Chick-fil-A is set to open in the Student Center next fall as part of the university’s food service transition from Sodexo to Aramark.
The fast food restaurant chain is already open at more than 250 campuses nationwide.
“[It] is the most requested brand by college students, including those surveyed at Temple,” Michael Scales, associate vice president of business services, wrote in an email. “We benefit from the name recognition, quality and predictability [of Chick-fil-A].”
Despite the restaurant’s popularity, Temple should be hesitant to bring the chain to Main Campus given its history of anti-LGBTQ actions.
In 2012, Chick-fil-A was the subject of national attention regarding donations to anti-LGBTQ groups and discriminatory comments made by Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A. In an interview with the Biblical Reporter, a North Carolina Baptist publication, Cathy said he was “guilty as charged,” when asked if he supports the “traditional family,” meaning marriage exclusively between heterosexual couples.
“We are very much supportive of the family, the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy told the Biblical Reporter.
Investigations into the company’s tax filings by Equality Matters, a communications initiative to advocate for LGBTQ rights and “correct anti-gay misinformation,” found that Chick-fil-A had given nearly $5 million to anti-LGBTQ groups through its charity, the WinShape Foundation, since 2003. Among the groups that received donations were Exodus International, a group that promoted conversion therapy before it shut down in 2013, and the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as a hate group for spreading misinformation about LGBTQ people.
“There are sections of the university community who may feel aggrieved and concerned over the company executive’s past pronouncements and stance on LGBT matters,” said Jay Sinha, a marketing and supply chain management professor. “There is certainly some level of concern given our stance on diversity and inclusion.”
“As a member of the LGBT community, I’m upset every time I see a new Chick-fil-A location because it sucks to know that a company frankly hates you,” said Maria Campbell, a senior marketing major.
As a university community that often prides itself on inclusion, we should not support a restaurant chain that unabashedly finances discrimination. How can we expect students who identify as LGBTQ to feel at home on Main Campus when the university welcomes a company with this kind of ideology?
“I’m against it,” said Quinn Heath, a junior computer science and criminal justice major and the vice president of the Queer Student Union. “I think that Temple tries to go for that ‘Diversity University’ spiel, and I think that if you’re using that, you should try to walk the path that you’re speaking. It’s not like there’s [not] an alternative place that sells chicken that you could find, like basically anyone else [that] hasn’t come out against gay marriage.”
After criticism of Cathy’s comments in 2012, the company said it respects all sexual orientations in a statement, explaining that its foundation “is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.” The Civil Rights Agenda of Chicago reported that Chick-fil-A’s Winshape Foundation stopped funding anti-LGBTQ groups in September 2012.
But the values asserted by the brand are still concerning. Chick-fil-A currently has a 0 rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group, in all categories related to policies and benefits.
Unsurprisingly, Chick-fil-A does not have workplace protections in place for the LGBTQ community, which might include non-discrimination policies or the presence of an LGBTQ employee resource group, according to the HRC.
Temple needs to be sensitive to all students and faculty members. Hosting a restaurant chain with a history of discrimination is not supportive of Temple’s LGBTQ population, nor representative of the values of our university community.
Temple should realize that a company with a history of supporting discrimination has no place on Main Campus.
Zach Kocis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.