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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    For truly open dialogue on Chick-fil-A, don’t be chicken

    Journalists know a little about free expression.

    Naturally, then, the UA deserves to be applauded “as a publicly funded institution and gathering place for intellectual study” that “fosters the healthy exchange of dialogue and the expression of differing viewpoints,” according to Johnny Cruz, the UA’s assistant vice president of communications, in a statement regarding Chick-fil-A’s presence in the Student Union Memorial Center.

    But further reporting by the Arizona Daily Wildcat leaves the statement looking a little cloudy on what a free “exchange of dialogue” really is.

    Chick-fil-A has been at the center of a media firestorm since mid-July, when its president, Dan Cathy, was asked by a Baptist Press reporter about the restaurant group’s “support of the traditional family.”

    Cathy replied that the company is “very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. … We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

    Cathy might have been downplaying it when he said the position “might not be popular with everyone.”

    The backlash launched a “National Same-Sex Kiss Day” at Chick-fil-A locations around the country, a vow by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino to block the franchise from opening a location in the city and a number of petitions seeking to remove Chick-fil-A from colleges across the nation.

    But UA students have been surprisingly and publicly mum on the issue.

    The ASUA Pride Alliance, which maintains an office in the student union, has been quiet, officially at least. According to co-director Christina Bischoff in an earlier interview with the Daily Wildcat, Pride Alliance has not taken an official stance on Chick-fil-A’s location inside the union as a courtesy.

    “Our big problem is that we can’t officially be involved in anything against Chick-fil-A on campus because our funds are coming from the same place,” Bischoff said. “It risks our ability to be in the union.”

    The Associated Students of the University of Arizona had little to add, besides a mealy-mouthed offering from President Katy Murray: “ASUA recognizes that Cathy’s comments may not necessarily reflect the entire company. However, members do stress the need to make students feel welcome on the campus.”

    She went on to say the UA is a “free-speech campus, but it’s also the second-most diverse campus in the nation. We accept that and we want students to embrace that.”

    Though the student union has not prevented Pride Alliance from taking a position, Bischoff’s explanation and Murray’s statement clearly show where ASUA and Pride Alliance stand: They don’t — not when it rocks the boat.

    This circles back to the UA’s position: Individuals have the right to express their own beliefs and patronize whichever businesses they choose.

    Laid next to Bischoff’s statement that Pride Alliance “can’t be officially involved in anything against Chick-fil-A,” the free exchange of viewpoints has led to these conclusions: Free speech is cool. Diversity is cool. Cool.

    Regardless of where the UA, ASUA or Pride Alliance stand on the Chick-fil-A controversy, meaningful discussion has to amount to more than a university spokesman’s bland statement or
    Murray’s attempt to walk a fine line between two sides of the debate.

    It is a particular concern that Pride Alliance feels it cannot take a stand. As an organization that seeks to provide a safe place for the UA’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning community, Pride Alliance should be the loudest voice in the debate.

    If Pride Alliance won’t be one, whose voice can contribute to the “healthy exchange of dialogue” besides Dan Cathy’s?

    — Editorials are determined by the Arizona Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Bethany Barnes, Kristina Bui, Jason Krell, K.C. Libman and Alex Williams. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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