Chick-fil-A still in play

Since 2010, the Cathy family’s Chick-fil-A franchise has been causing national controversy by donating profits made from their products to various organizations opposed to same sex marriage.

In Michigan, Dan Cathy’s statements have provoked reactions from both sides of the issue, with the main forum being the only place that houses a Chick-fil-A in the state — Oakland University.

Organizations take action

Various members of OU’s faculty and administration met with representatives from Chartwells in July to suggest removing the eatery in an effort to comply with OU’s non-discrimination policy, but no changes occurred.

Chartwells was asked to comment but did not respond in time for print.

The Gay Straight Alliance at OU then prepared a formal protest of the restaurant by spreading information about where money spent at Chick-fil-A goes. That plan was scrapped at the beginning of the semester when Yahoo! News published an article claiming Chick-fil-A had pledged to stop giving money to groups opposed to gay marriage.

The article claimed Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno reached an agreement with the company to open a store in Logan Square in return for a pledge to discontinue its controversial donations. The statement was later refuted when Chick-fil-A participated in a fundraiser for The Marriage and Family Foundation, a group opposed to marriage equality.

Confusing the issue

The series of events has caused confusion at OU as to what the company’s actual stance currently is. Blake Bonkowski,  a junior at OU and the President of the GSA, expressed disappointment with the turn of events.

“Now that reports are out there, it’s tougher for us to get support,” Bonkowski said. “It’s more of a challenge now because people are saying ‘Oh, they said they’re going to stop.’”

According to Chrissy Starzyk, a senior at OU and the secretary of OU’s chapter of Transcend, there are several other problems with having Chick-fil-A on campus. She cites general ignorance over the impact having Chick-fil-A causes on campus and the potential for violence against LGBT as the debate escalates among them.

“They (students) don’t know what’s going on. It’s looking at the money going to Chick-fil-A and where it’s going then,” Starzyk said. “You’re (students) still paying into the general Chartwells fund (with tuition money). The only real way for us to not give our money to them would be to drop out of school.”

Future course of action

The fate of OU’s Chick-fil-A is still left undecided. July’s meeting left the decision of whether or not to retain Chick-fil-A solely in the hands of Chartwells.

“All we’ve heard from Chartwells is that it’s staying, it would cost money to replace,” Bonkowski said.

Bonkowski is undeterred by Chartwells’ indecision on the issue.

“Now that it’s all out there I don’t see how anyone could disagree (about Chick-fil-A),” Bonkowski said. “Once things calm down and we see what Chick-fil-A is going to do and then we’ll take action, but until we know what they’re really doing, it’s hard for us to really fight properly.”

A looming uneasiness

Bonkowski and Starzyk both expressed a sense of anxiety that has permeated the LGBT community on campus since the controversy began two years ago, citing a gay student’s suicide in 2010.

“I feel like it (Chick-fil-A) does make it (campus) a little more unsafe,” Starzyk said. “You have all of these people who are part of the LGBT community. They feel unsafe because of it. To get rid of the Chick-fil-A could get rid of a lot of that safety issues that people are feeling.”

For Bonkowski, the anxiety that potential discrimination creates is ever-present.

“When I see someone with Chick-fil-A I think, ‘Do they know? Are they doing it in support or out of ignorance?’ It’s to the point where I see Chick-fil-A and I wonder if that person is safe to be around or to talk to,” Bonkowski said.

The bottom line

No matter what side of the issue the students of OU fall under, one thing is certain — OU student tuition money is funding Chick-fil-A, regardless of purchasing Chick-fil-A products or not.


Contact Local Editor Mark McMillan via email a [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Markamcmillan