Two years ago, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey entered into a ten-year contract to have Chick-fil-A on its campus.
The food service company Chartwells licenses Chick-fil-A’s name, as it does with the also-at-Stockton Dunkin’ Donuts, Johnny Rockets, and Papa Johns. Here is the only United States CFA on public property…all New Jersey taxpayers indirectly fund it.
Since last semester, Stockton students have taken issue, the most vocal being the campus LGBT club Stockton Pride Alliance. Pride has given testimonials at Student Senate meetings since October. Senior Don Scheer spoke about growing up in Catholic School and the self-hatred that brought, and sophomore Kristen Slagle said she considers transferring colleges and no longer recommending Stockton to high school friends. The issue has divided the Student Senate. Is there freedom of speech? Is Stockton funding hate?…is that our business? What is our power here?
I am the Vice President and am gay, as is the president AJ Vervoort. Should that matter? It did.
Our group couldn’t vote to remove CFA, since the contract is controlled by the college President Herman Saatkamp, Jr. What we could do was send a resolution with our recommendation to his office. The campus Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities met with the Senate’s Student Welfare Committee, because although Stockton claims to give student leaders power, us leaders are often coddled or strong-armed.
Months after the issue began, we finally emailed out a student survey. AJ and I didn’t want to, but somehow it happened. Since the Elon University (NC) student body voted 63 percent to keep their CFA and their senate voted against them, AJ was confident. “Think of it this way, does your state legislature call you on the phone every time they vote?” He’s right. The survey would catch the student pulse.
The survey asked: Are you aware of CFA CEO Dan Cathy’s donation practices? Do Cathy’s donations violate the campus values statement of non-discrimination? Would you like CFA to remain on-campus?
Of 1800 responses (roughly 28 percent of student population), 88 percent knew about the donations. 49.6 percent believed it violated the values statement. 66 percent supported it staying on campus. That means some students who know the issue still support it in the name of food.
On Tuesday, November 20, at the senate meeting, we voted to send a resolution to President Saatkamp that would tell our outcome. Of 27 senators, 14 votes were needed for a decision. The vote was 14-12-2 to remove CFA.
I voted to keep it. I don’t like their food or support their CEO or their company. Freedom of speech was my argument; I don’t like them, but if I were donating my company’s profits to the HRC, I wouldn’t want to my licensees to break our contracts. Opponents to that idea claimed their speech is violated since their meal plan money automatically pays CFA.
Since the Senate is attempting to terminate a business contract on the basis of their own personal beliefs, the legitimacy of the group has been rightfully in question. The College Republicans’ radio show ‘The Right Side’ criticized us, and a College Republicans member/editor at the school newspaper has a front-page article coming out next week.
AJ believes that since “Chick-fil-A was a catalyst for increased instances of intolerance to occur at Stockton” and “Chick-fil-A has created a division to occur within the Stockton Body, (that) we must stand together.”
My gay friends, besides my boyfriend, a libertarian, feel betrayed by my vote. I am a Democrat who serves on Atlantic County’s Democrat Committee. As both an actual elected person and the Senate vice president, I had to do what is fair. There is enough unfairness in the world, and the gay community is facing an upswing of acceptance that would be stunted if they were seen as discriminatory.
The Stockton Senate telling a company to leave campus on the basis of a CEO’s personal beliefs is not virtuous, it means that one day the future Senate may ask an LBGT-friendly group to leave. I, and hopefully you, Reader, would take issue with that.
Breaking the contract, if administrators choose to do so, will take a while. The resolution has already been sent to Saatkamp’s office and there will soon be a response.
An audience member on November 20 asked if us senators have to pledge to follow the Constitution, to which AJ answered no, and that we don’t have to. AJ named the secondary effects clause, a small bit of small law enacted against an adult entertainment company, whose legitimacy has been in question since its creation. I am shocked that he publicly admitted he believes we needn’t follow the Constitution. The Constitution is our unifying contract as citizens of this country. We are in America, and we must follow it.
That said, if CFA eventually leaves, wherever I’ll be living, I’ll read that news and not be too unhappy with the results, just the method through which they were achieved.