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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA affiliates argue for Chick-fil-A, cite First Amendment

Turki+Allugman%2FArizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AStudents+wait+in+line+at+Chick-fil-A+Express+in+SUMC+on+Wednesday%2C+Aug.+29%2C+2012.
Turki Allugman/Arizona Daily Wildcat Students wait in line at Chick-fil-A Express in SUMC on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012.

While universities across the nation continue to see students petitioning to remove Chick-fil-A locations from campuses following restaurant CEO Dan Cathy’s statements against marriage equality, UA administration has cited First Amendment rights in their argument to keep the location in the Student Union Memorial Center. Cathy made the statement in an article published by the Baptist Press on July 16, resulting in backlash from gay rights groups and support from conservative politicians including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

Locally, UA administrators are doing what they can to keep the focus on education and free
expression.

“As a publicly-funded institution and gathering place for intellectual study, the UA fosters the healthy exchange of dialogue and the expression of differing viewpoints,” said Johnny Cruz, the UA’s assistant vice president of communications, in a statement regarding Chick-fil-A’s presence in the student union.

In the statement, Cruz spoke of the importance of a respectful discussion and debate within the university community. Additionally, individuals should have the right to form their own beliefs on the issue and viewpoints expressed, as well as the right to decide which businesses to patronize, Cruz said.

At other universities, such as West Virginia University, New York University and the University of Kansas, officials are fielding petitions and demands to remove Chick-fil-A from campus. Currently, a petition to remove Chick-fil-A from the NYU campus has collected nearly 16,000 signatures.

“The university administration will ask the University Senate to take up the issue of Chick-fil-A’s status on campus again when it reconvenes this fall to make a recommendation on how to proceed,” said NYU spokesman John Beckman in a statement.

Although the student union administration at the UA has received a phone call requesting information on where to deliver a petition and has provided answers, there has been no petition received as of yet, said Joel Hauff, interim director of Arizona Student Unions in an email.

There has been support for protesting Chick-fil-A, but some groups, like the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Pride Alliance, have refrained from taking a stance against the dining facility.

“Our big problem is we can’t officially be involved in anything against Chick-fil-A on campus, because our funds are coming from the same place,” said Christina Bischoff, a senior studying ecology and evolutionary biology and co-director of the Pride Alliance. “It risks our ability to be in the union.”

The student union has not prevented Pride Alliance from developing a stance but, because the union funds the organization as well as Chick-fil-A, members refrain from doing so as a courtesy.
Other students argue against developing any stance against Chick-fil-A, citing First Amendment rights.

“I say everyone has freedom of speech, it’s his [Cathy’s] opinion,” said Kimberley Malicoat, a veterinary science freshman. “That doesn’t mean you have to stop eating there because of his opinion.”

Still others acknowledge the right to have an opinion, but question the university’s decision to keep Chick-fil-A on campus.

“He’s [Cathy] a private citizen and has a right to the opinions he wants,” said Fenton Johnson, an associate professor of English. “The question at hand is not his opinion, it’s whether or not the university should provide space for businesses that violate its non-discrimination policies.”

As stated in the non-discrimination policy, “The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity in its programs and activities.”

In the UA statement, Cruz explained that the comment made by the CEO of Chick-fil-A reflected the expression of a specific political or ideological viewpoint.

“As an organization, Chick-fil-A, Inc. is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in employment decisions or in the provision of service to customers based on any factor protected by federal, state or local law,” Cruz said.

ASUA recognize 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.

“This campus is a free speech campus, but it’s also the second-most diverse campus in the nation,” said Katy Murray, president of ASUA. “We accept that and we want students to embrace that.”

Some students agreed with the support of freedom of speech, but argue that there is a thin line between the First Amendment and discrimination.

“I think this is freedom of speech,” Bischoff said, “except there’s always the question of, ‘Where does freedom of speech end and violating someone else’s rights begin?’”

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