EDWARDSVILLE — Chick-Fil-A will stay on campus at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, despite student calls for it to be removed.
The SIUE Student Senate voted unanimously last fall to ask the administration to remove Chick-Fil-A from the campus during a national boycott and widespread controversy. Students were protesting the corporation's practice of donating money via its nonprofit foundation to political organizations opposing same-sex marriage.
But Narbeth Emmanuel, vice chancellor for student affairs, told the Student Senate Friday that the university intended to continue its contractual relationship with Chick-Fil-A.
"We have heard the many voices on campus and taken into account all communications that have been directed to us regarding this highly emotional issue," Emmanuel said in a statement.
However, Emmanuel said the university believes Chick-Fil-A is "moving in a positive direction" with its more recent public statements. He said the corporation has not violated its contract with SIUE, and ending its presence on campus could cause legal issues. He also pointed out that Campus Pride, a national organization that strives to make college campuses more open to gays and lesbians, suspended its boycott campaign against Chick-Fil-A.
Erik Zimmerman, student body president, said he was disappointed by the university's decision. "I understand the legal issues and I respect their position, but I'm a bit disappointed because I wish they would have come up with a way to otherwise show they will support LGBT issues," he said. "I do wish they would have chosen not to renew the contract when it came up."
SIUE students had formed a Facebook group and a Change.org petition to call for the Chick-Fil-A removal.
SIUE's Student Senate was not the only college organization to take action against Chick-Fil-A last fall: Student government organizations at Northeastern University and other schools voted to stop Chick-Fil-A franchises from opening on campus. At New York University, 11,000 students sent a petition to their student council calling for the franchise to be removed, but the student council at NYU voted to retain it.
At SIUE, Chick-Fil-A is the only outside food vendor located within the main cafeteria. Other kiosks are in an adjacent hall, and Auntie Anne's Pretzels and Starbucks are located on a different floor of the university center.
However, some students at SIUE said they think Chick-Fil-A should remain.
"I don't support (CEO Dan Cathy's) beliefs, but you're entitled to your beliefs," said student Kameris Biggs, of Chicago. "It may be a symbol, but it's not discrimination... Where his money goes, it goes."
Student Grant Claunch, of Glen Carbon, said that if students disagree with Chick-Fil-A, they should just not eat there. That sentiment was echoed by other students.
Emmanuel also pointed it out: "We respect that members of our campus community have choices on a daily basis, and we encourage students, faculty and staff to express their viewpoints through those choices."
The Chick-Fil-A issue points out the importance of continuing sensitivity to issues among campus constituencies, Emmanuel said.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.