help plan events, invite speakers to come and talk to the students and help cater.
Chastanet and Tulchiner also state that HILLEL provides students with the ability to have a Jewish community at the university. Tulchiner, from New York, grew up in a very strong Jewish community, and having this group on campus helps fill that void.
Student Productions (SP) is the main programming organization for the University of Tampa campus.
“SP does not put on events for any specific religion because we need to include everyone,” said SP Vice President, Dakota Smith.
Last year, SP put on their semesterly exam jam with the theme of winter wonderland. This year’s theme has not yet been decided, according to Smith.
Off campus, there are many options for celebrating the holidays.
The City of Tampa website holds information about holiday events and activities done annually.
A Santa Fest Christmas Parade occurs on Dec. 3 followed by a Tree Lighting Ceremony and public screening of a chosen Christmas film, located in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
Busch Gardens has Christmas Town from Nov. 12 to Jan. 2. According to the website it is an “award-winning holiday event.” Tickets include park admission, holiday shows, Christmas lights and more.
There are many holiday celebrations on and off campus for UT students. On-campus celebrations may not be promoted as much as other activities but information for holiday and cultural events can be found on Involve UT.