After four contentious weeks, the resolution against Chick-fil-A’s presence in the future Lakeside Dining Hall at Elon University passed 35-11-0 in a vote by the SGA Senate. The resolution, drafted by Spectrum, Elon's queer-straight alliance, argues Chick-fil-A does not align with the university's non-discrimination policy and asks its administration to consider partnering with a different vendor.
But SGA Executive President Darien Flowers, who holds veto power over all SGA legislation, said he might not endorse the resolution.
“I have a lot of deliberation to do,” he said. “I have to take in a lot of information, talk with counselors and advisers, and think about what is best for the community and the university as a whole, at least from a student perspective. This decision weighs heavy on me.”
Despite the possibility of a veto, Lauren Clapp, an advocacy and education chair for Spectrum, showed surprise and excitement at the results of the vote.
“It’s so affirming and exciting to hear members of your community share your same viewpoint and stand up for you,” she said “I really tried not to come in with any expectations, but I’m really happy with how it turned out.”
Before voting on the resolution, the SGA hosted an open forum during which students and community members shared their viewpoints on the issues at hand.
During the forum, Clapp challenged the senate members to vote, rather than abstain, on the issues raised in the proposed legislation. She reiterated Spectrum’s earlier statement that it does not take issue with Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy’s remarks on gay marriage, but rather the anti-gay organizations the franchise supports through charity, including Exodus International and the Family Research Council.
“These groups cause direct harm to LGBTQ people and contribute to an environment that is unhealthy, discriminatory, hostile and offensive to the entire LGBTQ community,” she said. “Exodus International is an advocate of conversion therapy, despite the fact that is has been denounced by at least 15 reputable medical societies.”
Emily Kane, an advocacy and education chair for Spectrum, then shared her experience with conversion therapy at 16. Upon learning her daughter might be queer, Kane’s mother required her to attend Crossover Therapies, a three-month series of weekly meetings designed to change the sexual orientations of its queer participants.
“It was a lot of praying and lying, and in hindsight, I realize how much it set me back,” Kane said. “There were times during those months that I hated myself to the core. I tried so hard to stop being attracted to women, but I just couldn’t,” she said.
As the therapy continued, she became more ashamed of herself.
“I didn’t want to be me,” she said. “The experience was deeply psychologically harmful, and Elon should not be giving one penny to groups who are OK with that type of harm. Elon’s value of creating an inclusive community is more important than a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries.”
For some students, issue was one of social justice rather than personal experience. Senior Jasmine Whaley, a campus tour guide, said if this issue was racially or religiously charged, there would be little debate surrounding it.
“If you want to be a part of this community, you need to stand for the principles that the people who came before us stood for,” she said. “The next time I have a gay or lesbian student on tour, and they ask about this issue in our community, I really, really hope I can tell them gays are accepted on this campus.”
Senior Will Brummett voiced his agreement and encouraged the SGA Senate to show their support for the LGBTQ community.
“Our rights as students are not recognized until everyone’s here are recognized,” he said. “Now is our time. A justice delayed is a justice denied.”
But other students disagreed with the arguments to sever the university’s relationship with Chick-fil-A.
“A lot of the arguments I’ve seen supported have not been based in rational thinking,” said sophomore Steven Taranto. “I don’t mean that with any disrespect, but I feel like a lot of the supporting statements based on emotion and I don’t think that’s right.”
Other speakers mentioned the precedent the resolution might set if it the senate voted in favor of the legislation.
“I ask you to please carefully consider your vote this evening,” junior Robert Orr said to the senate. “Are we going to scrutinize all businesses the university partners with?”
He cited a recent poll conducted by The Pendulum. The results, which reflected the responses of 283 Elon students, showed 63 percent of respondents in favor of keeping Chick-fil-A on campus.
“The SGA is designed to represent our student body,” he said “These results don’t include the whole student body, but they include a greater number of students than are represented here tonight.”
Several compromises were proposed throughout the night, as well.
“I believe the correct action at this time is to recommend to President Lambert to allow time for Dan Cathy to change his opinions,” said senior Max Piland. “I don’t think the SGA or President Lambert should get into the habit of removing people from our community without giving them chance to change.”
Senior Jack Minor suggested a more businesslike approach.
“It will become a business decision if students choose to patronize or not to patronize the business,” he said. “We have not seen that yet this year; numbers do not show an increased or decreased support for Chick-fil-A. Eventually we will get there, though, and the university can make a decision based on that. I feel this is an issue that will resolve itself with time.”
At the end of the evening, senate members openly debated their thoughts and feelings on the matter after hearing the open forum statements. After nearly an hour of discussion, the senate voted in favor of the resolution.
“The biggest accomplishment of this senate meeting wasn’t the numbers, it wasn’t the verdict,” said SGA Executive Vice President Connor O’Donnell. “I honestly think it was about the fact that two opposing viewpoints on a highly charged issue were able to come forward and have a proactive debate.”