Leaders of seven LGBT student organizations at Emory University sent a letter today to school administrators decrying the ongoing presence of Chick-fil-A on the Decatur campus and asking Emory to end its “contractual relationship” with the fast food chain immediately.
“This company has long been a concern for LGBT students, faculty, and alumni because of its anti-gay ideology and activities. What was merely a source of anxiety on campus in recent years has now escalated into an ideologically potent symbol of discrimination and inequality,” reads the letter, dated Oct. 2 and delivered Oct. 8 to Emory President James Wagner and Senior Vice President Ajay Nair.
Most Emory students were not on campus when the latest round of controversy over Chick-fil-A heated up in mid-July, when Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy told a Christian media outlet that his company is “guilty as charged” on opposing marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Since the fall semester got underway, opposition to the relationship between Emory — recently named among the top 25 LGBT-inclusive campuses — and Chick-fil-A has grown.
Cox Hall, the food court at the center of Emory’s main campus, includes a Chick-fil-A restaurant.
“CFA not only resides on our campus, it caters our events, sponsors numerous student activities, and hosts school orientations via Winshape,” reads the Oct. 2 letter from student LGBT groups.
“For several years now, concerned students aware of CFA’s anti-gay activities have avoided doing business with CFA because of conscience. However, we are still placed in compromising situations when our clubs, teams, and organizations use university dollars to be catered by, and in some cases meet at CFA,” it states.
The student groups’ letter affirms Chick-fil-A’s free speech right to speak out against LGBT equality, but also notes Emory’s free speech right to speak in favor of inclusion and diversity.
Chick-fil-A remaining on campus sends a message that is counter to Emory’s welcoming mission, the letter continues.
“To some, it is merely fast food. To us, it is a reminder that even though we have ‘safe spaces’ for our LGBT community, we have yet to achieve the ‘safe campus’ we hope for,” it states.
Emory officials issued an initial response to concerns about Chick-fil-A back in August, stressing the school’s commitment to diversity but also declining to sever the relationship with the fast-food chain.
“Emory University has a long history of creating access, inclusion, and equity for Emory’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer students, faculty, staff and alumni. Recent public statements by Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, do not reflect Emory’s values as an institution,” read the statement from Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Dr. Ajay Nair.
“Nevertheless, freedom of expression and an open exchange of ideas are also central tenets of the Emory community. Emory therefore respects the right of people to express their disagreement with Mr. Cathy by not patronizing Chick-fil-A,” Nair said.
Here is the complete letter from the Emory student groups in the law school, business school, theology school, medical school, Emory College, Oxford College and the Laney Graduate School.
October 2, 2012
Dr. James W. Wagner Office of the President Emory University
Dr. Ajay Nair Office of the Senior Vice President Emory University
Dear President Wagner and Vice President Nair:
On behalf of the LGBT community of Emory University, we formally and respectfully request that the administration end its relationship with Chick-fil-A (CFA) and the Winshape Foundation without delay. This company has long been a concern for LGBT students, faculty, and alumni because of its anti-gay ideology and activities. What was merely a source of anxiety on campus in recent years has now escalated into an ideologically potent symbol of discrimination and inequality.
CFA and its owners have channeled vast sums of money into organizations that disseminate lies about the gay community and promote various “corrective therapies” repudiated by the medical establishment, including the American Psychological Association. One such organization, the Family Research Council, has been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. We believe that CFA’s longstanding support for base discrimination against LGBT persons clashes profoundly with Emory’s core values of inclusion and respect for all members of its community. We affirm Dean Nair’s August statement that “Emory University has a long history of creating access, inclusion, and equity for Emory’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer students, faculty, staff and alumni,” and that Cathy’s statements “do not reflect Emory’s values as an institution.” It is our conviction, therefore, that such a contradiction now impels us to act.
CFA not only resides on our campus, it caters our events, sponsors numerous student activities, and hosts school orientations via Winshape. For several years now, concerned students aware of CFA’s anti-gay activities have avoided doing business with CFA because of conscience. However, we are still placed in compromising situations when our clubs, teams, and organizations use university dollars to be catered by, and in some cases meet at CFA. All of this has been further exacerbated by the aggressive “guilty as charged” admission in July by CFA president, Dan Cathy, condemning our pursuit of equality as prideful, arrogant, audacious, and godless. Shortly after these public statements were made, the well-publicized events of August 1st solidified CFA as a definitive symbol and rallying point for anti-gay sentiment.
We unequivocally support CFA’s right to voice its opinions emanating from conscience and religious conviction. As students of law, we zealously guard our nation’s constitutional freedom of thought; as students of business, we deeply value the free market and the ability of American entrepreneurs to build their own businesses; and, as students of theology, we respect the sacred right of every person to testify to the divine in public and in private. CFA has availed itself of these rights, and has chosen to join with the voices of discrimination, bigotry, and fear. Emory, as a private institution, likewise has the right to speak out and the freedom to choose. Shall we not use our voice to defy the forces of hate in our society?
We in no way question the motives of CFA consumers or employees at Emory. However, we who have been maligned by the behavior of this company will continue to feel victimized by this intrusive symbol pervading our campus. To some, it is merely fast food. To us, it is a reminder that even though we have “safe spaces” for our LGBT community, we have yet to achieve the “safe campus” we hope for.
Emory’s recent ranking in the top 25 of LGBT-inclusive universities makes us proud and gives us hope. It has been and continues to be a community effort. We are setting the pace and forging a template for universities nationwide to follow. Let us not stop now. Our integrity depends on it.
Becoming an inclusive organization of any kind takes moral courage and hard work. Is it too great a task for us to reward a vendor that has demonstrated these characteristics in addition to providing a great product? Surely not! Therefore, we implore this administration to take action now and end its contractual relationship with CFA.
Sacred Worth (Candler School of Theology) Mayjean Deem – President
Emory OUTLaw (Emory Law School) Timothy Wilson – President
Goizueta Pride Alliance (Goizueta Business School) Daniel Jensen – President
Emory Pride (Emory College) Shu Wen Ong and Dohyun Ahn – Co-Presidents
Emory Medical Alliance (School of Medicine) Jennifer Whitehead – President
Oxford Pride (Oxford College) James Crowe and Rand Gilbert – Co-Presidents
Laney Pride Alliance (Laney Graduate School) Seth Koening – Coordinator