Speakers voice opinions on student union Chick-fil-A at LGBT studies open forum
Hailey Eisenbach / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Melissa Vito, the vice president of Student Affairs at the UA, talks to LBGTQ students and supporters at an open forum regarding the controversial donating practices of Chick-fil-A and its removal from the SUMC.
A variety of speakers voiced their opinions and expressed their concerns about the Chick-fil-A restaurant located in the student union at an open forum hosted Wednesday night.
The Institute for LGBT studies and the LGBTQ Student Affairs Office hosted the “Teach Out” event, which featured six speakers, including Melissa Vito, vice president of Student Affairs, and Joel Hauff, interim director of Arizona Student Unions. The event was held in response to concern from the LGBTQ community about the presence of the restaurant on campus.
“Our goal was just to create a forum where people could have informed conversation and get some good information and use it in whatever way they decide to use it,” said Susan Stryker, director of the Institute for LGBT Studies.
Following background information on Chick-fil-A and controversy regarding President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy’s comments opposing same-sex marriage, audience members listened as Tom Buchanan, the development director for the Institute of LGBT Studies, shared his thoughts on the franchise.
“All I have to say is on a personal level, it turns my stomach every time I walk through the union and see that we have a Chick-fil-A in our student union,” Buchanan said. “It offends me.”
Buchanan acknowledged the right of the community to eat at Chick-fil-A if they wanted to, but also said he was concerned whether or not they “know what it is they’re supporting in doing that.”
When Melissa Vito spoke, she addressed Chick-fil-A’s financial success, which is relevant because “the union is about 94 percent self-supporting” and also helps support other areas on campus.
However, she went on to describe discussions with President Ann Weaver Hart and with union staff regarding what it would take to get out of the agreement with the restaurant.
“I would love to find a way that we could find something that would be as profitable as Chick-fil-A that weren’t Chick-fil-A,” Vito said. “I suspect that there are things like that that exist, but it’s harder than it seems.”
Vito said having Chick-fil-A on campus is not breaking any laws, but it is something she would like to look at. After she spoke, Vito answered questions from audience members on topics such as personnel policies and what percentage of the union restaurant’s revenue actually goes back to the company.
Hauff explained that the arrangement between the UA and Chick-fil-A’s licensing agreement calls for the restaurant to be paid 10 percent of gross revenues per year. Additionally, 22 percent of the profits per year stay with the university.
Hauff explained that the Chick-fil-A located in the union makes 30 to 40 percent profit per year and about 22 to 25 percent of that profit goes to the university.
Before the forum opened to questions from the audience, Hauff explained that Chick-fil-A is extremely successful and that in the 2012 fiscal year, the restaurant returned $351,400 to the Arizona Student Unions, which goes to support other things the unions do.
The restaurant also returned $66,300 to the university through an administrative service charge, Hauff added. On a $1.5 million operation, Hauff said this is almost a 33 percent return.
Despite this return to the university, Hauff expressed a desire that Chick-fil-A executives not promote their beliefs through the company.
“I wish more than anything else that Dan Cathy could learn to just keep his business private, that he didn’t use Chick-fil-A as a forum for his views,” Hauff said.
Hauff fielded a majority of questions regarding the workings of the student union and the process of getting franchises on campus.
When a student asked whether or not the union would end its contract with Chick-fil-A in the future, Hauff said there are no plans to do so as of now. However, Hauff said Hart has been trying to figure out what the right decision is.
Following the forum, some students commented on their disappointment in the lack of solutions on the issue.
“I feel like the motives were positive, that the intentions were good, but I’m not completely satisfied with the results,” said Tameira Shepherd, a biochemistry freshman. “I don’t like jumping around the issues. I would like more direct and more straightforward methods of prevention and resolution of issues.”