Washington College owes LGBTQ+ students better than Chick-fil-A

 By Sophie Foster 

News Co-Editor 

  ​Over the past decade, many academic institutions nationwide indicated support of LGBTQ+ students by ceasing patronage of American fast food chain Chick-fil-A, according to Eater. Washington College, however, pointedly refuses to follow suit. 

According to Yahoo News, Chick-fil-A repeatedly came under fire throughout the 2010s for its monetary support of Christian organizations devoted to conversion therapy, gay marriage protestation, and other homophobic endeavors, and they continue to be the face of controversy. 

In recent years, the chain ardently donated to anti-LGBTQ+ organizations, including Exodus International, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Family Research Council, and the Salvation Army. Many of these donation practices endured even in the face of Chick-fil-A’s 2019 promise to abandon this intensive homophobic funding, according to Hilltop Views

Nonetheless, while many academic institutions, including several in Maryland, such as Johns Hopkins University, opted recently to prohibit Chick-fil-A on campus in response to student protest, WC continues to feature their food at a myriad of club events.  

If notable efforts from Chick-fil-A to redirect this funding, reframe their public image, and reconsider their engagements could be irrefutably produced, this may not be an issue. However, the company’s reluctance to cease support of unethical practices creates a moral boundary that WC frequently crosses.  

“It is true that Chick-fil-A has pledged multiple times to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations, most recently in 2019,” Jeremy Redlien wrote for The Reporter. “The problem is they have broken that promise almost as frequently as they have made it.” 

Despite several promises of this variety, Chick-fil-A – in the name of religious values and Christian conceptions of theoretical morality – persistently diverts its financial resources to organizations promoting bigoted ideals.  

The chain also rejects calls to unseat Chairman of the Board Dan Cathy, who serves as one of the most prominent donors to the National Christian Charitable Foundation. In 2021, the organization bankrolled efforts for the prevention of the passage of the Equality Act, which prevents discrimination based on one’s sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, according to The Reporter.  

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” Cathy said on “The Ken Coleman Show.” “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.” 

The willingness to overlook this type of commentary indicates a profound lack of care and consideration for the tangible impact of both Chick-fil-A’s financial contributions and the harmful rhetoric its leadership endorses. If the College is comfortable with complacency in this case, it is comfortable with the enduring victimization of its LGBTQ+ students.  

In September 2022, the Student Events Board offered Chick-fil-A to students attending Welcome Week, and the partnership only continued from there, despite the fact that the nearest Chick-fil-A location is more than 20 miles away from the College. 

​According to Senior Advisor of Encouraging Respect of Sexualities senior Avery Castellani, linking the College and its student-run groups to a corporation continuously devoted to causing harm to the LGBTQ+ community is a bad look for WC. 

​To Castellani, the effort of researching external organizations receiving the College’s support should not be a challenge for campus organizations, particularly considering how many local providers would be more than willing to partner with the College. 

“I don’t think any of the clubs on campus that partner with Chick-fil-A do so with malicious intent, nor do I believe that their members are harboring bigoted beliefs because of these transactions,” Castellani said. “However, I do think that said partnerships send a message that the organization’s support of anti-LGBTQ+ groups simply isn’t a deal-breaker for them, which I find troubling.”  

These troubled sentiments are not exclusive to Castellani; in fact, they should be the standard and the expectation the vast majority of the College community should be held to, particularly as allies and advocates of members of the LGBTQ+ community.  

According to Student Government Association Senator freshman Lillian Elgayar, Chick-fil-A’s prolonged history of anti-LGBTQ+ action should conflict with the College’s professed values of diversity and inclusivity. To Elgayar, this partnership presents sustained concern regarding WC’s ability to uphold its diversity statement. 

“It can…create a perception that the College’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity is not genuine, which can undermine the efforts of the institution to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone,” Elgayar said. “It is important for WC to carefully consider the message it sends through its partnerships and ensure that they align with the institution’s values and commitments.” 

Elgayar, who felt uncomfortable when asked recently by a club leader to sign up to help work an event catered by Chick-fil-A, said that the SGA may consider placing a ban on the use of school funds for the purchase of Chick-fil-A products as a way to more fully demonstrate a commitment to the work of inclusivity. 

“This is a crucial step toward creating a more welcoming and inclusive campus for everyone,” Elgayar said. “I know some students will be disappointed, but we must remember how many other restaurants and local businesses have the same products. Supporting local businesses could be a great way to redirect funds. We should not be going out of our way to support an organization that contradicts the values of diversity and inclusivity that our college upholds.” 

Going forward, it is worth considering that the College look locally in its approach to future catering engagements. If supporting and uplifting the community is truly WC’s priority, doing so will achieve double the impact — and chicken sandwiches are not unique to Chick-fil-A.  

Elm Archive Photo. 

Photo Caption: Instead of buying Chick-fil-A for events, clubs should look to team up with the WC catering service or with local businesses in Chestertown, like café Play It Again Sam’s. 

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