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Chick-fil-A attracts controversy as possible food option on campus this fall

Students may have thought it “flew the coop” earlier this semester, but now Dining Services is “rehatching” the possibility of replacing Wendy’s in the Union with Chick-fil-A.

Throughout the next few weeks, Dining Services will work with the Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate Student Senate to determine whether Chick-fil-A will be included on a student survey as a possible option in the Falcon’s Nest next fall, despite being removed from the list in January for being considered “anti-gay.”

“I’m awaiting guidance from those two groups,” said Mike Paulus, director of Dining Services. “Just guidance to let me know where we’re going.”

While Paulus hopes a decision will be made in the next few weeks, in order to make it, USG senators and administrators are talking to students about the possibility of opening a Chick-fil-A in the Union.

“There really seems to be a mix of people,” said Emily Ancinec, USG president. “Some people don’t want Chick-fil-A and others seem to really like it.”

USG senators are getting the word out about the fast food chain “at their own discretion,” through outlets like Facebook, Ancinec said.

Despite talk of obtaining student feedback from Facebook, no posts or polls related to Chick-fil-A appeared on USG’s page as of 11 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’ve never really dealt with an issue like this before, so I don’t know what to expect,” Ancinec said. “I’m curious to see what the senate decides.”

USG plans to further discuss Chick-fil-A at its meeting next Tuesday, while GSS will discuss the restaurant’s possible future at its meeting this Friday, Paulus said.

David Sleasman, GSS president, could not be reached to comment Tuesday evening.

Increased debate on whether to include Chick-fil-A in a survey to students came after Paulus started seeing responses asking why it was eliminated.

“I started getting a lot of feedback from students who wanted to see a vote,” Paulus said.

Although it has not been officially decided whether Chick-fil-A will debut in the Union next fall, Tobias Spears, assistant director in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and students from the LGBT community are voicing their opinions about the company.

“The company doesn’t represent the diversity and inclusion stance that we have at the University,” Spears said.

Chick-fil-A makes donations through Founder Truett Cathy’s WinShape Foundation to organizations sometimes considered “anti-gay,” Spears said.

Some of the organizations include The National Christian Foundation, Focus On The Family and Exodus International, according to an analysis of expenses in WinShape’s 2009 IRS report.

“They don’t need to be a part of our community, they don’t deserve our money or our support,” said Meredith Hassenrik, a junior at the LGBT Resource Center. “They don’t want to support me, so I don’t want to support them. That’s fine.”

Spears met with Paulus and the Dining Advisory Board in January to discuss why Spears feels Chick-fil-A is “not inclusive” and how its establishment could be problematic at the University. After presenting to the advisory board and a group of students and faculty members, the board eliminated Chick-fil-A as an option in January.

“When I look at Chick-fil-A, I look at its policies … it’s [a] very heteronormal company and very conservative,” Spears said. “There’s no problem with being conservative until you start to impede on the rights of other people. I think that’s the problem.”

While living in Atlanta – the home of Chick-fil-A Inc. – before coming to the University, Spears was unaware of possible “anti-gay” activity within Chick-fil-A.

Although he previously dined at a Chick-fil-A in Atlanta, he still disapproves of the company and its policies. Spears said he hopes the University will continue to take a similar stance on the restaurant.

“I trust the process and I think that the higher up administration here knows what they’re doing,” Spears said. “It’s definitely important to solicit student input, and I trust that the Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate Student Senate will really hear out the students and the controversy behind Chick-fil-A.”

Despite the stance of the LGBT community, some students may still choose Chick-fil-A over another replacement for Wendy’s, Paulus said.

“It’s all about brand marketing,” Paulus said. “If you never had either one and someone asks, ‘Would you rather have Chick-fil-A or Bob’s Chicken?’ you’ve got that preconceived idea already.”

Editor’s note: Members of Chick-fil-A’s public relations and consultant team, including Corporate Public Relations Senior Consultant, Mark Baldwin, could not be reached to comment on this story.

 

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