I am proud of my college for putting their core values first in a debate that has long lost steam in the mainstream media. Even in the face of Chick-Fil-A's business reportedly thriving despite their anti-gay controversy, Guilford College recognized the need to speak out about such blatant hate speech. On which side of history will your institution of higher learning be?
Guilford College President Kent Chabotar established a study group of students, faculty and staff in August in response to the concerns of some faculty members and students about the relationship between the College and Chick-fil-A. Many were not aware we were taking money from the corporation.
There is currently no business relationship between Guilford College and Chick-fil-A. The study group recommended that Guilford not resume any relationship with Chick-fil-A because Chick-fil-A's corporate foundation donated to organizations that oppose marriage equality and foster discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. I say bravo. The college severed its ties following media reports of Chick-fil-A's blatant discrimination and funding of organizations harmful to the GLBT community.
The study group did not stop there. According to a report released by Guilford College:
The study group also recommended a broader examination of Guilford's ethical purchasing policy as outlined in the College's Diversity Plan. The Diversity Plan emphasizes increasing diversity on campus and promoting an atmosphere of acceptance, understanding and respect for all identities and cultures. The Plan also established an ethical purchasing policy that "aims to establish realistic goals and guidelines to ensure that the College's Quaker background directs the purchasing and procurement of goods at the institution."
"In the past 10 years the Chick-fil-A restaurant in the College's neighborhood sponsored athletic schedule cards and donated food for giveaways. Total cash donated over a 10-year relationship was approximately $700. The restaurant is not a sponsor of the athletic program this year. The study group found that charitable giving by Chick-fil-A's WinShape Foundation in the last nine years included gifts to such groups as Exodus International, the Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, the Marriage and Family Foundation, and the Family Research Council, which actively oppose marriage equality, foster discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, and promote the practices of psychological or religion-based intervention to cure or change members of the gay community."
While WinShape, which is funded by Chick-fil-A company profits, supports positive endeavors to help foster children and provide college student scholarships, the foundation's stance on marriage equality and opposition to the LGBTQ community are not consistent with Quaker testimonies and Guilford's core values of equality and integrity.
The study group understands that the local franchisee is largely separate from the activities of the corporate foundation. However, we recommend discontinuation of any affiliation that might result in the college supporting or appearing to support anti-gay activities or legislation.
President Chabotar approved the study group's recommendation noting:
"These decisions are not about comments made by the Chick-fil-A CEO about same sex marriage. As stated quite clearly in my commencement charge to the Class of 2012, Guilford College's core values promote diversity of ideas and we will not censor free speech except in extraordinary circumstances or become an echo chamber for the left or the right. This is about overt actions taken to support activities that self-evidently run counter to our core values. Guilford will not do business with or accept sponsorship from the chain. Future decisions about corporate or other external relationships will be made on a case-by-case basis depending on the facts in evidence at the time."
It is important that Colleges and Universities know where to draw the line between free speech and hate speech. Kudos to Guilford College for not placing this issue on the back burner and not allowing capitalism to get in the way of the values we embrace as tomorrow's leaders.