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Cal Poly faculty vote to remove Chick-fil-A from campus

Courtesy Cal Poly Campus Dining
The university's administration said the Cal Poly location doesn't have a history of discrimination on campus.

Cal Poly's Academic Senate, the governing body for the university's faculty, voted Tuesday overwhelmingly in favor of removing a Chick-fil-A restaurant outlet from the university's San Luis Obispo campus. The resolution was proposed in light of recent news the fast food chain's charity arm, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, continues to give money to anti-LGBTQ organizations. The vote by the Academic Senate comes after another university and two cities moved to block Chick-fil-A outlets from opening in recent weeks due to the company's perceived opposition to the LGBTQ community. 

Thomas Gutierrez, the Academic Senate's vice-chair, introduced the resolution. 

"[Cal Poly's] values statement includes language that identifies LGBTQ as a classification of individuals that we want to embrace in our diversity and inclusion model," Gutierrez said. "Then you have an organization that regularly and publicly shows up in the national news in great tension with this...so if you have a mission statement that indicates that you value inclusivity and diversity, then you should be making your business decisions based on that."

The university's College of Liberal Arts recommended that "Cal Poly and the Cal Poly Corporation sever ties with Chick-fil-A and terminate the contract with the on-campus franchise and...be mindful of the practices and donation patterns of its business partners, and that said partners are held to the same high diversity and inclusion standards as the rest of the campus community," according to a letter from the college supporting the resolution. 

The advisory resolution will be sent to Cal Poly President Jeffery Armstrong, who will acknowledge receipt and then may chose to take—or not take—action.

Cal Poly spokeperson Matt Lazier previously told KCBX News that "university administration and Cal Poly Corporation leadership disagree passionately with the ideologies of some of the organizations to which the president of Chick-fil-A has chosen to make personal donations. However, university administration's disagreement with the political views of a given business owner does not give the university license to effectively censor that business and prohibit it from continuing to operate at the university."

Gutierrez said he respected Armstrong, but didn't expect him to take action to remove one of Chick-fil-A's most profitable locations.

"Nevertheless, I think it's important to go into the public record that the faculty feel this way on this fairly timely issue," Gutierrez said. "However, I think if students were to get involved, [Armstrong] would actually listen. So I really want to encourage student activitists to press on."

In an email sent after Tuesday's vote, Lazier said the university's position had not changed. A representative for Chick-fil-A said the company had no comment. 


Chick-fil-A controvery comes to Cal Poly


Faculty members at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo began discussing a fast food chain on campus this week. The Academic Senate is the faculty governing body at the university and represents roughly 1,300 faculty members. The senate is a way faculty can give input on administrative decisions. Dominating the conversation of Tuesday’s meeting: removing a Chick-fil-A outlet from campus.

You may remember the Chick-fil-A controversy of 2012. The company's chief executive officer, Dan Cathy, made public comments opposing same-sex marriage. As a result, there were boycotts, LGBTQ “kiss-ins” atChick-fil-A restaurants and internet videoslampooning the company. Cathy later dialed down his remarks and said he would focus on customer service instead.

Then a few weeks ago, the news site ThinkProgress released the 2017 tax filings for the chain’s Chick-fil-A Foundation, which showed in 2017, it gave $1.8 million to three Christian groups with a history of being anti-LGBTQ.

"We’re very concerned Chick-fil-A has donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ organizations and that president Dan Cathy is extremely homophobic,” said Michelle Call with theGay And Lesbian Alliance(GALA) of San Luis Obispo County.

GALA, along with other LGBTQ organizations in the county, signed a letter supporting a move by the Cal Poly Academic Senate to oust the franchise from campus.

“We think that Cal Poly really ought to not have Chick-fil-A operating on campus as they strive to work towards diversity and inclusion,” Call said. “We think that this should extend to the vendors with whom they do businesses.”

Thomas Gutierrez, a Cal Poly physics professor and Academic Senate vice chair, wrote a resolution saying the presence of Chick-fil-A on campus, “negatively impacts campus climate for many students, faculty and staff.” Meeting this week to discuss it, faculty and several students from the Queer and Trans People of Color campus organization spoke in support of the resolution, which still must pass a second reading.

If it does pass, it is still up to the administration to take any action. Campus spokesperson Matt Lazier said university officials haven't received a complaint of discriminatory actions by the Chick-fil-A restaurant in its 25 years on campus. And while Cal Poly’s administration doesn’t agree with the Chick-fil-A CEO’s ideologies, Lazier said, it doesn’t give the university license to, "censor a business and prohibit it from operating."

In the past several weeks, Chick-fil-A wasn't allowed to open a restaurant in Buffalo Niagara International Airport following the news of the Chick-fil-A donations. In March, Texas officials decided not to allow Chick-fil-A to open a location in the San Antonio International Airport after city council members shared concerns about the company's stance on LGBTQ issues.

The Chick-fil-A on Cal Poly’s campus is the company’s only location in San Luis Obispo County. Within 100 miles, there are Chick-fil-A's in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara and Bakersfield.

A representative for the company didn't respond to a request for comment.