Administrators at Rider University in New Jersey have nixed a recent decision by the student body to add a Chick-fil-A to the campus. Their reason? The restaurant was not welcoming.
In a letter to students, President Gregory G. Dell’Omo and Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg said Chick-fil-A would not adequately contribute to a “welcoming environment.”
Students voted in favor of adding the restaurant during a poll a few weeks ago, but, now that they had their decision overridden by the school administration, they are asked to head back to the drawing board.
A Washington Examiner op-ed reports: “Chick-fil-A was voted No. 1, but the school sent out a second survey a few weeks ago and Chick-fil-A had been removed as an option altogether.”
In the letter, Dell’Omo and Fenneberg said they rejected Chick-fil-A “based on the company’s record widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ+ community.” So, it was removed from consideration.
“That decision required a difficult assessment of competing interests,” the letter continued. “We sought to be thoughtful and fair in balancing the desire to provide satisfying options for a new on-campus restaurant while also being faithful to our values of inclusion.”
They added: “The choices in this situation, like in so many others, were imperfect. They challenged us to reflect on our values and consider what kind of community we want to provide for those who live and learn at Rider University. Ultimately, we decided to lean in the direction of creating a welcoming environment where differences can be appreciated and where each individual can expect to experience dignity and respect.”
So, in staying true to their “values of inclusion” they are excluding the restaurant—a point the administrators directly addressed:
We understand that some may view the decision as being just another form of exclusion. We want to be clear that this was not the spirit in which the decision was made. We fully acknowledge an organization’s right to hold these beliefs, just as we acknowledge the right for individuals in our community and elsewhere to also personally hold the same beliefs.
Not looking to get blamed for removing their student’s number one choice from consideration, the administrators said it was not even their decision to make. They said “this issue is one that goes beyond our decision” as it “touches on a complex conversation taking place throughout the country.”
We believe this is a conversation worth having, and we encourage dialogue to take place where many individuals with different perspectives can engage one another respectfully. As an institution of higher learning, we believe strongly in the open exchange of ideas and positions — especially around a complex issue such as this one.
Chick-fil-A and its founder S. Truett Cathy have had a history of supporting organizations which favor traditional marriage. Despite this, as the Washington Examiner op-ed points out, Chick-fil-A continues to be favored among a nation that is increasingly pro-gay marriage:
The restaurant’s anti-gay reputation, such as it exists, goes back to its history of corporate donations to Christian organizations and advocacy groups, including ones that oppose same-sex marriage. But there’s little evidence of a “widely perceived” belief that people think they can’t eat the chicken anyway — even gay and transgendered people.
Likewise, Chick-fil-A this year received the highest rating among fast food restaurants, amid a population that overwhelmingly supports same-sex marriage, according to one poll from this May. The American American Customer Satisfaction Index 2018 reportfound that Chick-fil-A got 87 points out of 100, based on a survey of 22,500 restaurant-goers.