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.”