Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Narbeth Emmanuel announced his decision to retain the Chick-fil-A restaurant on campus Friday at the Student Government meeting.
Emmanuel said the process to reach this decision was complex for everyone involved.
“No decision is valueless… It [is] a struggle trying to separate one’s professional from one’s personal values,” Emmanuel said.
Emmanuel said he knew when the Chick-fil-A conversation began that he could not come to a decision that would please everyone on campus.
“What I do anticipate is some, perhaps, deep disappointment and, perhaps, frustration on the part of some members of the LGBT community that Chick-fil-A was not removed from campus,” Emmanuel said. “I can appreciate that, and I respect that.”
Political Science Association President Robert Wann called the decision “a win for the Constitution.”
Wann, who led the team in favor of retaining Chick-fil-A at the Oct. 17 student debate, said the group was debating law, not sexual preference.
“We weren’t trying to argue about gays or homosexuality,” Wann said. “We were just arguing for the Constitution.”
Student Body President Erik Zimmerman said he has mixed feelings about Chick-fil-A remaining on campus.
“I had an idea about the legal issues. I respect the administration for that,” Zimmerman said. “I would have liked for them to have used this as a push to create a multicultural center on campus.”
Emmanuel said the university will probably look into a multicultural center on campus in the future. However, if a funding source can be identified, there are plans to bring a multicultural counselor to campus by next year.
“The job will entail helping those individuals who have special and unique needs,” Emmanuel said.
One of the reasons Emmanuel stated for retaining the fast-food restaurant was that Chick-fil-A representatives “assured us that they are going to be doing business differently.”
Zimmerman said representatives of Chick-fil-A told the ad-hoc committee addressing the issue that WinShape had stopped funding organizations that oppose gay marriage.
Campus Pride Director Shane Windmeyer said his organization has worked with Chick-fil-A to find common ground. Windmeyer has seen the most recent tax documents (IRS Form 990) WinShape filed with the IRS, although the IRS has not yet made them publicly available.
“I do believe that when the 990 comes out, there will be good information that will move this topic forward in a positive direction for everyone,” Windmeyer said.
Safe Zone Co-chair Vicky Dean said that, in a way, the campus community is lucky that it was able to have an open conversation about Chick-fil-A and that the LGBT perspective was heard.
“As with any complex situation, sometimes the answer isn’t always what you want it to be, but knowing that your voice is heard is the most important [thing],” Dean said.
To accompany his announcement regarding Chick-fil-A, Emmanuel also had a message for the LGBT community. Soon, there will be a pool of funds available to create programs, activities and lectures in order to become a more inclusive campus.
“It came up as I listened, particularly to the voice of the LGBT community and their level of frustration and discomfort about our campus environment,” Emmanuel said. “I’m hoping this is one of many ways that we can help change the climate, make them feel welcome.”
Interested students are invited to submit a proposal for a program, activity or lecture, which could receive financing from the university after review from Morris University Center representatives and representatives from the LGBT community.
“[The funds will] come from our programming funds,” Emmanuel said. “It might even come from the revenue from Chick-fil-A.”
Dean said she had been contacted to assist in determining how that fund could be set up.
“I’m going to be working with the MUC to come up with a way of providing that funding,” Dean said.
Emmanuel said the group will have about $1,500 annually. The MUC, Safe Zone and the Kimmel Leadership Center will work together to determine how the funds will be administered and the process for submitting program requests.
According to Windmeyer, the fact that the fund was created is a measure of the Senate resolution’s success.
“Would that money have been made available without the Chick-fil-A controversy? If not, then the action was successful,” Windmeyer said.
Windmeyer said programs to promote understanding of LGBT issues on campus need to be ongoing to make a difference.
“You can’t just have $25,000 or $50,000 one year and say, ‘Let’s have some programs.’ It needs to be measurable,” Windmeyer said.
Senior speech communication major Julian Glover, of Bloomington, said the university has not made many strides toward becoming more accepting of its LGBT students. Glover said promises are empty without action.
“It’s the first step to getting on the right path, but I still think we have a long, long, long way to go,” Glover said. “Talk with no action might as well not have been talk at all. I really just think there needs to be action on a university level for things to really get better.”
Emmanuel highlighted in his announcement before the Student Government that students who do not agree with Chick-fil-A’s values still have the option to purchase food elsewhere — boycotting with their money.
“That can be a very powerful message,” Emmanuel said.