Leaders of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Student Senate support a decision by the college to allow Chick-fil-A to remain on campus despite a 14-10 senate vote in favor of asking the food chain to leave, the college announced Tuesday morning, Jan. 29.
According to college officials, the decision was made following a series of conversations and teleconferences between leaders of the Student Senate, including President A.J. Vervoort and Vice President David Lamando; College President Herman J. Saatkamp; Faculty Senate President Michael Frank; Chick-fil-A leaders; and Campus Pride, a national non-profit group representing student leaders and groups advocating for safer college environments for GLBTQ students.
It was Campus Pride who led a national campaign against Chick-fil-A following revelations that Chick-fil-A’s charitable organization, the WinShape Foundation, donates to the Family Research Council, which reportedly lobbied against a resolution that would denounce Uganda’s so-called “Kill the Gays” bill. The bill calls for the death penalty for anyone who commits an act of homosexuality, which has been deemed a crime in Uganda.
Stockton Affiliated Services Inc. (SASI) has a contract is with Chartwell’s, which then has contracts with the restaurants in the Campus Center. The contract keeps Chick-fil-A on campus for 10 years. A point of contention among students who wanted to see the restaurant leave is that money from the college students’ meal plans goes to Chick-fil-A automatically, and thus to WinShape and the Family Research Council.
On the Stockton campus, 66 percent of about 1,900 students surveyed voted in favor of keeping the food chain on campus, but the Student Senate voted to ask Chick-fil-A to leave on Nov. 20.
The result of that vote was a letter of resolution sent to Saatkamp requesting Chick-fil-A to leave. That letter sparked a series of conversations, according to college officials.
“This decision is the end result of an internal and external community engagement process,” Saatkamp said in a release issued Tuesday morning. “It happened following much discussion, fact-finding and deliberation."
According to Campus Pride Director Shane Windmeyer, the most recent public tax filings from Chick-fil-A showed support for youth education, leadership and family enrichment, communities, and "do not further political agendas."
The groups that were causing the most controversy weren't found to be supported. However, there are more recent tax documents filed by Chick-fil-A that have not yet been made public, according to college officials.
This convinced Vervoort and Lamando that despite the vote, it wasn't necessary for the college to ask Chick-fil-A to leave campus.
"The conversations enabled us to understand and respect contrasting viewpoints in a respectful manner," Vervoort said. "Given the new information I believe it is in the best interest of the Student Senate to allow the franchise to remain on campus. This should be a win win situation for all Stockton students."
Windmeyer wrote an Op-ed piece for the Huffington Post on Jan. 28 titled, “Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A,” in which he indicates the group's change in position is not a matter of the group "caving in," and no concessions were made.
"There was, in my view, conscience," Windmeyer wrote in the piece.
On Tuesday, he added, “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."
“Stockton has a well-earned record in support of diversity, inclusion and minority populations," Saatkamp said. "At the same time we take quite seriously our role as an institution of higher education that promotes the exchange of ideas. Only through recognition and understanding of our similarities and differences can we foster appreciation for others. I’m proud of the way in which our student and faculty leaders handled the process of analyzing complex information and points of view. It has been a pleasure working with them through the process.”
Saatkamp said the discussions allowed the college to "further promote diversity, inclusion and understanding among all groups." He added that he would develop and funding a plan to "heighten the college’s already strong sense of community and respect for all individuals."
He said part of that plan would include calling for diverse groups to meet on campus for "facilitated discussion on matters appropriate toward the advancement of Stockton’s educational mission and responsibilities for building an engaged citizenry."
“After weighing all the factors, I believe it is in the best interests of the college to allow Chick-fil-A to remain on campus,” Saatkamp said.