On Friday, Rider University in New Jersey announced that although it is considering bringing a new restaurant franchise to the campus, Chick-fil-A was removed from the list of possibilities. The university offered a survey to students asking them which restaurant they would prefer, but the university eliminated Chick-Fil-A as an option, according to the university’s president, because the “company’s record” was “widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ+ community.”
The letter from University President Gregory G. Dell’Omo and Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg stated:
A few weeks ago, we sent a survey to students to elicit feedback on options for bringing a new restaurant franchise to Rider. Although it was included in previous surveys, Chick-fil-A was removed as one of the options based on the company’s record widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ+ community. That decision required a difficult assessment of competing interests. 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.
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.
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.
The letter continued by asserting that because of the university’s belief “in the open exchange of ideas and positions,” the university asked Rider’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion to organize a campus forum.
For two years, Chick-fil-A has been targeted on university campuses. In February 2016, the decision to bring Chick-Fil-A to the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) was reversed after complaints from students that the franchise’s CEO supported traditional marriage. The month before, a survey sent out by the UNK student government found the majority of students voted to bring Chick-Fil-A to the campus student union.
In May 2017, Fordham University, a Catholic university, eliminated a plan to install a Chick-Fil-A at a food court after the LGBTQ group Rainbow Alliance protested.
Chick-Fil-A’s stated purpose is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.” The company has displayed that in a multitude of ways, from setting tables in Alabama as a way to remember missing soldiers on Memorial Day weekend, to making an exception to its policy of being closed on Sundays and preparing food for thousands of people waiting in line to donate blood to help those in need from the Orlando massacre at a gay nightclub, to again making an exception to working on Sundays and providing food for thousands of passengers in Atlanta whose flights were canceled because of a blackout at the airport, to making an exception a third time and feeding first responders of the shooting in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.