(Photo: REUTERS/Tami Chappell)
Students at the University of New Mexico (UNM), who say that having the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A on campus makes them feel unsafe, were dismayed last Wednesday when a resolution to remove the restaurant was voted down by the board of on-campus eateries, 8 to 3.
Even though the cost of removing Chick-fil-A from the Student Union Building (SUB) before its contract expires would have negatively impacted UNM students and the SUB, those who are opposed to the chain's support for organizations that promote traditional marriage and Christian family values say they continue to feel threatened by the restaurant's presence on campus.
"If Chick-fil-A had been kicked off campus, replacing it would have cost $175,000 to $450, 000," said Ardee Napolitano, assistant news editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Lobo. "Funds would have come from student fees and the SUB's revenues, because the SUB cannot get funds from the state legislature or touch UNM's repair fund."
The Associated Students of the University of New Mexico (ASUNM), the representative body of the undergraduate students, conducted a campus poll last month that asked students if they want to keep or kick out Chick-fil-A, "and 85 percent of respondents wanted to keep the restaurant, while only 15 percent wanted to kick it out," said Napolitano.
According to Napolitano and Sunny Liu, vice president of ASUNM, those who identify themselves as members of the LGBTQ community on campus feel that Chick-fil-A's presence perpetuates hate and homophobia, and believe that the university should be inclusive and welcoming for all.
"These students have expressed their discomfort with the company's presence in the campus SUB as their student fees contribute directly to Chick-fil-A's operation; and they've personally felt discriminated against since there have been repeated incidences at their protests and assemblies where the food purchased at the location was used as a counter-demonstration against their cause," said Liu.
Napolitano added that: "The presence of Chick-fil-A thus violates the university's principles. Also, some LGBTQ students deem it as an issue of physical safety."
She said that although there isn't proof of violence against students who oppose Chick-fil-A's presence on campus, some students have said that they received threatening messages from those who support the fast-food chain.
"A couple of students who want Chick-fil-A to get kicked off campus received threats from other people who support the restaurant," Napolitano continued. "One student who works for UNM's LGBTQ Resource Center received a written threat on their desk that demanded them to stop campaigning against Chick-fil-A or something might happen to them."
Even with overwhelming student support to keep Chick-fil-A on campus, members of ASUNM issued a resolution against the chain.
Napolitano said that after ASUNM issued a resolution that urged university bodies to support their effort to kick out Chick-fil-A last week, "the student senator who sponsored the resolution, Miquela Ortiz, received a threat regarding her stance. It stated that she should not walk alone on campus."
Members of the SUB Board, which had the final say on Chick-fil-A's presence at the university, also conducted a survey last month that received more than 3,000 responses from both students and staff, "and 44 percent agreed that Chick-fil-A's principles are positive overall, while 41 percent said its principles are negative overall," said Napolitano, who added that the board is composed of representatives from the undergraduate student government, the graduate student government (GPSA), and from various bodies of the university administration, such as Student Affairs.
The survey was distributed to UNM undergraduate and graduate email lists, and asked for students' impressions of Chick-fil-A. "The questions asked for positive or negative opinions of Chick-fil-A on a variety of factors, including: corporate philosophy, price, customer service and health options," said Liu, who told The Christian Post that a significant number of LGBTQ students have voiced their concerns to members of ASUNM about the controversial donations of Chick-fil-A to "extreme organizations like Exodus International."
Napolitano, who emphasized the board's diversity, said that: "Three members voted to kick out Chick-fil-A, including Debbie Morris, Priscilla Poliana and Rebecca Vanucci, who is the head of the board. The remaining eight members voted to keep the restaurant, including ASUNM President Caroline Muraida, ASUNM Senator Holly Marquez and GPSA President Marissa Silva.
Chick-fil-A generates 14 percent of the SUB's annual restaurant revenue, the fourth largest revenue among all of the student union restaurants, coming in behind Sonic at No. 3, Satellite at No. 2 and Saggio's at No. 1.