The latest battle in the Great Chicken Sandwich Culture War is being fought at Trinity University, a private liberal arts university in San Antonio, Texas. Trinity’s Student Government Association (SGA) voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling for the administration to ban Chick-fil-A from the college food court concessions.
Chick-fil-A does not have a permanent location on the Trinity campus, but is currently included as part of a rotation of offerings from a variety of chain restaurants in the food court. Typically, Chick-fil-A would be available once every two weeks, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
The resolution passed by the SGA stated that “Trinity’s values of diversity and inclusion and Chick-fil-a’s values regarding the LGBT+ community are mutually exclusive…Trinity is a university that emphasizes its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Having Chick-fil-a in the rotation at [the food court] conflicts with those values.”
Listed among the SGA’s grievances with Chick-fil-A were the company’s donations to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The resolution is non-binding but is a way that the SGA communicates recommendations to the university administration, which has the legal power to negotiate the food court contracts with vendors like Chick-fil-A.
Not all students agreed with the SGA, however. Trinity’s chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (an alternative to College Republicans active on many Texas college campuses, often viewed as more traditionally conservative than CRs) spoke out against the resolution and had a social event at an off-campus Chick-fil-A location.
YCT President Isaiah Mitchell noted that Trinity is a private institution and “well within their rights” to kick the chicken purveyors off their campus if they so chose, but disputed the accusation that Chick-fil-A harms LGBT people, drawing a distinction between “[lobbying] against the political goals of the LGBTQ left” and “actually harming” people.
Another campus leader, Zoe Brigman, who is the president of a campus LGBT organization, told the Express-News “there isn’t much of a general consensus” among her members about Chick-fil-A and whether they should be at Trinity.
Part of the reason there may not be a “general consensus” among LGBT Trinity students against Chick-fil-A is that, like previous efforts to boycott or ban the restaurant, there aren’t any examples of the restaurant actually discriminating against employees or customers based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other category.
To the contrary, Chick-fil-A’s efficient and friendly service is an established part of their brand. One of the videos that went viral during the original attempts at protests after the late CEO S. Truett Cathy voiced his support for traditional marriage featured a man ordering only water (an item offered for free, so a loss for the restaurant in the amount of the cost of the water, cup, straw, and lid), yelling rudely at the drive-thru cashier about Cathy’s comments…and from the Chick-fil-A cashier, getting a polite apology and his free cup of water in response.
There is added irony for students at Trinity University — a supposedly Christian university — to be attacking a company for donating to Christian organizations like the Fellowship for Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army. Both of those organizations promote traditional Christian values, including a traditional view of marriage, but are hardly active in the political debate on that issue. Where they are active is supporting a significant amount of charitable work, including toy drives for poor children and support services for veterans and homeless people. It strikes me as an odd take for a college founded on Christian values to be offended at donating to those Salvation Army bell ringers, but perhaps it is a more accurate reflection of where Trinity is today.
Trinity was originally founded by the Presbyterian Church, but looking at their website today, it was difficult to find any evidence of their Christian roots or promotion of Christian values. In fact, I could not find the word “Christian” anywhere on the home page or on the subpages discussing the university’s founding, history, and values.
The closest I could find was this one sentence:
“Founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1869, Trinity values learning, faith, service, and connection to others, honoring the dignity and worth of every person. Our institutional values include Discovery, Excellence, Impact, The Individual, and Community.”
It is not yet clear what the Trinity administration will do in response to the SGA resolution. But if the students decide to kick the delicious chicken sandwiches off campus, it is not going to hurt the company financially.
To date, all efforts to boycott or ban Chick-fil-A have been wildly unsuccessful. Individual locations may be shut down or prohibited from opening, but Chick-fil-A’s profits continue to soar. In fact, the company has reported sales growth every year since its founding in 1946 and has established itself as the most profitable fast-food chain restaurant in America on a per-location basis, even though it is the only major chain that is closed every Sunday, and does not have the late night drive-through hours that McDonald’s and others offer.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.