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BY KAITLYN R. MEADE | Ever since Dan Cathy definitively confirmed his company’s support of the “biblical definition of the family unit” — including marriage as only between a man and a woman — it seems everyone has been weighing in on Chick-fil-A’s presence in New York City.
Mayor Bloomberg commented on his Friday morning radio show that it was “inappropriate” for a government official to ban a business based on political views. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn initiated an online campaign against the company and asked N.Y.U.’s president, John Sexton, to end its partnership with the fast-food chain, though she later explained she was acting as a private citizen.
Despite being one of the biggest fast-food chains in the South — with an advertising campaign with cows holding signs urging America to “Eat Mor Chikin” — the Atlanta-based company has only one location in the city: N.Y.U.’s Weinstein Residence Hall, on University Place.
While the outlet is owned and operated by the national company, it occupies space on the university’s campus. As such, it is up to N.Y.U. to decide whether to end the partnership, one of the most lucrative of N.Y.U.’s private food vendors. The Village Chick-fil-A has been closed over the summer, along with the other vendors in the Weinstein food court, and is set to open again on Sun., Aug. 26.
Last week, The Villager reported that a university spokesperson said Chick-fil-A was “out of step” with the school’s views and practices and that the administration would ask the University Senate to take up the issue.
In fact, a few months ago, the Student Senators Council — which is under the umbrella of the University Senate, which also includes the Faculty Senators Council — voted on whether Chick-fil-A should be welcome on N.Y.U.’s campus. A student had brought Chick-fil-A’s contributions to antigay marriage organizations to the attention of the Student Senators Council.
However, the company’s official stance was still ambiguous and the council voted to continue N.Y.U.’s partnership with the franchise. In a memo to the university, the council stated:
“After extensive deliberation, the Student Senators Council agreed that there was insufficient evidence at this time to justify a ban of Chick-fil-A. At this point, there have been no reported acts of discrimination on the part of the restaurant chain, according to the information presented to the council and the additional research undertaken. It is for this reason that the council voted not to support an institutional ban of Chick-fil-A.
“The Student Senators Council encourages concerned students and other community members to continue investigating the issue and further urges them to exercise their right to personally boycott any entity that offends their moral sensibilities.”
The position stated in that memo is still in effect until the student senators reconvene in late September, said Ashima Talwar, a council member and president of the Gallatin School of Independent Study’s Student Council.
However, the company president’s now-outspoken stance has prompted many in the N.Y.U. community to ask for a reassessment.
“I don’t think that the values expressed by Dan Cathy align with the values of this university,” said Olivia Baackes, president of the Inter-Residence Hall Council, the student leaders of N.Y.U.’s residence halls. “Given our strong commitment to promoting acceptance of diversity, I don’t think Chick-fil-A belongs on our campus or in our city. I can’t speak for every individual involved with I.R.H.C., but previous discussions surrounding this issue have led me to believe that many members agree with me on this issue.”
She said one of the goals for the Student Senators Council, which begins training this week, will be “deciding how we go about addressing the Chick-fil-A topic.”
If the council votes to pluck the fast-food chain out of Weinstein, it will start a review process that may lead to Chick-fil-A’s expulsion from the city entirely — unless it seeks a new spot in a non-N.Y.U. facility.