NYU Student Protests Chick-fil-A
A New York University freshman is petitioning to remove a Chick-fil-A restaurant from the campus because the restaurant’s charitable arm donates to organizations that critics say are anti-gay.
Hillary Dworkoski, who began the petition in January, says maintaining a contract with Chick-fil-A contradicts the university’s reputation for diversity. So far, her petition on Change.org has garnered about 12,000 signatures.
“I had heard rumors that Chick-fil-A is bad, and I really didn’t know why,” she said at a protest she organized at NYU earlier this month. “So I looked it up and found a lot of articles about it, and I thought it was so ridiculous that it was still on campus.”
EqualityMatters.org, an initiative in support of gay equality, investigated the publicly available IRS 990 form from Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, WinShape. The initiative and reported that WinShape had donated more than $1 million to, what they called, anti-gay organizations between 2003 and 2008, and over $1.7 million to them in 2009. Some of these organizations included Fellowship of Christian Athletes (http://www.fca.org/ ) and Focus on the Family (http://www.focusonthefamily.com/).
Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A denied the anti-gay accusations in a statement last year. While Cathy said he and his family believe that the Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman, they respect anyone who disagrees. He said Chick-fil-A serves customers without a political agenda.
“We have no agenda against anyone,” Cathy said. “At the heart and soul of our company, we are a family business that serves and values all people regardless of their beliefs or opinions.”
The restaurant on NYU’s campus, which has more than 22,000 undergraduates, is the only Chick-fil-A in New York state.
“Right now what I need to focus on is continuing to build student support,” Dworkoski said. “I started on Change.org because it allows so many more people to sign it.”
Mike Jones, deputy campaign director at Change.org, said Dworkoski’s petition has gained considerable attention, especially in LGBT circles.
And Dworkoski’s efforts have extended beyond NYU. She connected with students at Northeastern University in Boston to start a petition to keep a proposed Chick-fil-A off of campus, said Jones. Northeastern ultimately did not get a Chick-fil-A.
“Hillary has already raised an incredible amount of awareness,” said Jones. “Whether or not there’s a victor, she’s already won by giving people information and influencing people who will decide where and when they’ll spend their money.”
Philip Lentz, director of public affairs at NYU, said the university does not have a direct relationship with Chick-fil-A. He said the restaurant is licensed by the university’s restaurant vendor, ARAMARK, and that the vendor would likely comply if the University Senate, NYU’s chief deliberative body, advised the administration to remove the restaurant from campus.
Unless the University Senate decides to remove the Chick-fil-A, NYU will continue to keep it on campus.
“NYU respects the right of students and other members of the university community to protest peacefully,” Lentz said. “The University is rightly well-known for its strong support for the LGBT community.”