The chain’s history with the LGBTQ+ community has students worried
There lies a husk on the first floor of the Cleveland State University Student Center. The spot, formerly inhabited by Chili’s, has been vacant since this past summer, when Aramark, the new food service company for CSU, took over. Aramark stated that students could expect to see a Chick-fil-A open in the empty spot for the Spring 2022 semester. Although the location has not yet opened, this was surprising and worrying news to me and many other students.
The issue that I have with Chick-fil-A invading campus lies not with their fried food, but with their anti-LGBTQ+ stances that they have taken for decades. The company’s ideals are in direct opposition to the commitment to inclusion that CSU claims, and the strides CSU has taken in welcoming and supporting its LGBTQ+ students.
The company has consistently funded anti-LGBTQ+ causes and legislation, and the owner, Dan Cathy, has made continuous comments against same-sex marriage, such as in 2012, when he stated his beliefs on gay marriage:
“…I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.” When asked to clarify if he meant what he said, Cathy responded, “Guilty as charged.”
Quotes aside, in 2018, Chick-fil-A’s tax returns showed that they had donated 1.8 million dollars to anti-LGBTQ+ groups. A year after these donations were brought to light, Chick-fil-A vowed to stop donating to discriminatory groups. Technically they did, but only by using a loophole and halting direct donations, while owner Dan Cathy remained a high-dollar donor to the National Christian Charitable Foundation, a Christian based group that takes donations and then funnels them towards anti-LGBTQ+ causes, such as their funding of opposition to The Equality Act. The NCF acts as a sort of morality laundering scheme for Christians that want to fund certain causes, but not be tied to them directly.
I myself am a transgender woman. Ever since I transferred to CSU in my junior year I have felt respected, and flourished on campus. The students and professors alike have all been a joy to be around. So when I heard about the new campus dining plans, I was instantly dismayed and felt called to action. I’m not the only student concerned and feeling unsupported because of the possibility of the chain having a location on campus.
“If this college will tolerate homophobia and transphobia from an entire organization on campus, can I be sure it would not do the same if I were discriminated against by a fellow student or even a professor/faculty member?” posed a queer student named Naj Simons, when asked about the message a Chick-fil-A would send to students.
“Given how open [Chick-fil-A] is about what they support, I’d see the appearance of one on campus as another sign of [CSU] just minimally supporting us so as to not appear anti-LGBTQ,” said Mary Robakowski, a PhD student. “It would definitely affect my opinion of the school,” she later added.
The past three years have been tough on a lot of people, and it’s hard not to feel vulnerable in our new COVID world. Students need to feel supported now more than ever, and it’s a shame to think that a discriminatory corporation like Chick-fil-A could appear front and center in the Student Center, the heart of campus and a place that is meant to welcome and encourage everyone in the student population. Campus leadership should consider the impact this will have on students, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community.