Last Thursday, NYU Student Senators Council announced its decision not to ban the campus Chick-fil-A, despite the company’s $2 million in donations to Christian organizations which oppose gay marriage.
The announcement came just as a throng of students gathered outside of Weinstein Hall, which houses Chick-fil-A, to protest the “anti-gay” chain. A petition begun by a Gallatin freshman in January had gathered over 11,000 signatures opposing its presence on campus. The outcry had made national headlines, and students at Northeastern University had successfully blocked a Chick-fil-A from opening on their campus barely a week before. Things were looking promising, but one thing was never said: the Student Senators Council had made their decision long before any of this took place.
November 3, 2011 was the date of the actual vote (the petition began January 20, 2012). It took the SSC until last Thursday to draft and approve the document sent to the student body, according to council member Whitney Coulson. The decision was based on the claim that closing the franchise “for ideological reasons” would infringe on Chick-Fil-A’s freedom of speech, wrote Albert Cotugno, chair of SSC, in the student-wide email.
But the Council’s decision was not unanimous: four council members wished to see NYU rid of the chicken chain, and they plan to oppose their peers’ decision with a protest this coming Thursday.
Coulson, the SSC council member who represents the Silver School of Social Work, was among the dissenting voters. She said she believed Chick-fil-A is in violation of the NYU anti-discrimination policy.
“This is an issue that involves civil rights being denied,” Coulson said. “By allowing the continued existence of this franchise on campus, New York University is participating in heterosexist business practices.”
S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, is a devout Christian. In 2011, he stated that the corporate purpose of the company is “To glorify God.” In a Forbes article from 2007, Cathy said the company regularly investigates employees’ personal lives, and said he would probably fire any employee found to be engaging in “sinful” behavior.
So, what if Student Senators Council had voted to ban Chick-Fil-A?
At the vote in November, 20 of the 23 SSC members were present. Only four voted in favor of a proposal ban Chick-fil-A, so it was repealed. Had the SSC voted the opposite way, the proposal would have gone on to the University Senate.
University Senate, headed by President Sexton himself, is the “chief deliberative body of the University,” responsible for things like setting university-wide policies and the academic calendar. Its executive committee appoints 8 of the 23 student senators. The other 15 are elected directly by the NYU student body.
According to John Beckman, NYU’s vice president of public affairs, NYU does not have a direct relationship with Chick-Fil-A. Rather, the Chick-Fil-A outlet is licensed by Aramark, the company that is contracted to handle all of NYU dining.
If the University Senate had also upheld the proposal to ban it, NYU would have asked Aramark to cancel the license they have with the franchise, “the same way we asked Aramark to remove Coke from its selections when that was banned,” Beckman said. In 2005, the Student Senators Council voted to ban Coke products on campus in protest of the company’s labor policies in Colombia. The ban was repealed in 2009, also by an SSC vote.
Protest planned for Thursday
Students are staging a second anti-Chick-fil-A demonstration to take place during the next Student Senators Council meeting this Thursday, when President Sexton will be present. They plan to gather at 3:30 pm in front of the Silver School of Social Work. The majority of the demonstration will be around Kimmel, according to Coulson.