Chick-fil-A Debate Continues

As the events continue to unfold over the Chick-fil-A debate, some tensions appear to have been lessened after a forum hosted by Professors Barbara Beliveau, Celia Rabinowitz, and  Sybol Anderson allowed students to vent their frustrations over the Daily Grind’s “Chick-fil-A Thursdays.”

Approximately 55 students, staff, and faculty members were present to hear more about boycotts, particularly this one, and to voice their opinions about the College’s values relating to this issue.

Chick-fil-A (CFA) has been reported to have donated to the Winshape Foundation; this foundation has in turn donated money to conservative movements against same-sex marriage.  Members of St. Mary’s Triangle and Rainbow Society (STARS) and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) have charged that by selling Chick-fil-A on campus, the College has been violating the “safe space” policy.

At the beginning of the forum, several members of STARS and SDS stated that this boycott was not a campaign against personal, political, and religious values, nor was it attempting to limit the consumer choices of their peers.

The audience was then given a quick breakdown about the history of boycotts and whether or not they are successful.  Professor Beliveau said boycotts are successful “if there is commitment and support” among a large group of people.

She gave historical examples of successful boycotts including the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. In 1955, an African American woman named Rosa Parks did not give up her seat to a white commuter on the Montgomery bus line.

Her arrest started one of the largest boycotts in American history, which only ended with the desegregation of the bus lines.

Rabinowitz then began a brief discussion about the College’s institutional values.  The values, which can be found on the College’s website, describe St. Mary’s as a place open to “diversity in all its form and social responsibility and civic-mindedness.”  The question that this boycott raises is whether or not the school selling Chick-fil-A goes against what the institution values.

Anderson then posed the question, “What does it mean to value diversity in all its form, social responsibility, and civic-mindedness?”  This question then lead into a discussion about whether or not Chick-fil-A should be sold on campus.

One student said, “[Chick-fil-A] can do whatever they want.”  This comment then brought many people to raise their hands to respond.  Many describe how they felt that Chick-fil-A violated the “safe space” policy which made them feel uncomfortable.

There was some discussion about bringing another vendor to campus to balance Chick-fil-A. However, several members of the community felt that keeping Chick-fil-A on campus would not solve the fundamental problem at hand.  One professor said it would only “skirt the main question.”

After the talk, Anderson described the dilemma and said, “we seem to have clarified what the crux of the issue is; that is, we have to decide as a community whether by maintaining our contract with CFA we compromise a set of our institutional values, in particular our commitments to diversity and social responsibility.”

As the forum came to a close, many remarked on the civility that was shown by all who participated.  One member of SDS was “glad we could have a dialogue.”There was also agreement that it was good that both sides were present to voice their concerns.

Anderson summed up both arguments by saying some members see “Chick-fil-A as encouraging the violation of human rights and [that the college] should end its contract with the company,” while others “do not see Chick-fil-A as implicated in human rights violations [and] see no problem with continuing to do business with them.”  Anderson continued, “that’s the dilemma we have to resolve.”

In the end, the dilemma remained unsolved.  However, many expressed hope that this could be how problems in the future would be resolved.  Senior Paul Sauchelli, of Students for a Democratic Society, said the forum will “set a future precedent for future discussions.”


You Never Came to the Forum

This op-ed is addressed to all those who complain about the Chick-fil-A (CFA) protest.  Much of what I say hereafter stems more from my personal feelings than from the agenda or rhetoric of SDS, so don’t take this as a direct statement from the organization.

You need to realize that we didn’t have to do this.  The LGBTQ community could have written a letter to the Campus Store and administration months ago explaining, backed by factual evidence, why Chick-fil-A is an organization which, in many ways and on every level, not only is philosophically anti-homosexual but actually works to directly oppress and harm homosexual rights and mental well being (e.g. camps to ‘cure’ people of homosexuality).

Furthermore, sponsoring such an organization is in conflict with the expressly stated mission statement of our College, which has a significant homosexual population. We could have taken this product away a long time ago with no prior notice.

For example, those beer pong posters the campus store used to sell were taken off the shelves because one parent of a student wrote a letter that she was offended.  Surely, if an entire demographic of students showed solidarity in staunch opposition to the presence of Chick-fil-A in the form of a written letter, the campus store would have obliged because of the aforementioned precedent.

But we are SDS: Students for a Democratic Society.  It was for your edification and your right to disagree that we organized this campus wide event.  Yet, how many of you came to the forum? Not many. SDS has probably done more research than anyone else on this campus, besides STARS and a few others.

Some of the information I’ve heard people citing in opposition to the claim that CFA isn’t working directly and indirectly to actually reverse the liberation of homosexuals have been blatantly false.  Chick-fil-A as a corporation and the organizations it donates to work openly to oppress homosexuals in a very real way.

