Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community are calling for the University to remove the Chick-fil-A located in the Cox Hall Food Court.
The LGBTQ community has formed a committee focusing specifically on removing Chick-fil-A, and students have written letters to University administrators on the subject.
“The symbol of Chick-fil-A, the restaurant itself, has become a potent symbol of discrimination and inequality,” said Andy Ratto, a fourth-year student in the Laney Graduate School and a member of the committee.
Chick-fil-A has received much criticism in the past few years from gay rights activists, who have accused the nationwide chain of donating money to anti-gay organizations. During the summer, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy acknowledged these accusations, stating, “Guilty as charged.”
Then, in another interview, Cathy said, “we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’”
The committee has responded in a statement that Cathy’s interviews have “solidified Chick-fil-A as a definitive symbol and rallying point for anti-gay sentiment.” They wrote that Chick-fil-A donates money to companies such as the Family Research Council, which the South Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group.
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair said in a statement released in August that while Cathy’s statements do not reflect Emory’s value for the LGBTQ community, Emory also emphasizes the freedom of speech.
“Emory … respects the right of people to express their disagreement with Mr. Cathy by not patronizing Chick-fil-A,” Nair wrote.
A Committee for Action
Ratto explained that during the summer, he emailed several of his friends who he thought might be interested in vocalizing support on the matter. When other students started expressing interest, they formed the committee of about 10 students, which has met twice thus far this semester.
Members of the committee launched its advertising campaign by hanging flyers around campus yesterday. The flyers include statements such as “Make Chicken, Not Judgements.” Another flyer quotes a straight ally at Emory: “I want my LGBT friends to feel comfortable in their relationships as I do. Don’t eat at Chick-fil-A, Don’t support hate groups.”
The committee has also started distributing buttons on campus to garner support from the community, according to College junior Dohyun Ahn, Emory Pride President and a member of the committee.
Nair wrote in his statement that it is the University’s “hope that our educational environment promotes diversity of thought and encourages dialogue on this issue with the aim of benefiting our local and global communities.” But, the committee’s perspective, according to Ahn, is that “Chick-fil-A has become a symbol against LGBT students, and Emory needs to do all it can to support all its students and their health,” in reference to mental and emotional in addition to physical health.
Ratto stressed that it’s not necessarily the fact that the Cathy has expressed his stance on gay rights but rather, the idea that the company’s money is going to anti-gay organizations.
“For someone like me, [forming this committee] was about realizing that this company had this history of behavior,” Ratto said.
The committee has been working closely with Michael Shutt, director of the LGBT Office, who noted that the LGBTQ community has been discussing Chick-fil-A’s stance on gay rights for the past few years.
“That [isn’t] the only thing that gave a symbol — that gave a negative message — to LGBT folks,” Shutt said. “But we know that there are racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-Semitic things that are being said in classrooms, written on bulletin boards in residence halls, [things] people hear as they walk to campus. All of these things add up. They are micro-aggressions.”
Letters to Administrators
The LGBTQ community has also expressed its disapproval of Emory’s Chick-fil-A by writing letters to administrators. In an Aug. 7 letter addressed to Nair, Karen McCarthy, a graduate student in the Philosophy department, wrote that in Nair’s statement, he “grievously misstates the actual issues at play.”
McCarthy wrote that the “focal point” of the controversy is “whether or not Emory University wishes to support Cathy and Chick-fil-A in denying myself and all other members of the LGBTQ community our position as fully human.”
In an additional letter to University President James W. Wagner, LGBTQ Emory alumni Lilly Correa (’73C) and Ryan Roche (’03OX, ’05C) wrote: “It is clear that Chick-fil-A does not represent the values embraced by the Emory University community, and allowing such an organization to continue to operate on our campus runs counter to the spirit of equality that the University claims to champion.”
Ahn explained that the committee and the LGBT community are planning more ways to engage the Emory community in the debate.
“We students live here on campus, and Chick-fil-A is here at our home,” Ahn said.
Asst. News Editor Stephanie Fang contributed reporting.
— By Jordan Friedman
Read the Wheel editorial board’s reaction here.