The University of South Dakota announced Oct. 16 Chick-fil-A would remain a dining option in the expanded Muenster University Center expected to be completed in spring 2014.
In a statement released by the university, USD President James Abbott said that while the university is opposed to discrimination, they also cannot discriminate against vendors.
“We understand that people feel aggrieved by the views of Chick-fil-A’s owner, and we are sympathetic to those on campus who objected,” Abbott said. “But we are advised by counsel that the university cannot discriminate against a vendor because of protected speech or the religious views of the company
The university originally included Chick-fil-A in its group of food vendors for the MUC expansion project after students listed the eatery as a top pick in a survey of popular restaurants in 2011.
However, concern was raised from members of the LGBT community after company President and COO Dan Cathy made controversial statements supporting what he called “traditional marriage.” Cathy’s foundation also made several donations to groups opposing gay marriage.
USD heard concerns from students at a public forum sponsored by the Student Government Association Sept. 25. SGA Vice President DJ Smith believed the forum was important in the Executive Committee’s decision-making process.
“The forum was incredibly important because staff, students and faculty were able to express how they felt about Chick-fil-A,” Smith said.
First-year Tasha Paulson said while she supports the university’s efforts to provide more dining options, she believes the university made the wrong decision.
“It’s good that they are bringing more options in for students,” Paulson said. “It was a bad idea for the university to include it because people (who feel discriminated) don’t approve of it. I feel that such people won’t go to eat there.”
Paulson said even if she did like Chik-fil-A, she still wouldn’t eat there.
“I do disagree with the company’s stance because I have friends who are gay,” Paulson said. “I don’t think I would eat there because I do support gay marriage and I think it was a bad idea by the company to release those statements.”
When the expanded student center opens, Chik-fil-A will join Qdoba and Einstein Bros. Bagels as the national food chains available for students.