When Christmas comes to Damen Student Center, Loyola says it keeps costs low — at just under $9,000.
Since December of 2014, the space has been made festive for the holiday season. A Christmas tree adorned with lights and ornaments sits near the food court, while lights, wreaths and garland decorate the walls and railings, and lights are strung around the trees outside.
The Christmas display in Damen is showcased each December with a tree lighting event. This year’s tree lighting event occurred on Dec. 2 and included an indoor skating rink, hot cocoa and a photo opportunity with Santa Claus in front of the 24-foot Christmas tree.
Between the decorations and the lighting event, it costs $8,995 to decorate the student center, according to director of student centers Bryan Goodwin. He said the cost is “minimal” and has no impact on tuition.
“It is not factored [into tuition] at all. This is an appropriation of funds that we allocated to [decorating the student center], so it doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of other programs that we have,” Goodwin said. “It comes with our annual budget.”
The cost stays consistent from year to year, Goodwin said.
Almost all of the decorations are reused annually, according to Goodwin. He said everything — the lights, the garland and the Damen tree — is stored at Loyola’s Centennial Forum, and the university only replaces broken or damaged decorations.
Reusing the Damen Christmas tree, which Bank of America donated to Loyola, saved the university a substantial amount, according to Goodwin. He said purchasing a new tree of that size could cost an estimated $35,000.
“It really kind of dawned on us [in the Division of Student Development] that we needed to do something a little bit better as it related to our Christmas decorations,” Goodwin said. “We were doing things at such an amateur level that if we continued to do things that way here in the Damen Center, it would just look odd.”
That $8,995 included the costs of fixing or replacing items, installation labor, pick-up labor and take-down labor, and purchasing five wreaths, decorations for Damen Dining Hall and the wrapped gifts placed above the Bleecker Street cafe, according to Goodwin. He said the university is “very conscious of [its] budget.”
Given Loyola’s commitment to environmental sustainability, it’s also mindful of making the holiday display as green as it can be.
“The company that we use [to set up the decorations] is very aware of our sustainability efforts on campus, and they’re really conscious of that as they’re working with us,” said Goodwin.
The company that coordinates and installs the display in Damen is McFarlane Douglass, a business that has put together smaller Christmas displays for Loyola in the past. The school renews an annual contract with McFarlane Douglass for setting up the Damen tree and lights.
McFarlane Douglass is an eco-conscious company, so its methods easily match Loyola’s environmentally friendly goals.
A few steps the company has taken to ensure the decorations are environmentally friendly are using LED lights that use less power, reusing garland and the Damen tree and recycling broken light strands.
“I work with my clients and just try and support whatever they want, and if it’s something that’s important to them, we’ll definitely take it into consideration,” said Sofia Leick, the sales representative from McFarlane Douglass who works with Loyola. “Whatever they want, that’s what I try [to] give them.”
Leick said she meets with Goodwin each year to discuss any changes or additions to the display, meets with the company’s manufacturing team to make sure the university gets its needs met and sometimes supervises the installation process.
Leick said it’s the third year she’s worked with Goodwin and Loyola and expressed that she loves the relationship she has with the university.
Given that Loyola is a Jesuit institution, which is guided by the Catholic Church, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the university shows its Christmas spirit. But students of other religions that celebrate other holidays might feel left out.
Loyola junior Qalani Aimes, a 20-year-old advertising and public relations major, said she believes the decorations are a festive way to celebrate the Christmas season. She also said she thinks the school could do more to represent other religious holiday traditions.
“I think if the school’s embracing different religions … there should be some type of display up, like the Star of David or a menorah … so that you know that people are being embraced and recognized as well, especially with their religions,” Aimes said.
Graduate student Elliot Moen grew up celebrating Christmas, so he said he enjoys the decorations Loyola puts up in Damen as the holidays approach.
“I grew up in a family that always decorated similar to this, and so it’s like a reminder of home,” said the 22-year-old criminal justice and Spanish double major.
Moen said he recognizes the possible conflict the university faces between pleasing students of all faiths and celebrating Loyola’s Jesuit identity.
“I think as a campus as a whole … the institution is really good about respecting and taking into account all the diversity of all its students,” Moen said. “But, at the same time, being a school that’s based on a Christian faith, they do have to in some ways … pay homage to the fact that that’s where the Jesuit education comes from.”