Possible introduction of Chick-fil-A to Rockhurst campus sparks controversy


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Sariana Barbarotta, Editor

Widely popular chicken chain Chick-fil-A’s short-lived arrival on the Rockhurst campus sparked protests amongst students, faculty and staff who were critical of the fast-food company’s record of past anti-LGBTQIA+ actions.

Rockhurst announced Sept. 13 that Chick-fil-A would be available for two days in Arrupe Hall as part of a pilot program to fill the open spot left by the Roasterie. The news stirred up both backlash and excitement, with some students eager for a new and favorite food spot on campus, and others frustrated by the brand’s financial contributions to groups openly against the LGBTQIA+ community.

The burgeoning controversy led to a swift response from university administrators. On the morning of  Sept. 14, before the program began, University Relations sent out an email further explaining their reasoning for considering bringing Chick-fil-A to campus, and University Cabinet Members stated that Chick-fil-A is the “number one most requested” food option by students.

In the same email, they also addressed the controversy and disapproval that was already growing rapidly, stating that Chick-fil-A would no longer have a second day on campus. They also summarized early student feedback against Chick-fil-A, with one person stating, “Hosting this vendor on our campus sends a harmful negative message to our students, especially our LGBTQIA+ students. It is important that we are sensitive to LGBTQIA+ students in this moment when many LGBTQIA+ people feel their humanity is being challenged.”

Around lunchtime on Sept. 14, eager community members, hungry for chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, formed a line so long that nearly reached the opposite door in Arrupe.

Senior Diana Pfeiffer was among the students who were excited by the new food addition and sad to see it go.

“Having Chick-fil-A on campus would be an awesome option for those who have a meal plan, since it is a place many people love to eat and doesn’t require you to leave campus to get it,” Pfeiffer said, “I, along with many of my friends, love Chick-fil-A and are disappointed in Rockhurst’s withdrawal from this opportunity.”

Meanwhile, other students and faculty members launched a protest alongside the line, chanting and communicating their strong disapproval of the Chick-fil-A brand due to its past donations to anti-LGBTQIA+ organizations. For years, the nationwide fast food chain has been accused of being anti-LGBTQIA+ because of comments by its CEO opposing same-sex marriage and donations the chain has made to organizations with anti-LGBTQIA+ organizations.

According to a report by Vox’s Gaby Del Valle, founder’s son Dan Cathy remarked in a 2012 interview that he believes in the “biblical definition of the family unit.” Backlash was quick, with activists organizing LGBTQIA+ ‘kiss-ins’ at Chick-fil-A locations. Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee organized a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day in retaliation soon after, to which thousands of people across the country participated in.

Additionally, Chick-fil-A has faced extensive backlash and boycotts due to financial and other support of organizations who are openly against the LGBTQIA+ community, such as the Pennsylvania Family Institute. In 2020, Chick-fil-A released a statement declaring that they will no longer be donating to organizations with anti-LGBTQIA+ stances and instead focusing on homelessness, education and hunger by changing to “a more focused giving approach.”

Despite all the controversy, the chain is ranked the third largest fast food chain in the US, just behind McDonald’s and Starbucks in 2021. Chick-fil-A had a total of $16.7 billion in sales in 2021.

On Sept, 15, Rockhurst student organization, UNITY released a statement against the addition of Chick-fil-A to campus.

“Chick-fil-A has a documented history of using its significant financial power to invest in organizations that discriminate against, and dehumanize, those with gay and trans identities,” the E-Board wrote, “The University’s decision to host Chick-fil-A has made many LGBTQ+ members of our campus community feel unsafe, unconsidered, and unheard.”

On Sept. 22, the Cabinet Members released a follow-up statement. Community members were given the chance to share their opinions on Chick-fil-A and give suggestions for other food options in a survey, which received 550 responses. Rockhurst also cancelled the second day of the pilot program following the controversy of its launch.

“We also write to apologize and say we are sorry for any hardship experienced by any of our companions,” they said, “We have worked hard as a University in recent years to make our campus a welcoming place, a ‘home for all.’ As we read and reflected upon the varied responses, it was clear that we did not further that goal.”

Now, the University looks towards other food options to test out in Arrupe, including a Mediterranean restaurant and some popular student requests, the top choices being “Mexican and chicken” according to Matthew Quick, Dean of Students and Vice President, in an email sent October 5.

In the meantime, there are other new food options on campus, such as Bowl Life, which is the newest student choice restaurant, located in the Rock Room. Additionally, a new location of Tiki Taco has just opened across the street on Troost Ave.