California Polytechnic Votes to Boot Chick-fil-A from Campus

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday May 15, 2019

California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo — Cal Poly for short — voted to recommend that fast-food chain Chick-fil-A no longer be allowed to operate on campus, reported radio station KCBX.

The vice chair of the school's Academic Senate, Thomas Gutierrez, brought the measure up for a vote, noting that Cal Poly's "values statement includes language that identifies LGBTQ as a classification of individuals that we want to embrace in our diversity and inclusion model.

"Then you have an organization that regularly and publicly shows up in the national news in great tension with this," Gutierrez continued, "so if you have a mission statement that indicates that you value inclusivity and diversity, then you should be making your business decisions based on that."

But the school's president, Jeffrey Armstrong, pushed back, saying that tossing the chain off campus would be "a very slippery slope," reported local newspaper the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

In an editorial, the Tribune said that the university was "sending a mixed — even hypocritical — message by allowing Chick-fil-A on state-owned property while taking a hard line in other areas.

"Remember, California is the state that bans publicly funded or sponsored travel by state agencies, including the CSU, to states that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression," the op-ed went on to say.

"How hard would it be for the university system to draw up a list of standards that businesses must meet if they want to operate on public property?"

The vote comes in the wake of a spiral of lost business opportunities for the chain, which came under fire for donations made to anti-LGBTQ organizations.

Chick-fil-A waded into the culture wars with its CEO, Dan Catty, declaring in 2012 that extending marriage equality to same-sex families would be "inviting God's judgment on our nation" for supposedly telling a higher power that "we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage."

Since then, the company has publicly distanced itself from Catty's remarks, but Think Progress reported earlier this year that tax filings indicate the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave almost $2 million in 2017 to a trio of overtly anti-gay organizations, with the bulk of the money — more than $1.5 million — going to the fellowship of Christian Athletes, which ThinkProgress says "is a religious organization that seeks to spread an anti-LGBTQ message to college athletes and requires a strict 'sexual purity' policy for its employees that bars any 'homosexual acts.' "

The other two anti-LGBTQ beneficiaries of the foundation's largesse are the historically homophobic Salvation Army, which reaped a contribution of $150,000 from Chick-fil-A, and "Christian residential home for troubled youth" that teaches anti-LGBTQ views to its clients, including a claim that two devoted people of the same gender formalizing their commitment through civil marriage constitute a form of "rage against Jesus Christ and His values," the ThinkProgress report noted.

Two cities subsequently voted not to allow the chain to operate in local airports. The city council of San Antonio, Texas, declined to give the company permission to open a new location at the airport, citing a "legacy of anti-LGBT behavior." A week later, the company lost a second airport concession in Buffalo, New York. A New York State Assemblyman led the charge, citing the company's "long history of supporting and funding anti-LGBTQ organizations."

The Attorney General of Montana — his eye on the prize of employment for his constituents as he begins a race for the governorship — responded to the controversy with a tweet

But to the Cal Poly faculty, it was a matter of upholding institutional standards.

"We don't sell pornography in the bookstore and we don't have a Hooters on campus — we already pre-select those kinds of things based on our existing values,"|Mustang News quoted Gutierrez as saying. "This is a similar thing.... every dollar a student is spending at Chick-fil-A is going to these causes that are in violation of our values."

Throughout all of this, Chick-fil-A's PR people have insisted that the company has no interest in social issues, and just wants to serve tasty chicken-based food to its customers.

The vote may not come to much in practical terms; Mustang news reported that a Cal Poly spokesperson said individual students, faculty, and staff can decide for themselves whether they wish to patronize the chain. "It is the right of each campus member to make their own decisions about supporting — or not supporting — a given business at Cal Poly," said spokesperson Matt Lazier.

Chick-fil-A has a five-year contract with Cal Poly, media reports noted.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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