Anti-gay company has restaurants at five universities in N. Texas, and petitions have already been lauched calling for its removal from one
DENTON — As classes resume in the coming weeks, LGBT groups at local college campuses will deliberate whether to try to have on-campus Chick-fil-As removed after the controversy over the company’s anti-gay positions intensified over the summer.
Two active petitions are asking the administration at the University of North Texas to remove the Chick-fil-A from the student center.
UNT student Joseph Billeaudeau started a Change.org petition to persuade the university’s president to remove the Chick-fil-A from the student union. So far, 436 people have signed it.
Billeaudeau wrote on the petition site that “maintaining a contract with an anti-gay vendor like Chick-fil-A undermines what makes this university so great.”
“As a student at the University of North Texas, I ask that profit from students not be used to discriminate, or politically oppress the LGBT community. I demand that the University remove Chick-fil-A from the Union!”
UNT alumnus Mike Chinnici started another petition on Change.org with 34 signatures.
“UNT has long stood as a progressive university,” Chinnici wrote on the site. “It was one of the first colleges in Texas to integrate during the civil rights movement, and I, as an alumni, ask my alma mater to continue to support human rights and remove a modern symbol of prejudice from the heart of the university.”
UNT spokeswoman Kelley Reese told Dallas Voice that as a Chick-Fil-A licensee, “UNT runs its operation in accordance with the university’s values of respecting and accepting all individuals.
“Our students, faculty and staff may individually choose to eat at the Chick-Fil-A in our University Union or they may choose to spend their money elsewhere,” she said.
Davidson College in North Carolina became the first to suspend relations with Chick-fil-A after the school recently stopped offering the restaurant’s food as a choice at its After Midnight functions.
Officials said it was because they wanted to hear from more students about whether to discontinue the relationship permanently.
Chick-fil-A also has restaurants on the campuses of Southern Methodist University, The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Women’s University.
Harvey Luna, co-president of SMU’s LGBT student group, SPECTRUM, told Dallas Voice that “the actions of this company are deplorable and does not reflect the values of SMU and this great country.
Therefore, it goes without saying that Spectrum does not and will not associate with Chick-fil-A.”
SMU spokesman Kent Best told Dallas Voice that Chick-fil-A is operated by ARAMARK, which manages SMU dining services, and “there will be no change in the status of the campus Chick-Fil-A.
SMU officials will continue to be available to speak with concerned students or others on this matter.”
SMU junior Morgane Dimeglio got back to campus this week and was eating in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. Restaurant choices were limited to Pizza Hut and Subway, as Chick-fil-A was closed until school starts Aug. 20.
Dimeglio said she often eats at Chick-fil-A on campus because she likes the food, despite the company’s beliefs.
“The chicken is good, but being anti-gay is not good,” she said, adding that SMU should still keep the restaurant on campus but the company should replace its leadership.
Tyler Fincannon, vice president of the LGBT student group Pride at UTD, said any action to begin a petition to remove the university’s Chick-fil-A are on hold until classes begin Aug. 27, so more students can be involved.
TWU’s PRIDE also hasn’t put any plans in motion, but the group will be discussing action when the semester begins Aug. 27.
Action at The University of Texas at Arlington is uncertain as well. Alohi Valdez, president of UTA’s Gay Straight Alliance, said she has gotten inquiries from fellow members asking if there will be action when UTA classes start Aug. 23. As a pride peer with the new campus LGBT programming initiative, she said she’ll bring it up to other leaders and faculty on campus and come up with a plan.
She said she would want the restaurant to be replaced quickly so students who work there can continue to be employed. But she also has mixed feelings about any action against Chick-fil-A because, while she’s stopped eating there, she said others have a right to still do so.
“Any company has a right to exist and a right to put their money where they want,” Valdez said. “As a consumer, I have a right to where I want to spend my money.”
David Henderson, co-founder of Fairness Fort Worth and an alumnus of UTA who helped start the first GSA on campus, declined to offer a personal opinion on the Chick-fil-A controversy and whether UTA should remove the on-campus restaurant.
“I don’t think alumni should be setting the stage,” he said. “I think the students who live, work and study there should set the stage and the alumni should follow. Whatever they decide, I’ll back.”
UTA spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan said ARAMARK handles the university’s food services contract and contracts with the national brand restaurants.
A representative from ARAMARK did not respond to a request for comment about action the company may take at schools that already have Chick-fil-As.
Campus Pride, the national nonprofit that provides resources to LGBT college students, created fliers listing “5 Simple Facts about Chick-fil-A” for students to hand out at schools across the country to try to discourage their classmates from eating at Chick-fil-As on or off campus.
Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer said the organization is also encouraging colleges and universities to cut ties with companies like Chartwells, ARAMARK and Sodexo that contract with Chick-fil-A.
And while the controversy over Chick-fil-A’s funding of anti-gay hate groups is nothing new, Windmeyer said it has inflamed passions among college students because recent polls show almost 80 percent of young adults think same-sex marriage should be legalized.
With the growing support among younger Americas, he said members and allies of the LGBT community will raise their voices against on-campus Chick-fil-As because the company’s funding “actually funds groups that are against a group of students present on campus.”
“Dan Cathy doesn’t know what he started,” Windmeyer said. “The Chick-fil-A brand has now become synonymous with a hate symbol. College students aren’t going to tolerate that.”
He cited a recent incident at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where a group of fraternity guys called a gay student a “faggot” in the dining hall while holding a Chick-fil-A bag and shouting that they loved the company. Windmeyer said incidents like that will only worsen and colleges should remove the restaurant to maintain on-campus safety.
“At the end of the day, colleges have a responsibility to provide safe learning environments and having a Chick-fil-A on campus disrupts that safe environment,” he said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 17, 2012.