Associated Students has presented a statement to USD athletics asking them to cut off a sponsorship with Southern-based chicken restaurant Chick-fil-A.
The declaration comes amidst intense media coverage over CEO Dan Cathy’s openly stated views opposing gay marriage. Cathy’s statement led to protests and boycotts across the country. It also led to the reactionary “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” an event launched by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee during which supporters of Cathy’s statement bought Chick-fil-A sandwiches around the country.
Following the declaration by Cathy, several universities, such as Northeastern University in Boston, have cut off affiliation with the restaurant.
These severances have mainly been prompted by the discovery that the WinShape Foundation, Chick-fil-A’s philanthropic organization, has donated money to groups such as the Family Research Council. FRC was designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In this light, AS decided to send a letter to USD Athletic Director Ky Snyder asking the sports program to cease affiliation with the chicken restaurant.
Senior Yasamin Mahallaty, the vice president of AS, a member of PRIDE and a Rainbow Educator, said that the issue is a matter of the inclusion of all students.
“It’s important that we have a clear cut view of what we stand for, what we believe, and [what we promote as] student life for all students,” Mahallaty said. “The AS mission statement is in place to promote the inclusion of all students. The university’s mission statement [promotes inclusion] as well. Both our mission statements and Catholic social teaching...were [what] we really hooked on in developing the letter and developing a stance on [the school’s partnership with Chick-fil-A].”
Mahallaty admits that her research into Chick-fil-A’s business practices began because of Cathy’s announced opinion on gay marriage and the enormous amount of media coverage that followed.
However, she said that gay marriage is not the central issue of AS’s decision.
Rather, they have opposed Chic-fil-A because of their donations to hate groups such as FRC.
“A common misconception is that the reason that we are asking them to disaffiliate is because of the CEO’s stance on gay marriage,” Mahallaty said. “Our main [concern] is their affiliation with these groups that are deemed hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Research Center...In finding that out [we said] we have to intervene.
SPLC, a non-profit group that has won several court cases against groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, declared the FRC a hate group in 2010.
“The FRC often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science,” SPLC said on its website. “The intention is to denigrate LGBT people in their battle against same-sex marriage, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.”
Following this declaration by the SPLC, combined with the media coverage following Cathy’s statements, some universities began severing ties with Chick-fil-A.
Student senators at Northeastern University in Boston voted 31 to 5 to ban Chick-fil-A from their campus, according to the website for “Advocate”, a magazine for gay rights.
Petitions to ban Chick-fil-A from college campuses have also spread to universities such as New York University, University of Southern Mississippi, Duke University and other schools, according to Campus Pride’s website.
USD’s partnership with Chick-fil-A consists of a deal in which Chick-fil-A gives away food at some sporting events in promotion of the teams, according to Snyder.
“Every one of our partnerships is important to us,” Snyder said. “This [partnership] is very much surrounded around student promotion.”
Nevertheless, he has listened to AS’s position, and they are scheduled to meet to further discuss the issue next week.