National debate surrounding fast-food powerhouse reaches campus
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 00:08
Last September, West Virginia University sociology professor Daniel Brewster submitted a guest column to The Daily Athenaeum, with the hope that he could be a voice for change across the University.
In his column, entitled "Enough is enough," Brewster came out to the WVU community and expressed that he felt targeted as a homosexual on campus.
In July, when Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy made a statement confirming his anti-gay beliefs and use of corporate money to support anti-gay organizations, Brewster found it to be the perfect opportunity for change.
In an official statement in regard- to WVU’s Chick-fil-A restaurant in the Mountainlair, University officials said:
"WVU’s Chick-fil-A restaurant in the Mountainlair is an independent contractor which sells the food chain’s product line. The franchise is therefore owned and operated by WVU – and all workers are WVU employees, subject to the policies and procedures of this campus. Those policies and practices are dedicated to promoting a campus environment that supports opportunity, equality, civility and respect for all people. Discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender will not be tolerated now or in the future."
The University’s statement also said WVU’s contract with the franchise runs until 2015, and the University’s relationship with the franchise will not be reassessed until the conclusion of the contract.
But Brewster wanted more.
"For me it’s not a matter of his speech. In fact, I celebrate his free speech right. What I take issue to is that they have given nearly $5 million to anti-LGBT organizations," he said.
Essa Harris, president of the WVU Queer Student Union, said a percentage of the money from the corporation goes to the organization Family Research, which has supported organizations that support the genocide of many LGBT individuals in Uganda.
"Them giving money to Family Research is very, very harmful," Harris said. "They may not realize it, but you have to take action for unintended consequences."
Brewster said the University should end its contract with the franchise as soon as possible because he believes the corporation’s actions counteract the University’s nondiscrimination policies.
"Us still having a partnership with Chic-fil-A really is a poor reflection of the University," he said.
WVU Chinese studies and psychology senior Brian Gardner created a petition to remove WVU’s Chic-fil-A after hearing of other universities’ initiatives to do so.
"WVU has long supported the LGBT community as well as other groups represented on campus. Chic-fil-A makes a lot of money from WVU’s contract. It is important to review and revoke Chic-Fil-A’s as soon as possible so that no more of WVU’s money can be used toward funding the anti-gay groups," he said. "The University needs to take action sooner rather than later."
While many members and supporters of the LGBT community have vowed to avoid the company, many WVU students are indifferent.
"I don’t agree with what they are doing, and I don’t have a problem with homosexuality, but I don’t think it should be removed from the Lair," said junior French student Brian Falls. "Yes, the company is at fault, but removing it from the Lair seems like a dumb idea."
Freshman journalism student Justin McClure said while the company’s views may not reflect his own, the quality of the food is what keeps him coming back for more.
"I agree that they may not share the same views as average Americans, but I just really like the food," he said.
A student who wished to remain anonymous said he enjoys the convenience of the franchise’s location in the Mountainlair.
"I really don’t know what all the policies and politics are, but I keep coming back to Chic-fil-A for the convenience," he said. "Like today, I was waiting in line at Quizno’s, and it was taking forever, so I went to Chic-fil-A where it was much faster. We’re students; we have fast-paced lives. I don’t care what’s there, but if it’s fast, I’m going to eat it."
The Human Rights Campaign recently released a ranking of the best businesses by its standards, Brewster said.
Brewster said the University currently has relationships with five of the HRC’s bust businesses, including Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, PNC Bank and Nike.
"People are always trying to squish the free speech rights of the Westboro Baptist Church," he said. "I don’t understand why people have a selective interpretation of freedom of speech."
Brewster said he believes if the University were to take action it would bring about the toleration and acceptance he has been searching for on campus.
"This would be the perfect opportunity for WVU to show me that I was wrong and that this University is a welcoming campus for the LGBT community."