GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Richard Stockton College’s Student Senate voted 14-10 Tuesday to request the college cancel its contract with Chick-fil-A, citing the franchise’s corporate donating practices it says conflict with the college’s value statement.
The vote came despite a student survey that found 66 percent of students want the food franchise to remain on campus and that 69 percent eat there.
Senate members and the public were passionate but civil during their discussions of the resolution. The franchise has gotten a lot of attention at Stockton and on other college campuses nationwide over the past year, especially after company President Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press in July that he opposes same-sex marriage. The franchise financially supports groups that share that stance.
Student Senate member Maribeth Capelli said the body decided to address the issue because it has created tension on campus regarding acceptance of diversity. The student survey found 88 percent of students were aware of the publicity around Chick-fil-A.
Even with the vote, the issue is not resolved. Chick-fil-A’s 10-year contract is through Chartwells, the college’s food service provider, and not directly with Stockton. The franchise is one of several in the new Campus Center food court and was a popular choice when first announced.
Stockton Vice President for External Affairs Sharon Schulman said college President Herman J. Saatkamp Jr. looks forward to reviewing the resolution and will review the contractual issues.
“He will take it under serious advisement,” she said.
Several Senate members spoke before the vote, with some addressing the issue of allowing and tolerating dissenting views as being central to Stockton’s mission. Others said the issue was not free speech, but that all students were being required to support that speech through their meal plan fee.
“Free speech is not what this is about,” Senate member Edward Horan said. “The issue is, if you are on the meal plan, you are indirectly supporting it.”
Students had taken the issue seriously, including the debate club holding a debate on the issue last week.
About 75 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, a larger than average attendance, Senate President A.J. Vervoort said. Two students ate Chick-fil-A nuggets and fries during the meeting and left immediately after the vote.
Student Josh Kropkof, who has a radio show at Stockton, said he felt the group had “launched a missile to kill a mouse” and accused the Senate of voting for their own agendas rather than the will of the student body. He wondered if the Senate was ready to address every issue that might offend some students.
Vervoort, who as president abstains from voting unless there is a tie, said many students did not know all the issues; they just like the chicken.
“This was creating tension with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) and other groups,” he said. “We want all students to feel welcomed and supported here.”
He said the college administration has agreed with the Senate on other issues in the past, so he believes the resolution will be seriously reviewed.
Student Donald Schwer, who came dressed in a black dress and pink boa, said any vote on the side of human rights is the right vote. He said he realizes canceling the contract would be difficult, but, even if the vote turns out to be symbolic, it was an important step for student rights.
“It sends a message,” he said. “This is my money supporting something I do not choose to support.”
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