By DAVID BORAKS
Hundreds of Davidson College students, alumni and staff have signed a petition over the past week asking the college to stop buying food from Chick-fil-A to protest the fast-food chain’s donations to groups fighting gay marriage.
As of Monday, 423 people – current students, alumni, professors and other employees – had signed the online petition. The campaign was started last week by Davidson student Ben Wiley, who has been researching the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A’s support for anti-gay marriage groups.
Mr. Wiley said he was moved to start the petition in part after reading statements earlier this month by company president Dan Cathy. In an interview with the Baptist Press and reported in the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Cathy said he is “guilty as charged” of supporting a biblical view of the family.
For the past decade or so, Davidson’s Union Board has organized a late-night food-and-music event called After Midnight. The program happens once a month on a Saturday night at the college student union. Since 2002, After Midnight has brought in food from Chick-fil-A. In recent years, the Union Board has added other options, including Qdoba, Mooresville eatery Joel’s Sushi, and Bellacino’s pizza.
Mr. Wiley thinks it’s time to drop Chick-fil-A from the lineup. “This is is about saying we are trying to lower the demand for Chick-fil-A so that the Union Board no longer purchases it for us,” he told DavidsonNews.net.
He said this is not a crusade against the beliefs of Chick-fil-A’s leaders, like Mr. Cathy. “We’re not petitioning because of the personal beliefs of the company officials. They can think what they want,” he said. But he said students should be concerned about the company’s spending on anti-gay causes – estimated at $5 million over the past decade or so. “We’re contributing to it,” Mr. Wiley said.
Davidson students are on summer break right now and the campus is quiet. The first After Midnight is more than a month away. It’s not clear yet whether the petition will have any effect.
William Brown, Davidson’s director of College Union & Student Activities, expects the board will look into the petition’s concerns. “The Union Board is just now hearing about this. I assume they will give it their full attention and hope they will respond as soon as they can,” Mr. Brown said in an email.
The petition comes as a growing number of college campuses reassess relationships with Chick-fil-A amid its stance on gays. But Mr. Wiley wanted to draw a line. In some places campaigns are seeking to evict the chain from campus facilities.
“Those movements are trying to evict a business. That’s much more complicated, and much more morally ambiguous,” Mr. Wiley said. “One of the clear aspects of this petition – hopefully clear – is that we’re not actually trying to get any laws passed or resolutions in the student government. … We don’t actually have to deal with trying to move a unit away. We’re just going to stop importing it.”
As for Mr. Wiley, he has another reason not to eat Chick-fil-A: “I’m vegetarian, so I’ve personally been avoiding it.”
Petition, “Davidson College – We Don’t Need Chick-fil-A After Midnight,” https://sites.google.com/site/chikinatdavidson/