Kindell Workman liked eating at Chick-fil-A because she found its fast food products superior to others and thought it was one of the better options available in the Marshall Student Center (MSC).
But she said her opinion changed once she learned that the company had donated food to several anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) organizations.
As a result, Workman, president of USF’s largest LGBT student organization, P.R.I.D.E. Alliance, and several other students will boycott the on-campus Chick-fil-A franchise this week.
The privately owned Chick-fil-A chain caught media attention in early January when a franchise in Pennsylvania donated chicken sandwiches to a conference sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute that promoted traditional marriages between a man and a woman.
According to equalitymatters.org, Chick-fil-A has donated more than $1.1 million to various organizations with similar agendas.
Though Workman said the company’s donations should not go ignored, the bigger issue the boycotters, who organized through a Facebook page, want to address is USF’s support of the company.
“It’s contradicting USF’s policy (of non-discrimination),” she said. “USF is pro-equality (and) pro-student rights. USF is one of the most phenomenal universities when it comes to the LGBT community, but then how are you going to say that it’s OK to support Chick-fil-A? The University is contributing to the funding of this type of organization. I’ll honestly say I like Chick-fil-A, but have I been eating at Chick-fil-A? No.”
College students have organized boycotts of campus franchises across the country since January, with Indiana University’s South Bend campus even shutting down its on-campus location after learning of the company’s donations.
Workman said she hopes the movement spreads to other campuses.
“If USF does this, then others can see,” she said. “We can do it in a collaborative effort.”
Don Perry, vice president of corporate relations for Chick-fil-A, said many of the accusations from LGBT boycotters are “a bit unfair.”
“Largely, some of the reports take out of context and embellish the actual actions of what Chick-fil-A is doing,” he said. “Chick-fil-A is a business that everybody acknowledges is a family-natured business. We have a clear process of religious principles in play, we never say Christian, but religious. We have values and principles and, as a result of that, we have been supportive of issues that parallel the personality and the makeup of the founder and his family focus. The point taken out of context is that we have traditionally just done what we’ve always done.”
Chick-fil-A, which integrates its emphasis on family values in everything from children’s toys to closed-on-Sunday policies, also incorporates faith and religion into its business practices.
According to the company’s website, its corporate purpose is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.” Perry said this doesn’t mean the company is anti-LGBT.
“We’re not anti-anything,” he said. “We’re just doing what we’ve always done. We’re not taking up a political agenda or coming from an advocacy kind of position. Some have taken that out of context and said that if we’ve supported family causes, that translates to being anti-gay. That’s a bit unfair to say that by supporting traditional family values we’re anti-gay. We respect all people.”
Andie Athanasatos, a senior majoring in biomedicine, said she supports LGBT equality, yet feels that what the company does with its money is not her concern.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” she said. “I think (the food is) really good.”
Athanasatos, who said she eats at Chick-fil-A on a weekly basis, said knowledge of the company’s donations would not affect her eating practices.
But Francisco Ojeda, a junior majoring in psychology and a fellow boycotter, learned of Chick-fil-A’s donations about a year ago. While he also enjoyed the food, he said he’s avoided eating at the restaurant ever since.
“They are funding anti-gay groups,” he said. “When it becomes well known, you have to change your practices. Where is your money going? Chick-fil-A is not getting my money.”
Workman said the boycotters eventually hope to spread awareness of the donations to university administrators so that they stop supporting anti-LGBT corporations.
“Chick-fil-A can donate sandwiches to anti-gay groups, but the fact that the (MSC) houses a business like this is the bigger problem,” she said. “We need to get USF’s attention that this is not in congruence with their policies of (non-discrimination).”