Cal Poly is try­ing to in­crease diver­sity. Yet it’s al­low­ing Chick-fil-A to stay on cam­pus?

The Tribune (SLO) - - Opinion - BY THE TRI­BUNE EDI­TO­RIAL BOARD

Cal Poly Pres­i­dent Jeffrey Arm­strong in­voked both the First Amend­ment

and the slip­pery slope ar­gu­ment to jus­tify keeping Chick-fil-A on cam­pus.

Both are weak reasons for al­low­ing the ho­mo­pho­bic chicken chain on cam­pus; he would have been bet­ter off play­ing it by the book and em­pha­siz­ing that Cal Poly is con­trac­tu­ally ob­li­gated to al­low Chick-fil-A to stay put until the ex­pi­ra­tion of a five-year con­tract signed in 2018.

In­stead, Arm­strong used high­fa­lutin ar­gu­ments to try to con­vince the Cal Poly com­mu­nity that Chick-fil-A has some moral right to sell chicken on cam­pus.

“Who decides what’s bad?” Arm­strong asked in re­sponse to an Aca­demic Sen­ate res­o­lu­tion urg­ing Cal Poly to ter­mi­nate its con­tract with Chick-fil-A.

“What’s the next topic?” Arm­strong con­tin­ued, ac­cord­ing to Mus­tang News. “What’s the next com­pany? Are we go­ing to ex­pect the (Cal Poly) Cor­po­ra­tion to in­ves­ti­gate, look at ev­ery com­pany? Where do we draw the line? It’s a very slip­pery slope.”

As a mat­ter of fact, we do ex­pect the Cal Poly Corp. to in­ves­ti­gate ev­ery com­pany.

And we won­der, would Arm­strong make the same com­ment about an on­cam­pus busi­ness that, say, do­nated to or­ga­ni­za­tions ad­vo­cat­ing for white supremacy?

Let’s hope not. De­ci­sion-mak­ers in po­si­tions of power must make choices like this all the time, to de­ter­mine whether their mis­sions and values align.

There must be some vet­ting of pri­vate com­pa­nies that seek to do busi­ness on pub­lic univer­sity cam­puses, because al­low­ing a busi­ness to set up shop there is a rare priv­i­lege, and one that can be eas­ily in­ter­preted as an im­plicit en­dorse­ment of that com­pany’s values.

And Chick-fil-A has made it clear, both in pub­lic state­ments and in do­na­tions to non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, that it be­lieves ho­mo­sex­ual acts in gen­eral and same-sex marriage in par­tic­u­lar are wrong.

At the same time, Chick-fil-A says it’s com­mit­ted to “serv­ing and valu­ing every­one re­gard­less of their be­liefs or opin­ions.” We have no rea­son to be­lieve it doesn’t do ex­actly that at Cal Poly.

But the pub­lic way in which it’s con­demned ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is hard to ig­nore.

Is that mes­sage of in­tol­er­ance one that Cal Poly — which has been work­ing so hard on diver­sity and in­clu­sion is­sues — wants to send to stu­dents?

And what about the state of Cal­i­for­nia?

It’s send­ing a mixed — even hyp­o­crit­i­cal — mes­sage by al­low­ing Chick­fil-A on state-owned prop­erty while tak­ing a hard line in other ar­eas.

Re­mem­ber, Cal­i­for­nia is the state that bans pub­licly funded or sponsored travel by state agen­cies, in­clud­ing the CSU, to states that dis­crim­i­nate on the ba­sis of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity or gen­der ex­pres­sion.

How hard would it be for the univer­sity sys­tem to draw up a list of stan­dards that busi­nesses must meet if they want to op­er­ate on pub­lic prop­erty?

This is not deny­ing Chick-fil-A its right to free speech, or de­priv­ing stu­dents of the op­por­tu­nity to learn about a va­ri­ety of view­points.

The univer­sity is under no obli­ga­tion to al­low a con­tro­ver­sial busi­ness to be a per­ma­nent fix­ture on cam­pus, where it could make some stu­dents and staff un­com­fort­able.

Chick-fil-A can set up shop on what­ever pri­vate prop­erty it chooses, and that’s ex­actly what it’s done. It has nearly 80 lo­ca­tions in Cal­i­for­nia alone, in­clud­ing one at Enos Ranch in Santa Maria. And it’s done very well; ac­cord­ing to sev­eral sources, it’s one of the fastest-grow­ing fast-food chains in the na­tion.

But it’s ef­forts to establish lo­ca­tions on pub­lic prop­erty have been con­tro­ver­sial.

In fact, this isn’t the first time Chick-fil-A’s pres­ence on the Cal Poly cam­pus has been ques­tioned.

There were protests — both pro and con Chick­fil-A — in 2012.

Ac­cord­ing to Mus­tang News, that prompted an ex­ec­u­tive with the Cal Poly Cor­po­ra­tion to say that, in the fu­ture, “Cal Poly Corp. will place spe­cial em­pha­sis on how well a busi­ness fits with Cal Poly’s com­mu­nity ideals when de­cid­ing whether or not to bring a fran­chise to cam­pus.”

That same re­view should be ap­plied to busi­nesses al­ready on cam­pus.

We strongly urge Pres­i­dent Arm­strong to com­mit to con­duct­ing a thor­ough and trans­par­ent re­view of Chick-fil-A the next time it’s con­tract is up for re­newal so that he can en­sure it is a suitable fit for this cam­pus and that the Cal Poly com­mu­nity actually wants it there.

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