Are Catholic campuses made less safe for LGBTQ students when Chick-fil-A outlets are present? According to some students, the answer to this question is a clear “yes.” This spring, disputes over the fast food chain erupted at both Duquesne University and Fordham University.
The popular fast-food chain has become synonymous with anti-LGBTQ issues since 2012 when it was learned that its CEO, Dan Cathy, spoke out strongly against marriage equality and the chain’s foundation had donated millions of dollars to oppose same-gender marriage initiatives.
At Duquesne, the Student Government Association passed a resolution asking administrators to reconsider opening a Chick-fil-A on campus. The resolution was prompted by concerns from Lambda, a gay-straight alliance. Rachel Coury, the group’s president, told campus newspaper The Duke:
“‘I’ve tried very hard within the last semester and a half to promote this safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community. . .So I fear that with the Chick-fil-A being in Options that maybe people will feel that safe place is at risk.'”
Coury and her peers in Lambda are concerned because of Chick-fil-A’s ties to, in her words, “specifically anti-gay organizations” like Focus on the Family and the now defunct Exodus International. According to the company, it no longer funds groups with social-political agendas, instead focusing on youth and education initiatives.
University spokesperson Bridget Fare countered the Student Government and Lambda claims by saying student reactions are overall quite positive and that the company “has assured [Duquesne] that they do not discriminate.”
As an aside, Donald Trump, Jr. attacked the Duquesne students in a tweet, saying: “Luckily these students wont likely have to tackle issues more stressful than a yummy chicken sandwich in their lives… Oh Wait #triggered”.
At Fordham, University administrators rejected a proposed Chick-fil-A because of negative student reactions. Campus groups, including the Rainbow Alliance and United Student Government, were consulted, according to campus newspaper Fordham Observer. Concerns were expressed about not only the company’s LGBT-negative record, but diet-based problems tied to a fast food chain.
In a move to quell negative responses, Chick-fil-A offered to partner with Rainbow Alliance for on campus programs. This was roundly rejected by the Alliance’s membership with Co-President Renata Francesco saying, “[W]e’re not going to partner with an institution, a corporation that has so strongly supported other institutions that work to destabilize and demolish movements for queer equity.”
The administration’s decision to reject Chick-fil-A is not necessarily being celebrated at Fordham. Students have been critical of the University’s failure to provide transgender-inclusive accommodations. Roberta Munoz, co-president of the Rainbow Alliance, said, “I don’t want to pat them on the back. You can’t say ‘Oh you’re such a great ally’ when there’s still so many issues with our queer students. Like great, love it, but keep going.”
While not condoning the corporation’s policies, I think what students should consider is what is how Catholic schools should prioritize their efforts to provide LGBT supports. Chicken sandwiches seem far less pressing than the need for gender-neutral restrooms. Keeping perspective will help strengthen student efforts by focusing resources and not allowing school officials to easily dismiss students’ demands.
This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June ??, 2017