UNO students reflect on Chick-Fil-A controversy


Emma Seely, Managing Editor

On Nov. 5, UNO Dining officially opened a newly expanded full-service version of their on-campus Chick-Fil-A location. Although the popular, nationwide fast-food chicken restaurant has always been a hit on UNO’s campus and likely will gather even more business with the new expansion, some students aren’t happy with UNO’s continued choice to house the restaurant. With several reputable sources making claims about the company’s repeated monetary donations to anti-LGBTQ charities, some students feel as if Chick-Fil-A’s presence on campus is harmful to UNO’s LBGTQ community. 


“Chick-Fil-A has a super active history of donating money to a bunch of anti-LGBT organizations, including campaigns for Trump and Ted Cruz,” says UNO student Grace Gilpin. “It’s also certain organizations that aren’t necessarily centered around being anti-LGBT, but have an anti-LGBTQ history. They donated to Fellowship of Christian Athletes, The Salvation Army, and Paul Anderson Youth Home. [These organizations] are some I remember that are all openly homophobic and a lot of them, transphobic specifically as well.”


Chick-Fil-A’s monetary connections to these sort of organizations has been well-reported recently, with several local and national news sources documenting various instances of Chick-Fil-A sparking controversy among LGBTQ communities. One of Chick-Fil-A’s supported organizations, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, for example, “requires applicants to agree to a ‘sexual purity statement’ that condemns LGBTQ people for living ‘impure lifestyle[s]’ and another, Exodus International,  promotes anti-gay conversion therapy,” as reported by Vox. 


But students like Gilpin aren’t necessarily upset that Chick-Fil-A was ever put on UNO’s campus. Rather they are upset that the restaurant will not only remain on campus after news of the controversy has spread, but that it will expand its services as well. 


“My issue is less with there ever being [a Chick-Fil-A on campus] at all, and more with the fact that UNO just had a huge transition period when [UNO food service provider] Aramark went away and Chartwells came in,” Gilpin says. “And I understand that at the point Chick-Fil-A was put on the campus, this [controversy] was something that wasn’t as widely known, or as commonly heard of. Even I [only] recently learned about it within the past few years. But I think that now it’s a super big issue that a lot of people talk about and a lot of people are aware of. And we had this big transition period and during that they didn’t make the decision to get rid of it.”


According to Daniele Frechette, dining services Marketing Director for Chartwells, the decision to maintain UNO’s Chick-Fil-A location after the transition came because of popular student demand. Additionally, Chartwells’ contract with UNO stipulated that the food service provider would renovate and expand the existing Chick-Fil-A. 


“We took over this account where Chick-Fil-A had an existing presence on campus,” Frechette says. “In our accounts nationwide, students vote Chick-fil-A as their number one choice of national brand they love and it is no different here at UNO from the feedback we received recently. Our dining survey results supported the decision to keep Chick-fil-A on campus.”


UNO student Dhuha Darweesh would agree that student opinion towards the Chick-Fil-A controversy has been mixed at best. Some students, in fact, seemingly feel as if the issue is not their concern, especially if they like Chick-Fil-A’s food. 


“I’ve had discussions about Chick-Fil-A in one of my Political Science classes,” says Darweesh. “The controversy of having a Chick-Fil-A on campus is unfortunately very flip-floppy because it felt like a third of the class felt that UNO could have chosen any fried chicken place instead of Chick-Fil-A, another third were indifferent because they felt that the issue is out of their hands as students, and the last third felt like the chicken from Chick-Fil-A is too good to not have on campus.” 


But Gilpin doesn’t blame students for choosing to eat at Chick-Fil-A, especially since it represents one of the few dining options readily available on campus. And with this new expansion, grabbing Chick-Fil-A between classes will be easier than ever. 


“I don’t blame students that eat there,” Gilpin says. “I don’t see anyone in line there and think they’re homophobic or they’re a bad person. I don’t blame the students for eating there; I understand that they think it’s good. I blame the administration for even having it as an option on campus. Because I understand it’s declining balance, it’s real money but it’s not real money in our heads.” 


Regardless of students’ positive opinions towards Chick-Fil-A or its convenience, both Gilpin and Darweesh are surprised and disappointed that the usually LGBTQ-friendly UNO has allowed an organization with such obvious anti-LGBTQ ties to remain, and grow, on campus. 


“It’s upsetting that out of the endless food options that UNO could have chosen to have on-campus Chick-Fil-A is one of them, especially for a campus that is supposed to be extremely diverse and accepting,” says Darweesh. 


“The UNO administration, from what I’ve seen, has been very keen on the needs and interests of LGBTQ students, and I’ve never seen something from them that would make me think that they would do something like this, Gilpin says. “I know that they’re not doing it with the intention of hurting LGBTQ students, but I feel like they really overlooked this issue and I’m not sure how they did that because I feel like it’s something so widely known at this point.”