Students and alumni at Emory University have been actively campaigning against the presence of a Chick-fil-A in the campus’s food court, protesting the anti-gay positions of company president Dan Cathy and the anti-gay donations made by the company’s foundation. A student committee for action formed in August with messages like, “Make Chicken, Not Judgments,” and in December, the Student Government Association approved a resolution opposing Chick-fil-A’s continued relationship with the university. Before the holiday break, Ajay Nair, Emory’s senior vice president for campus life, issued a statement with the university’s reflections after months of consideration of student concerns:
For several months, senior University administrators and other members of the community have deliberated and wrestled with the ethical points and principles related to the presence of Chick-fil-A at Emory University. Our principles and conclusions are:
- Emory University has a long history of creating access, inclusion, and equity for Emory’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Public positions taken by Dan Cathy, President of Chick-fil-A, do not reflect these values of access, inclusion, and equity.
- Another value of Emory University, however, is open expression. Dan Cathy has the right to express his views freely.
- Members of the Emory community hold a variety of personal viewpoints about Dan Cathy’s public positions.
- Chick-fil-A has become a symbol of exclusion for some community members.
- Emory University will not ask Sodexo to exclude or retain Chick-fil-A on the basis of Dan Cathy’s public positions.
- Members of the community are free to express their opposition to Dan Cathy’s public positions in numerous ways, including not patronizing Chick-fil-A.
- To the best of our knowledge, Chick-fi-A does not engage in discriminatory practices against its customers or employees.
- Any decision by Sodexo to renew or not renew the contract with Chick-fil-A, or any other vendor, must be part of a dining vision to advance the purposes for which Emory has contracted with Sodexo.
- Opposing views must be acknowledged, recognizing that some differences are truly irreconcilable.
Emory has made it clear that it is not going to use Cathy’s positions or Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay giving to determine whether to maintain its contract, and yet this response spells out to students exactly how they can ensure Chick-fil-A does not return to campus in the future:
Typical brand selection and replacement considerations include, but are not limited to, preferential surveys, strategic planning processes, campus master planning, sales trends, contract requirements, and brand re-imaging. Nielsen customer preference surveys, conducted in 2008 and updated in the spring of 2012, revealed that global cuisine and flavors, health conscious offerings, and competitive market pricing are three key attributes students look for in dining options on this campus… Any brand changes in Emory Dining, which would being in the fall of 2013, will be consistent with this vision and the principles articulated above.
In other words, the university cannot fairly kick out the franchise on principle alone, but students can still have an impact on Chick-fil-A’s fate. By continuing to express displeasure and boycott, the campus community can potentially impact Chick-fil-A’s sales and ostracize it out of the master plan of Emory Dining. This sensible resolution does not directly punish the company for its anti-gay positions, but empowers the students to abandon its support, leaving little reason for the franchise to remain. It’s an important opportunity for democracy and the free market to defend progressive, inclusive values.