Saying he fully expected to request Chick-fil-A to leave campus following the Student Senate vote in November, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey President Herman J. Saatkamp announced the food chain would remain on campus at the Student Senate meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 29, in the college Board of Trustees meeting room.
Saatkamp, along with members of the Student Senate, changed their minds after discovering that Chick-fil-A no longer made contributions to five questionable organizations, including he Family Research Council, which reportedly lobbied against a resolution that would denounce Uganda’s so-called “Kill the Gays” bill.
In fact, further investigation showed that Chick-fil-A has not donated to that group since 2010.
“They were very cooperative with us,” Saatkamp said of Chick-fil-A.
Since Saatkamp couldn’t meet with the franchise on a number of occasions due to previous commitments, he left it up to Shane Windmeyer, Director of Campus Pride, to evaluate Chick-fil-A’s 990 forms. Campus Pride is Campus Pride, a national non-profit group representing student leaders and groups advocating for safer college environments for GLBTQ students.
Windmeyer has seen the tax forms, which will not be publicly released until the spring, and deemed everything Chick-fil-A was no longer aligned with the Family Research Council, or any of the other four groups.
In the fall, members of the Stockton Pride Alliance, which represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at the college, attended Student Senate meeting to complain about discrimination. They felt the presence of Chick-fil-A encouraged discrimination, and the franchise’s alleged support for the Family Research Council was enough to bring about a senate vote. The Student Senate voted 14-10 in favor of sending a letter to Saatkamp, requesting he ask Chick-fil-A to leave campus.
“We had six or seven meetings with President Saatkamp, and two involved Chick-fil-A,” Student Senate President A.J. Vervoort said.
The letter was a request and didn’t bind Saatkamp to making a decision to ask the food chain to leave campus.
“Stockton is a liberal institution that takes seriously its duty to preserve an environment free of discrimination,” Vervoort said. “If Chick-fil-A had not altered its contributions, I’m sure the outcome would’ve been a lot different.”
That idea was given credence by Saatkamp’s comments during his presentation to the Senate, stating that going into discussions, he believed he would end up asking Chick-fil-A to leave campus.
Both Vervoort and Saatkamp said Chick-fil-A was cooperative, and both changed their minds following Windmeyer’s discovery.
“I was surprised they hadn’t said they weren’t supporting those organizations publicly,” Vervoort said. “If you’re going to continue to do business on college campuses, you have to adjust the organizations you choose to fund. The result is a win-win for the college community because we have a more informed student body now.”
Vervoort and Student Senate Vice President David Lamando were involved in the discussions with Saatkamp the College Senate President and Chick-fil-A.
“Their donating practices are different now and the argument here is over,” Lamando said.
Senator Manar Hussein voted in favor of asking Chick-fil-A to leave on Nov. 20, but added the Student Senate must discuss all human rights issues, as it portrayed the Chick-fil-A issue as such. On Tuesday, Hussein said committees have been formed to tackle different issues, but said she won’t be satisfied until she sees the results. She was also disappointed with the amount of time spent on the Chick-fil-A issue.
“I’m disappointed that the information was there two years ago, and that we wasted our time with something that could’ve been resolved with a little more attention and research.”
Senator Kaitlin Cibenko also previously voted in favor of asking Chick-fil-A to leave.
“In light of the changes, I’m OK with having it on campus,” Cibenko said. “Although personally, I won’t be eating there because I’m a vegetarian.”