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Chick-fil-A petition receives backlash

Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012

Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 02:09

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 USF community. 

Though only a little over 100 signatures have been added to the petition on 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 petition’s 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. I’m not special.”

Though the petition was originally created because of  “Chick-fil-A’s 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-A’s rights to free enterprise. 

“Of course a USF professor would do this,” Jonathan Vasquez wrote on The Oracle’s Facebook page. “This is ridiculous. It’s the most affordable option on campus; why would he try to take that away from students simply because he doesn’t 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 doesn’t meet their definition of ‘diversity’?” Stewart Collins wrote on The Oracle’s Facebook page. “You start banning a company or group because they have a set of values (mind you they haven’t discriminated anyone because of their sexual orientation) and you open Pandora’s Box. If you don’t agree with Chick-fil-A, don’t 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-A’s 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.

“USF’s Aramark contract allows the university to periodically review and change offerings in the food court,” she said.  “Student opinions and requests are the basis for the various 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 D’Emilio, an associate professor of humanities, said when he signed the petition. “In this case, however, an outside corporation is using a portion of the revenue raised at USF to promote discriminatory public policies that clOSE with the university’s own commitment to diversity and toleration.” 

Paul Terry, president of USF’s United Faculty of Florida chapter, cited USF President Judy Genshaft’s support for providing domestic partner benefits.

“It is the right thing to do for the USF Administration to meet with Aramark and negotiate cancelling the contract with Chick-Fil-A,” he wrote on the petition.

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Fri Mar 1 2013 10:44
Get over it! There are many people in the world that you won't agree with!
But just because you don't agree with them doesn't mean you can't get along with them!
This country was founded by religious people leaving the hate behind coming here.
Now because he likes yellow and you like blue, you think you have the right to affect
His livelihood.
You can donate to who ever you want! He can donate and believe what ever he wants! You want tolerance but you aren't willing to show that level of humanity yourself. You are actually hurting the things you want or demand, by being intolerant your self. I find it offensive at what your doing, are you a part of the perfect race or group that gets to tell others what they can think? Tolerance is broken by people
Has he thrown you out of his resturant because of your thoughts. Has he made you do anything. He like others simply supports what he believes and you support what you believe. Hitler did just what you are doing and millions of people died because he forced his will on others. The KKK has tried to force it's
Way on others. Pick your battles in life to put your energy into!
But for goodness sake the are bigger issues than he disagrees with me and give money to what he believes. If we lived by what you and the professor believe non of us would be safe from others, like some have said lets vote the professor off campus.
This would not be so funny then or something to talk about,
as long as it's what you want. There are many I think are idiots in this world but I'm not going to stone them for what they believe. But it seems like you are. Perhaps when your looking for hatered you might want to start looking at home.'Cause while yiu can't see it many of us can.
Fri Sep 28 2012 13:26
I am just guessing that Chick-Fil-A got a huge bump in sales since this controversy broke out. This Professor Ferguson is actually helping Chick-Fil-A's business as did alderman in Boston and Chicago who demanded that Chick-Fil-A leave their fair cities. While these attitudes may get the alderman re-elected and get Ferguson tenure, it helps Chick-Fil-A nonetheless. If you dislike the company do not give them all this attention unless you are simply trying to make a name for yourself like Prof Ferguson.......
Thu Sep 13 2012 14:44
"Diversity" and "tolerance" don't mean "anything goes." If I'm the manager of a business, and one of my employees distributes hate literature on the premises, he or she is fired. He can believe whatever he wants to believe, and be who he wants to be, up to the point where his speech and actions encroach on the peace and happiness of other people. (I wouldn't fire a conservative simply because his beliefs offended a liberal - but I'd fire both of them if their conflict negatively affected the atmosphere of the business.) I bring this up because a lot of people are making a false dichotomy, and anybody who has had any experience with how "diversity" works as institutional policy will understand the reasons for this petition. The owner of Chick-Fil-A has taken a very public stand against gay marriage; he had every legal right to do so, and his free speech is protected. Whether USF should continue to do business with his company is a different matter. So far as I know, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, etc have not openly expressed a point of view on gay marriage. Chick-Fil-A has, and there's no going back for them. If you eat there now, you endorse this point of view, even if you don't mean to or are annoyed that your favorite fast food has become political. Similarly, by not taking action here, the university would seem to stand with Chick-Fil-A against its LGBT students and faculty (along with anybody else who takes objection to their CEO's donations to anti-gay groups). Especially because Chick-Fil-A has essentially created this problem for itself, the university has no other option but to get rid of them.
Surly Curmudgen
Thu Sep 13 2012 12:04
Start an on campus petition to remove Scott Ferguson from campus and see if it gets more than 771 signatures.
Thu Sep 13 2012 11:15
I don't understand. If Chick-Fil-A has a different belief system and you attempt to eliminate them from campus, isn't that going against the very thing that liberals are trying to accomplish? Wouldn't being surrounded by others with different beliefs be creating diversity???

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