As a former ASUCLA board member and a second-generation Bruin who holds two degrees from UCLA, including an MBA from UCLA Anderson, the reputation of my beloved alma mater remains a top priority. So I have great concern that Chick-fil-A is coming to campus and that its bigoted, hateful, homophobic policies will inappropriately have a severe and negative impact on the university.
I understand that UCLA inherited the Chick-fil-A lease with a real estate purchase, but we all know that details and facts have never stopped the blogosphere from defaming anyone or any institution. I would imagine that many important UCLA donors such as David Geffen and other members of my LGBT community will find it completely unacceptable that the Regents of the University of California do business with Chick-fil-A.
This isn’t surprising when you consider that WinShape — Chick-fil-A’s official charitable arm — has in the last few years given millions and millions of dollars to antigay groups that fight against LGBT rights without hesitation. Take, for example, Exodus International, which has long attempted to change us from gay to straight, or the Family Research Council, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Rather than listen to the LGBT community without marginalizing or judging them, Chick-fil-A’s chief operating officer, Dan Cathy, recently told the Baptist Press that the company was “guilty as charged” when asked whether his company had an established position against marriage equality.
Cathy added in a radio interview, "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."
Odd and very discriminatory behavior, don’t you think, for a company that wants to sell deep-fried chicken sandwiches and waffle fries from a building owned and operated by UCLA, one of the most respected public universities on planet Earth (particularly when it comes to issues of diversity and human rights)?
As the CEO of the world’s leading LGBT media company, freedom of speech (even when we disagree with it), remains an important concern. However, a hate policy that will inevitably create a significant nuisance for both the university and its tenants goes beyond the realm of free speech and enters the realm of disruptive business practice.
The bad news is that Chick-fil-A’s policy now becomes UCLA’s problem: A problem that will no doubt have a negative impact on the University’s reputation and fundraising.
That’s also the good news, in fact, because it gives UCLA a reason to do the right thing and stand on the right side of history.
PAUL COLICHMAN is CEO of Here Media, the parent company of The Advocate, which is located in Westwood Village, home of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). For more from Colichman, check out his blog.