Eat Less Chicken: The implications of UMBC’s decision to expand Chick-fil-A

Eat Less Chicken: The implications of UMBC’s decision to expand Chick-fil-A

If there’s one thing consumers have learned, it’s that there are very few “good” corporations. Just scratching a bit below the surface, it’s easy to see that most corporations have some skeletons in the closet. Most people are aware of the anti-LGBT rhetoric Chick-fil-A’s CEO and foundation have used in the past decade.

Most recognizably, the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated 1.65 million dollars in 2017 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a well-known anti-LGBT organization, which not only requires its employees to “refrain from homosexual acts,” but also considers gay and bisexual people to be “sinful.”

They also donated 6,000 dollars to the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Georgia, a Christian home that masquerades as a welcoming place for “troubled young men,” but actually teaches the boys that homosexuality is evil and a product of abuse of children.

In addition to this indirect endorsement of anti-LGBT expression, Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy’s foundation WinShape has consistently donated to groups that are against same-sex marriage. The current CEO, Dan Cathy, came under fire for anti-gay comments, and only backtracked slightly, stating “I think the time of truths and principles are captured and codified in God’s word and I’m just personally committed to that. I know others feel very different from that and I respect their opinion and I hope that they would be respectful of mine.” In short, the CEO and the company’s foundation are anti-LGBT rights, and won’t be changing their tune any time soon.

And while few corporations are saintly, Cathy’s refusal to change his mind about his anti-gay remarks shows that Chick-fil-A stands for one thing (beyond chicken): inequality.

Some campuses have begun to denounce the restaurant, including New York University, which is ranked as one of the most LGBT-friendly campuses in the United States according to the Huffington Post. Protests against Chick-fil-A came and went on NYU’s campus, however the Chick-fil-A was still introduced. However, Rider University in New Jersey released a statement at the end of 2018 detailing the decision to eliminate Chick-fil-a as an option for new restaurants. President Gregory G. Dell’Omo and Vice President Leanna Fenneberg stated that “The choices in this situation, like in so many others, were imperfect. They challenged us to reflect on our values and consider what kind of community we want to provide for those who live and learn at Rider University. Ultimately, we decided to lean in the direction of creating a welcoming environment where differences can be appreciated and where each individual can expect to experience dignity and respect.”

UMBC is another campus which prides itself on inclusivity. In fact, in our Master Plan 2019 states that our goal is to “create a sense of ‘campus life’ which supports multi-culturalism, student/faculty engagement, community interaction and social responsibility.” If these truly are our values, and not simply jargon constructed to better our image and appeal to incoming students, we should not have to follow in the footsteps of braver institutions — we should be leading, speaking out against indirect financial support of these abhorrent values. It’s true that ethical consumption is difficult, maybe impossible, to navigate, but we need to be conscious of the message that our corporate ties send. 

So how is it possible that an institution as flawed, harmful and exclusive as Chick-fil-A could exist with UMBC’s mission and groups like the Women’s Center and the Mosaic Center on campus? And unfortunately, it’s not simply existing here at UMBC. It’s expanding.

In 2018, according to Tom DeLuca, the resident district manager for Chartwells as UMBC, there was a conversation about an expansion conducted with participation from the University’s Evaluation Committee and a University Advisory Committee which included UMBC students, faculty and staff.

“Chartwells’ proposal to the University included a renovation of the Chick-fil-A venue from an “express” to a full-service model which will improve speed of service and add milkshakes to the menu. This project, along with others, was discussed at the interview session and this expansion was received positively,” said DeLuca. “Subsequently, Chartwells was selected as the Dining Services Contractor and the new contract commenced on July 1, 2018.”

This expansion is proposed to finish by Fall 2019. So not only does Chick-fil-A exist on UMBC’s campus, it is set to be expanded upon.

It’s not as if corporations cannot atone for past mistakes. For example, UMBC also has an Einstein’s Bagel restaurant on campus in the library. Recently one of the companies that owns Einstein Bros., JAB Holdings, acknowledged that they profited from the Third Reich. In response, the current partners condemned the horrific acts of the Nazi Regime, and donated 11 million dollars to charity.

Corporations cannot escape their pasts nor can they take back offensive statements. However, what they can and should do, is respond with grace and apologies, rather than firmly upholding discriminatory words, which is what Chick-fil-A has chosen to do.

UMBC should be ashamed of the decision to expand Chick-fil-A on campus. Instead of putting money into a corporation that has denounced an important part of our community, UMBC should choose to replace Chick-fil-A with a more ethical place for students to get food, one that is well-researched and stands for equality, not the world as a more hateful place.