UPDATE: TCU spokeswoman Lisa Albert said the anti-gay controversy with Chick-fil-A wasn’t relevant to the conversations that began in the spring to bring the restaurant to campus.
Albert said university dining officials started student focus groups to determine what would drive them to the 1873 restaurant on campus to help limit an overflow of traffic at the campus dining hall. She added that while the company’s anti-gay reviews were likely “part of the conversation” in the focus groups, students have been asking for a Chick-fil-A for years.
“I think that the controversy was sort of irrelevant,” she said. “This was about what the students were wanting.”
She said the decision to bring Chick-fil-A to the university’s campus was made in the spring based on continued input from students about having it brought on campus. The announcement was made in the summer because that’s when the contracts were signed.
Albert said the university partners with several vendors and companies, including a Starbucks on campus, but officials don’t “support any political or personal opinions of those vendors.”
“I certainly understand the sensitivity within the gay community toward Chick-fil-A, but at the end of the day, [the company’s opinions] don’t reflect the opinions of TCU,” she said.
ORIGINAL POST: When students return to Texas Christian University’s campus for classes on Aug. 19, they’ll have Chick-fil-A as a dining option.
TCU announced internally in late May that the on-campus 1873 restaurant would be converted into a Chick-fil-A and open in the fall. A story followed in the school’s newspaper, but students had already left for the summer and it appears that few people noticed. Now LGBT advocates are questioning why the university chose to allow a controversial anti-gay restaurant chain on campus.
Todd Camp, a Fort Worth LGBT activist and TCU alumnus, said he recently heard about the restaurant coming to campus from a friend and was surprised there hadn’t been upset about it. He said the university knew the news would be controversial so it waited until after students were gone to avoid backlash.
“I find it disingenuous that they didn’t now Chick-fil-A would be controversial,” Camp said.
We’ve reached out to TCU Director of Communications Lisa Albert, who said she’d get back to us about why Chick-fil-A was chosen and the considerations that went into the decision. We’ll update when we hear back. Based on the university’s announcement on its website, the restaurant was requested by students. Students started a Facebook page, “Bring Chick-fil-A to TCU,” in 2011 to help the cause and got 541 likes.
“The student body has been requesting a branded concept (namely Chick-fil-A) on campus for some time,” TCU posted on its website in May. “The University has responded to the students’ request by bringing Chick-fil-A to campus beginning Fall 2013.”
LGBT students and alumni were upset last summer when TCU partnered with two nearby Chick-fil-A restaurants that offered free sandwiches to those who wore TCU gear in a promotion tied to the football team joining the Big 12 Conference.
Albert told Dallas Voice then that the partnership was among many that promoted the conference change and said TCU “does not support political or personal statements associated with any of our event hosts.”
Camp recalled the controversy last year and said the decision to have a Chick-fil-A on campus shows how little the university stands behind equality, even though it added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy a few years ago.
Camp said faculty members are upset about the decision, but he doesn’t think the university is likely to change its mind. There’s no word yet on any planned action by the campus Gay Straight Alliance.
Students at several North Texas universities tried to have Chick-fil-A restaurants removed last year after the chain’s CEO Dan Cathy made anti-gay statements.
Camp said TCU had the choice to not allow the anti-gay chain to begin with and could have decided on a healthier option instead. He said the choice will hurt fundraising efforts from LGBT alumni and advocates who boycott the restaurant.
“If you choose to partner with a business, then you choose to partner with everything they’ve done in the past,” he said.