LGBT community concerned over addition of Chick-fil-A

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    With a Chick-fil-A restaurant expected to open on campus in the next few weeks, some faculty, students and members of the local LGBT community are objecting because of the company's opposition to same-sex marriage. 

    Critics say the restaurant shouldn't be welcome on campus. 

    "We are against the addition of Chick-fil-A onto TCU's campus," Shelbie Rosenblum, president of the campus Gay-Straight Alliance chapter, said. The senior social work major said no one in the LGBT student community or the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) had told her they were in favor of the addition.

    "I believe the inclusion of an anti-gay organization on campus will cause a division between the LGBT community of TCU and the administration," Rosenblum said.

    Director of Communications Lisa Albert said the university does not select vendors based on political or personal beliefs. 

    Albert pointed out that the university also has multiple Starbucks locations, a corporation whose CEO is open about his support for same-sex marriage.

    "We encourage students, faculty and staff to decide for themselves what on-campus dining options they utilize," Albert said.

    Albert said students in recent years had frequently requested an on-campus corporate food brand, most commonly Chick-fil-A.

    "Part of the rationale for bringing such a vendor on campus at this time is to relieve the traffic and congestion in Market Square," she said.

    In June 2012, Chick-fil-A was criticized by supporters of same-sex marriage after Dan Cathy, the company’s president and chief operating officer, publicly said he was against it and that the company's charity had made donations to support opposition groups.

    “I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about,” Cathy said on a syndicated radio show on June 16, 2012.

    After nationwide protests against Cathy's position, the Georgia-based company said its charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, intended to “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."

    Social work professor David Jenkins remains skeptical of the company's position.

    “I don’t get a sense that Chick-fil-A has changed anything whatsoever except to backtrack on some of the bad response they got,” Jenkins, who chairs the department of social work, said.

    Jenkins said many faculty, staff and administrators do not agree with Chick-fil-A's message, referring to private email conversations among faculty after the announcement about the new restaurant.

    “I’m assuming those who made the decision just sort of checked out about the visible stances Chick-fil-A had taken against the LGBT population,” Jenkins said.

    The university announced the addition of the Chick-fil-A to the first floor of the Brown-Lupton University Union over Twitter in May. The restaurant will operate in the space occupied by the 1873 Cafe and Sports Grill. 

    “Everyone connected with TCU should be thinking carefully about how our business relationship with Chick-fil-A is or is not a reflection of the TCU mission and core values statements,” Chuck Dunning of Student Development Services wrote in an email.

    Chuck Dunning serves as the adviser for the the campus GSA chapter. He is also the coordinator of TCU Allies, an umbrella group of university faculty and staff who support the LGBT community. 

    Dunning said this issue could lead to broader discussion and understanding of LGBT concerns and well-being.

    “We must take advantage of the present situation to help raise everyone’s awareness of the relevant social, political and legal issues,” Dunning said.

    Jenkins said although the decision has already been made to bring the Chick-fil-A restaurant on campus, he still felt the administration could take positive steps going forward. 

    “I just hope the administration would take every opportunity to send an affirming message to their gay and lesbian students, faculty and staff that they really don’t buy into the politics of that organization,” he said.

    Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:41 p.m. on August 27, 2013.