It is beyond the scope of this op-ed to list their offenses, and maybe we should have another formal gathering where all information is collected and discussed, but trust me when I say the information is there. I’m more than willing to hear out someone who believes otherwise, but where have you been?

We are trying so hard to give you a chance to speak out and for you to really understand what we are fighting for, but so few people speak to us at our protest table in the Campus Center.

Where are your op-eds?  The Facebook conversation was pretty good but only good for so much. Most importantly, the faculty-sponsored forum seems to have been ignored by those who disagree.

What’s more, you’ve done little to suggest possible alternatives, leaving it to us to figure out feasible replacements.  Why would we bother to find a replacement? Because we respect your right to consumption and because we want to minimize the loss to the average student of our activism.

You must understand that if Chick-fil-A is taken away (still not a reality, mind you), you can still go and buy it at their franchise store.  We don’t care if you buy Chick-fil-A.  We care about the fact that our school provides aid to an organization which clearly betrays our stated institutional values of providing a safe space for people of all genders, ethnicities, creeds, etc.

Democracy is majority rule and minority rights, and CFA betrays the latter.  So if you’ve refused to take advantage of the opportunities for democratic discussion and cooperation, then fine.

It’s your choice to abstain from something that is still your fight, despite the fact that your ability to get a civil union and all its far-reaching legal and economic benefits isn’t influenced by Chick-fil-A’s actions.

But don’t go around complaining and making snide, passive-aggressive, and hurtful remarks and constructing misinformed arguments when you’ve clearly rejected the open democratic process we’re trying to develop.

All I know is that I am going to keep fighting for equality and I will never, ever, yield to the floundering and wholly ignorant protests from a bunch of people who want an overpriced chicken sandwich.


For Boycott, Both Sides of the Spectrum Too Strong

In the March 1 issue of The Point News, an article was submitted by Eden Carswell entitled “Chick-fil-A: ‘I Wants My Sammitch.’” This article has sparked more discussion over what has already been an extremely hot topic among the campus community.

While I agree with Eden regarding the moral implications of Chick-fil-A as a corporation, I feel like the bigger picture at hand should not be the LGBTQ community, but rather the role of conscious consumerism.

As conscious consumers, it is our job to weigh the pros and cons of outlets available to us. Unfortunately, in a country like the United States, we have a tendency to feign ignorance for the sake of consumerism and it’s only when light has been shone on something that we finally get up in arms about something. Chick-fil-A is no exception to this rule.

However, let me point out that it is common knowledge that Chick-fil-A isn’t open on Sundays, it owns the WinShape Foundation which reaches out through fundamental Christian beliefs, and the corporation was founded in the American south. So how is it that just now people are realizing that a southern, Christian corporation like Chick-fil-A gives proceeds to Christian groups who oppose LGBTQ rights?

All it really comes down to is allowing ourselves to see the facts and make informed decisions on what we spend our hard earned money on. Without the persistence to inform ourselves, we wind up sitting around in the dark which, in cases like Chick-fil-A, can become an issue larger than what it really is.

We have to be mature about this .Do I think that buying a chicken sandwich should be equated with giving the LGBTQ community the finger? Absolutely not – that’s a very extremist view of the situation and, frankly, quite ignorant. On the other end of the spectrum, do I think that harassing someone with chicken sandwiches because he disagrees with the moral foundations of a company is acceptable? Not even – that’s cruel, childish, and ridiculously uncalled for.

Now that some revealing information has been released regarding company activity, we obviously have to re-evaluate where we stand. Getting carried away, and this goes for both parties, isn’t going to solve anything and we as adults should not judge others for making their informed decisions.

I am proud to say that I consider myself part of the LGBTQ community here at the college as a friend, a supporter, and an ally. However, I refuse to dislike someone on the basis that they bought a sandwich. To me, that sounds just as wrong as supporting anti-gay causes.

It’s preposterous to say the least. I think everyone just needs to look at the facts, make educated decisions, and leave it at that. Protest if you want to and buy if you want to. Or, try to find an alternative. I personally couldn’t care less about Chick-fil-A. Did I mention I’m a vegetarian?


Students Boycott Chick-fil-A

Over the last several weeks, debate over the future of Chick-fil-A Thursdays at the Daily Grind has been intensifying.

According to members of St. Mary’s Triangle & Rainbow Society (STARS) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Chick-fil-A has been donating money to organizations that oppose both gay marriage and civil rights for the LGBTQ community.

In response to this revelation, the members of these clubs have organized a boycott in an attempt to inform students about the actions of Chick-fil-A, as well as to increase support from community members to find alternate options for students.

Every Thursday, students from both STARS and SDS will table in front of the campus center by the entrance to the Daily Grind.

