The University of Notre Dame is constructing a Chik-fil-A franchise outlet on campus, a move supported by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, but to which hundreds of students and others have objected.
The controversy began this summer when two students, Tilly Keeven-Glascock and Joey Jegier, wrote a letter in campus newspaper The Observer about the plan. The two raised “serious ethical concerns” about the restaurant chain, which has a high-profile record of financially supporting anti-LGBTQ and pro-conversion therapy causes. (The students also objected to the chain’s lack of ethical food practices.)
Keeven-Glascock and Jegier’s letter began a conversation, which led to a petition against the Chik-fil-A construction. It gained roughly 200 signatories, according to the National Catholic Reporter. But the situation attracted attention far outside the Notre Dame community, too:
“After Fox News published an article about the controversy, Keeven-Glascock said she and the other authors, Jim Moster and Joey Jegier, immediately began to receive online harassment, including death threats.
“The trio alerted campus dining officials about the harassment in a July 14 email shared with NCR: ‘The [Fox] article mischaracterized us as trivial “cancel culture” activists with an anti-Christian agenda, which could not be further from the truth. We just wish for our retail dining experience to match Notre Dame’s commitment to social justice and charity toward all.’
“The students say they received no direct response about the harassment, but Luigi Alberganti, senior director of campus dining, met July 19 with PrismND, the undergraduate LGBTQ group, and a representative of Notre Dame’s Herbivore Society. Keeven-Glascock is secretary of PrismND. . .
“After Notre Dame released news of plans for the Chick-fil-A, Sen. Graham again chimed in on Twitter: ‘Well done to all the patriots at Notre Dame who stood up for Chick-fil-A and against Cancel Culture.'”
Keeven-Glascock commented, “It was never a war, it was never an us. vs. them.” Instead, the students’ effort was actually a commitment to the school’s Catholic identity and pursuit of social justice values that include, but went beyond LGBTQ equality. NCR reported:
“Mary D’Angelo, a retired Notre Dame professor of New Testament and religion, said she signed the petition because it supported her Catholic values.
“‘The labor practices and the factory farming practices undermine Catholics’ commitments to the just treatment of workers and the care for the environment,’ D’Angelo said. ‘They’re [factory farming practices] not good for climate change, they’re not good for care for the earth.'”
Regardless of the controversy, a Chik-fil-A will now be on Notre Dame’s campus. NCR reported on the administration’s decision:
“In a statement, the university said it had ‘examined the concerns surrounding Chick-fil-A’s charitable giving, discussed them with company representatives, campus partners and students and believes that Chick-fil-A has responded to these issues in a satisfactory manner.'”
While the situation may not have ended in the manner that Keeven-Glascock and her peers had hoped, nonetheless she called it an “unexpectedly valuable” opportunity to open conversations about how to make the University a more welcoming, just, and enjoyable community.
In a related, more positive note, a new LGBTQ group has launched at Saint Mary’s College, which is also in South Bend, Indiana. According to The Observer:
“The Sexuality and Gender Equity Club (SAGE) — formerly the Sexuality and Gender Alliance Club — is a new club at Saint Mary’s that aims to educate others about gender, sex and attraction in addition to race and ethnicity.
“SAGE’s future events will include discussion circles, poetry readings and storytelling. Because of COVID-19, the club will establish an online community and support system this semester in order to ensure there are resources readily available to any student who may need them.”
The University of Notre Dame has been taking steps to become more LGBTQ-inclusive even if not in this instance. The school recently launched an official LGBTQ alumni group. We can hope now that the “unexpectedly valuable” opportunity about which student organizers’ speak will flourish into something even greater.
This post is part of Bondings 2.0’s “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read other stories by clicking here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 28, 2021