An online petition calling for the removal of Chick-fil-A from the Marshall Student Center (MSC) has received considerable feedback both support and backlash – from the USFcommunity.
Though only a little over 100 signatures have been added to the petition on Change.org since last week (the petition had 771 signatures as of Wednesday night), it has received strong reactions.
Scott Ferguson, an assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Cultural Studies, created the petition. As news of the petitions existence has spread, he said he received negative feedback including bigoted emails from other USF professors, negative messages to his personal cell phone and a hate fax from a number he said he thinks is from within the university.
Ferguson created the petition more than a month ago after reading about similar petitions at other schools around the country and found that USF did not have one.
I was thrilled to see schools all over the south (had a petition), he said. I wanted to sign ours, so I created it. I wanted to carry on the movement and facilitate the dialogue.
But much of the dialogue has been different than what he expected, focusing on him instead of the petition.
I think a lot of negative feedback is wrongheaded because they are reframing the debate and responding disproportionately, Ferguson said. I (created the petition) because I thought I was one of millions across the country. Im not special.
Though the petition was originally created because of Chick-fil-As discriminatory practices against the LGBT community, as the petition reads, many who are in favor of keeping Chick-fil-A focused on other issues such as having affordable options for students and Chick-fil-As rights to free enterprise.
Of course a USF professor would do this, Jonathan Vasquez wrote on The Oracles Facebook page. This is ridiculous. Its the most affordable option on campus; why would he try to take that away from students simply because he doesnt agree with the CEO?
Though cheap chicken was most important to many students, some felt that Chick-fil-A also has the right to operate under whatever values they want.
So USF should ban anyone who doesnt meet their definition of diversity? Stewart Collins wrote on The Oracles Facebook page. You start banning a company or group because they have a set of values (mind you they havent discriminated anyone because of their sexual orientation) and you open Pandoras Box. If you dont agree with Chick-fil-A, dont go there.
Once the petition reaches 1,000 signatures, Ferguson said he plans to submit it to USF Dining Services. The dining facilities on campus are operated by Aramark, so it is unknown whether the petition could affect Chick-fil-As physical existence on campus.
Aramark said they will direct all Chick-fil-A related inquiries to USF Communications and Marketing.
Though Aramark manages the MSC food court and the Chick-fil-A in the food court is not a part of the Chick-fil-A company, Aramark is licensed to serve Chick-fil-A products on campus, Lara Wade, USF spokeswoman, said in a statement to The Oracle.
USFs Aramark contractallows the university toperiodically review and change offerings in the food court, she said. Student opinions and requests are the basis for thevarious food and beverage vendors at USF, and student concerns are always considered when continuing or adding vendors.
Despite the negative feedback from some, many have also signed the petition enthusiastically, including students, alumni and faculty members.
I am a faculty member and I respect and encourage the right of individual members of the university community to hold and express different and often controversial views, James DEmilio, an associate professorof humanities, said when he signed the petition. In this case, however, an outside corporation is using a portion of the revenueraised at USF to promotediscriminatory public policies that clOSE with the universitys own commitment to diversity and toleration.
Paul Terry, president of USFs United Faculty of Florida chapter, cited USF President Judy Genshafts support for providing domestic partner benefits.
It is the right thing to do for the USF Administration to meet with Aramark and negotiatecancelling the contract with Chick-Fil-A, he wrote on the petition.
J Robert Spatig, director of admissions, signed the petition stating Theres no place for hate in education!
Ferguson said he hopes the conversation will continue.
What this petition is after is opening a critical dialogue about Chick-fil-A and its practices by a state institution, he said. I hope we can look back after this and know USF is clearly on the right side of history.