They hand out informational sheets about whom Chick-fil-A has supported and why the Daily Grind should no longer purchase food from them.

These members have also been asking students to sign their petition to pledge their support for the cause and not to eat Chick-fil-A.

Tyson Morgan, a senior and member of STARS, said that the goal of this boycott “is that the St. Mary’s Campus Store and Daily Grind, in conjunction with the students, will immediately start seeking an alternate option to Chick-fil-A that doesn’t have such a deplorable record on human rights.”

Even though students were aware of this boycott through word of mouth and social media like Facebook, members of the Administration were not told of the protest until several weeks into the process.

“I first heard about the boycott through email from Joanne Goldwater on [February 9th],” said Richard Wagner, Manager of the Campus Store, “I am just trying to find the facts and to have a better understanding of the situation.”

Morgan, in a letter to the faculty, states that Chick-fil-A’s actions “do not reflect the ideals and principles that St. Mary’s strives to maintain.”

While breaking down the Mission Statement, Morgan believes that Chick-fil-A on campus does not “foster social and ethical development” nor can the College be considered “a living legacy to the ideals of tolerance.”

“The problem here is the difficulty to find information,” said Wagner, “but [Chick-fil-A] has not violated any SMCM policies.”

Even though they advocate for the total removal of Chick-fil-A products from the Campus Store, Morgan did establish an ideal time for the removal.

“While we encourage patrons of the Grind to refrain from purchasing Chick-fil-A,’ said Morgan, “we ask that Chick-fil-A not be removed from the Daily Grind until a suitable alternative is found.”

Morgan continued by saying “we are currently taking suggestions from students and would greatly appreciate a collaboration of efforts between students and St. Mary’s faculty and staff.”

Wagner echoed this comment when he said “we are open to other options; we are simply trying to provide options for students.”

Both the Campus Store and STARS/SDS are looking for feedback about the boycott and alternate options that the Campus Store should consider.

“I want to hear from everyone, either if you agree or disagree with the boycott,” said Wagner.

There is sure to be more debate over the issue of Chick-fil-A in the coming weeks but Wagner was pleased that the debate “is being civil.”

Chick-fil-A: “I Wants My Sammich!”

A few weeks ago, a “Boycott Chick-fil-A at the Daily Grind” event page was posted on Facebook to make students aware of Chick-fil-A’s funding of anti-gay marriage causes and groups, and to gain support for equality on this campus.

Chick-fil-A buyers on campus got wind of the possibility that their products would be removed, and their reactions were horrifying.

Students trivialized the whole cause, saying “I can’t support this cause because the sandwiches are yummy” and “This group is pretty stupid”, verbally attacking protest supporters for their “anger”, and approaching the comments of supporters from an “all or nothing” standpoint, telling protestors to protest all groups that support these negative causes, or do nothing.

One student received Facebook messages exclaiming, “Faggot”, multiple sandwiches were stuck on his window, and he was harassed at work.

A few students even refused to support the cause while still claiming they supported LGBTQ rights. It’s impossible to say, “I support same-sex marriage, but I’m going to keep buying Chick-fil-A. Sorry.”

It doesn’t make any sense. That’s like saying, “I support animal rights groups, but before I go to a protest, I need my fur coat out of the cleaners.”

Choosing a chicken sandwich over another human being’s rights is pretty selfish.

Believe me, I too have a list of food items at the Grind that I’d use my last two cents for: Lettieri’s delicious calzones, cheese muffins, and the 99-cent Arizona fruit punch juices that quench my thirst and go easy on my flex.

But if I found out that the Arizona juice company was funding sexiest, anti-woman campaigns, or that Mrs. Lettieri herself was slipping $100 bills under the table to the KKK or white supremacist groups, I’d sooner go on a date with Flavor Flav and pay the tab than spend my flex on any of those products again.

It’s startling that these hateful gestures were made at the possibility of the sandwiches being taken away.

I wonder how the campus would react if Chick-fil-A was to disappear from the Grind.

Would Chick-fil-A regulars start a Chick-fil-A gang, throwing sandwiches and nuggets at random people in the wee hours of the morning?

Or would that be a waste of the precious food that students so desperately need?

A lot of questions are being raised now: Can LBGTQ students rely on allies for support no matter what, or is the support guaranteed until lobbying and protesting “inconveniences” them?

Should LGBTQ students feel safe on this campus, or is the student body not as open and accepting as it appears?

What is support, in the eyes of the campus community?

As an LGBTQ student, I started to reevaluate my surroundings after all this began.

In my opinion this campus has changed negatively since I arrived here in 2007, and I hope that its student body will be welcoming to those prospective students looking for that open, accepting campus they hear so much about.