Zachary Landau | Asst. A&E Editor
At the March 26 Student Government Association meeting, Senator at Large Niko Martini proposed that the SGA pass a resolution asking the university to reconsider the inclusion of Chick-fil-A as a dining option for students.
Martini is on the Lambda executive board. He clarified that he made the proposal on his own behalf and not Lambda’s.
“Chick-fil-A has a questionable history on civil rights and human rights,” he said in a statement to The Duke. “I think it’s imperative the university chooses to do business with organizations that coincide with the [university’s] mission and expectations they give students regarding diversity and inclusion.”
The SGA Senate did not pass any resolution but agreed to consider an alternate resolution to vett the Chick-fil-A Express, which senators tabled for the April 9 SGA meeting to allow time to research the concerns.
“Lambda’s leadership met recently with Auxiliary Services to share their concerns regarding Chick-Fil-A’s corporate position on LGTBQIA+ issues,” said Alia Pustorino-Clevenger, director for student life assessment and co-curricular community engagement, and also Lambda’s faculty advisor. “They will continue to have meetings in the upcoming weeks with Auxiliary Services and Parkhurst to address this matter further.”
Lambda President Rachel Coury personally said she worries the safety provided by Gay-Straight Alliance might be in jeopardy.
“I’ve tried very hard within the last semester and a half to promote this safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community,” Coury said. “So I fear that with the Chick-fil-A being in Options that maybe people will feel that safe place is at risk.”
Duquesne announced March 20 the addition of the Chick-fil-A Express to the Options Food Court beginning in the upcoming fall semester. The decision to add a Chick-fil-A was a response to student feedback, according to Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare.
“The decision was announced as soon as the due diligence activities, including working with the City on permitting for the renovations, were undertaken and approved,” Fare said.
Chick-fil-A has faced controversy in the past for financially backing organizations that are accused of supporting anti-LGBT rhetoric.
Coury expressed concerns over the company’s history of supporting organizations that “are specifically anti-gay organizations.”
Fare said that the fast food company “has assured [Duquesne] that they do not discriminate.” She also said that “Chick-Fil-A informed the University that they ceased giving to Focus on the Family and Exodus International several years ago and have eliminated corporate donations and established a foundation with focuses on youth and education.”
In a statement provided by Chick-fil-A, Manager of External Communications Amanda Hannah said that the Chick-fil-A Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, focuses on youth and education.
“Only organizations directly aligned with that mission are funded,” Hannah said. “Programs with social or political agendas are not included in that giving.”
Reporting from the left-leaning website ThinkProgress revealed that the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated $1,017,610 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2014.
The FCA has a “Sexual Purity Statement” for its volunteers and staff. It includes stipulations such as, “The Bible is clear in teaching on sexual sin including sex outside of marriage and homosexual acts. Neither heterosexual sex outside of marriage nor any homosexual act constitute an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God.”
Coury is aware of Chick-fil-A’s efforts for inclusivity. However, she would like Duquesne to acknowledge there is still some tension.
“It would be a really big deal for Lambda and the whole LGBTQ community on campus if someone could make a statement to eliminate the fear of being marginalized by having this business on campus,” Coury said.
The response from the Duquesne community to the addition of the Chick-fil-A has been mostly positive, according to Fare.
Students seem to appreciate having extra choices for on-campus dining but are dubious about Chick-fil-A’s dealings.
Madison Seffrin, a senior computer science student, said that she thinks the new addition is “a good thing.”
“I think it gives us another option, and it’s more food choices that make us comparable to other colleges that have a lot more chain restaurants on their campus, which is something I think we lack,” Seffrin said.
When asked about Chick-fil-A’s association with non-profits that expose homophobic rhetoric, Seffrin said that she does not “necessarily” agree with “some of those aspects,” but does think they are “a relatively stand-up company.”
She said she is bound to have some differences of opinion with the company’s policies.
“It’s almost inevitable that a place that closes its doors on a Sunday will also not support some of the things that I support,” Seffrin said.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Alex Slater, a freshman economics student.
“I enjoy Chick-fil-A food and I eat there [in my hometown],” Slater said.
Slater had heard of the controversy surrounding the chain and disapproves of their connections to anti-LGBT groups.
“I don’t believe that should be something they should be involved in,” he said. “But that is something that warrants discussion and if it’s something that people are not comfortable with, that should be discussed as well.”
Chick-fil-A released a statement July 2012 that “going forward” they would “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.” Tax filings for 2012 also showed that the company’s other charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, has ceased funding to all but one of the groups — the aforementioned FCA — accused of anti-LGBT practices.
SGA President Olivia Erickson expressed her and SGA’s intention to look into Martini’s and Coury’s apprehensions.
“We at SGA take this concern [about the installation of a Chick-fil-A on campus] very seriously,” Erickson said. “We are working on gathering students’ opinions and getting all the facts we can so we can make the best decision.”
“We serve as the voice of the students,” Erickson said. “SGA has a positive relationship with administration in order to function as liaisons for the students.”