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Chick-fil-A Is Not Going Down Easy at the University of Kansas


Chick-fil-A, infamous for funding anti-LGBTQ causes, has gotten an upgraded location and a sponsorship at the university, and it's not sitting well with some faculty members.

A faculty group at the University of Kansas is outraged that Chick-fil-A, which it calls "a bastion of bigotry," has been granted a higher-profile campus location as well as a sponsorship at football games.

The fast-food chain, notorious for its owners' donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations, had an outlet in the basement of the university's Wescoe Hall, an academic building, for 15 years, but this summer it moved to a more desirable location in the student union, The Kansas City Star reports. The university also made the company the sponsor of the coin toss that determines which team does the kickoff at home football games; it's now the Chick-fil-A Coin Toss.

The university's Sexuality & Gender Diversity Faculty and Staff Council this week expressed its objection to the actions in a letter sent to Chancellor Doug Girod, the provost's office, and the athletic department.

"In the Spring, we spoke out to denounce the decision to relocate the business, which has a history of supporting organizations that are hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, families, and communities," the council members wrote. They mentioned the Family Research Council and the now-defunct conversion therapy group Exodus International, and also noted Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy's stated opposition to marriage equality.

"While we recognize that contractual obligations did not allow the complete removal of the brand from campus, we are outraged that they have been allowed to move from the Wescoe Underground to a new, bigger, more central location on the University of Kansas campus," they continued. "Despite our denouncements and the university's own moves to increase the campus's diversity, equity, and inclusion, KU granted Chick-fil-A, a bastion of bigotry, a prime retail location in the heart of our campus." The union houses the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity, and was one of the first places on campus with gender-inclusive restrooms, making Chick-fil-A's presence there particularly insulting, they noted.

"Moving Chick-Fil-A to the Union and granting it a role at the start of all home football games violates the feelings of safety and inclusion that so many of us have striven to create, foster, and protect on campus, and sends a message that the Union, KU Athletics, and the administration at large are more concerned about money and corporate sponsorship than the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing of marginalized and LGBTQ people," the letter continued.

The council members asked, "at the very least," for the university to not renew its contracts with Chick-fil-A when they expire, and for the process of choosing vendors to be more transparent and inclusive. They also said they would urge students, faculty, and staff to boycott the restaurant.

Katie Batza, a professor who is president of council, told the Star that its members and others had been raising objections about Chick-fil-A for years. Students and faculty asked administrators not to renew the company's contract in 2014, after it had been on campus for 10 years, but instead Chick-fil-A got another 10-year contract. Carl W. Lejuez, the university's interim provost, told her that any further action will probably have to wait until that contract expires in 2024, she said. "But they are not giving us any guarantee that the contact won't be renewed again," Batza said.

Lejuez told the paper that Chick-fil-A's move to the union was a cost-saving measure. Contract-mandated upgrades at Wescoe would have cost $3 million, but moving the restaurant to the union cost $400,000.

"Moving forward, I believe it is important to have thoughtful discussion and deliberation when we enter into contracts," he said. "In the future, we will do so in a manner that is transparent and informed by our commitment to affirm diversity and to be a welcoming and inclusive campus."

There have been objections to Chick-fil-A in several other locations. Just this year, the San Antonio City Council in Texas and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in upstate New York decided not to allow the chain to open restaurants in airports under their management. The San Antonio action led Texas lawmakers to pass and Gov. Greg Abbott to sign what was dubbed the "Save Chick-fil-A bill," which prohibits the state and its cities and counties from punishing individuals or businesses because of their membership in or donations to religious organizations, including anti-LGBTQ ones. Late last year, Rider University in New Jersey removed Chick-fil-A from a list of restaurants under consideration for the campus.

The company tried to mend fences with the LGBTQ community after Cathy's much-publicized comments against marriage equality in 2012 and implied it was scaling back its donations to anti-LGBTQ groups. But recent tax filings have shown it's still contributing to such groups, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

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