We know. You’re probably tired of talking about Chick-fil-A. Both our campus and the national news are always talking about it. Everyone feels pressured to take a side or risk being alienated from everyone else. One side thinks Chick-fil-A hates gays, while another thinks that gays hate Chick-fil-A.

But is that really the case? Is our culture filled with as much open hatred as so many believe it to be? That depends on how you define hate, which is the core issue at hand. Hatred has a meaning, and our ability to recognize this and respond to it will determine if our campus will survive and grow or become destabilized through division and disunity.

We as Elon students cannot allow this debate to irreparably splinter our campus into permanent factions because of a difference in opinion. Opinions are what make our university strong: they show we rationalize ideas differently. We see what others may not have noticed. Arguing an opinion doesn’t always require agreement, just recognition and respect of opinions different from yours.

The ongoing media interest in the Chick-fil-A debate here on campus has spurred the constant exchange of opinions, both respectful and dismissive, by students, community members and alumni over the potential removal of the Chick-fil-A franchise from campus.

Take a minute to read some of the comments on The Pendulum, Huffington Post, Fox News or Perez Hilton articles about the debate, and you will notice not only an increasing lack of respectable exchange of opinions, but an increasing condemnation of the opposing sides.

Individuals have taken to verbally attacking one another online over the propriety of the Chick-fil-A franchise remaining on Elon’s campus, citing their personal beliefs about same-sex marriage, Chick-fil-A’s history of financially supporting conservative causes and discrimination against the LGBTQ community as justification for their claims.

This behavior is quickly creating an "us versus them" mentality within our campus, a sociopolitical divide that could spell permanent damage to our community as a whole. But herein lies the problem: disagreeing about something does not equal automatic hatred of the opposite side. Furthermore, agreeing to disagree does not mean one is unwilling to defend his or herself, or lacks an informed opinion. Unfortunately, it seems these ideas are not being given proper consideration in the midst of the current discussion.

We communicate using similar words, but often mean to convey completely different ideas. One person has one opinion, while someone else has another. Misunderstanding the reasoning behind a person’s opinion does not equal hatred. Disagreement does not imply that we allow our opinions to be driven purely by emotion. It means we are coming from very different philosophical foundations. We view the world in fundamentally different ways. One of us may be right while the other is wrong, but that doesn't mean either of us hates the other.

Remember the people whom you may be arguing with over this issue are your classmates,  co-workers, professors and colleagues.

But most importantly, they are your friends. These are the people that the majority of your college memories will include. Do you want to  potentially ruin your relationships with these people just because they didn’t agree with you?

Regardless of your personal opinions on Chick-fil-A, the recent veto of the SGA vote conducted last week or the final decision to be made by senior staff, with an issue as contentious as this, it is simply impossible to please everyone. We must remember that whatever decision is made, whatever complaints or negative attention we may receive, Elon University will still be here. The Chick-fil-A debate represents a very small chapter in Elon’s history. Our students will continue to excel and bring further prestige to the school we call home.

The real strength of the Elon community lies in its ability to come together in moments that would normally divide other communities and our commitment to uphold our values even when it may be inconvenient for us to do so.

The old "you are either with us or against us" mentality has no place at Elon. Our university thrives on its community of tolerant people, not the symmetry of their beliefs.