After postponing its vote last semester, the SUB Board decided Wednesday to let Chick-fil-A retain its spot in the SUB.
Eight board members voted to keep the controversial restaurant while three voted to replace Chick-fil-A with another restaurant.
Rebecca Vanucci, a GPSA representative to the SUB Board and its president, said the board was supposed to vote on the issue in October, but postponed it until this semester to better assess student reaction to Chick-fil-A. She said she was overwhelmed by the amount of student participation in the survey.
“In my four years on the SUB Board, this has never happened,” she said. “We’re talking about an issue, and we’re getting taped, and we’re getting a lot of audience.”
In June and July of last year, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy made several public comments against same-sex marriage, saying that those who “have the audacity to define what marriage is about” were “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.” Several media outlets reported that the restaurant, with branches in 38 states in the U.S., has donated millions to anti-gay marriage groups such as the Family Research Council. On July 31, 2012, Chick-fil-A issued a statement saying it was leaving the debate over same-sex marriage to politicians.
On Wednesday, the ASUNM Senate voted 15-3 in favor of a resolution that urged the University to replace Chick-fil-A. The student government passed the resolution after conducting a survey last month. The results showed that 85 percent of those surveyed were in favor of keeping Chick-fil-A on campus, while 15 percent were in favor of kicking it out.
The SUB Board did a similar survey in cooperation with ASUNM and GPSA that ran from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11. According to a presentation by the SUB Board, 3,755 respondents composed of undergraduates, graduates and faculty members participated in the survey. Results indicated that 44 percent of respondents said Chick-fil-A’s principles are positive overall, while 41 percent said they are negative overall.
Vanucci, who voted to kick out Chick-fil-A, said she was disappointed about the results of the vote. She said that because students who complained to the board about the restaurant during recent months, the issue surrounding Chick-fil-A is a safety and a moral issue.
“My main concern as SUB Board president is to keep the SUB as safe and accessible for everyone,” she said. “No matter how many people say, ‘just don’t buy the chicken,’ if someone told me that they feel unsafe … I should respect that feeling.”
SUB Board members Debbie Morris and Priscila Poliana voted alongside Vanucci to remove Chick-fil-A from the SUB.
Associate Vice President for Student Life Walter Miller, who voted to keep Chick-fil-A, said the issue about Chick-fil-A is not an issue of campus safety, although the resolution released by ASUNM last week frames it otherwise. He said that if the University recognizes a safety problem with Chick-fil-A, it will address it immediately.
“Since the resolution came out, we really tried to validate some of the ideas,” he said. “If safety issues have ever been the case, then that should be dealt with by the administration ASAP. We pride ourselves on being able to have people voice their opinions and to work in the same environment, and so we want that challenge to be addressed.”
Miller said that although the results of a University survey conducted by the SUB Board were broad, the results are still representative of the University community.
According to the presentation, 14 percent of the SUB’s restaurant revenues come from Chick-fil-A, which is the fourth largest revenue among all SUB restaurants.
Also according to the presentation, replacing Chick-fil-A would have cost the SUB at least $175,000. Miller said funds would have come from student fees and SUB revenues, as the SUB cannot ask for funding from the Legislature or from UNM’s repair fund.
UNM student Steven Ybarra said the board made the right decision to keep Chick-fil-A. He said the restaurant does not threaten the safety of LGBTQ students. He said that because 85 percent of students want to keep Chick-fil-A on campus, according to a recent ASUNM survey, the decision was good for the majority of the University community.
“If they feel unsafe, it’s because … they created a symbol of oppression that they feel they need to protect themselves from,” he said. “Nobody is in imminent danger in this campus because of chicken. The majority of students do want to keep Chick-fil-A here on campus.”
Undergraduate student Tamekia Sanford said she agrees with the board’s decision. She said Chick-fil-A should have freedom of speech and that students should have the right to choose the food that they want on campus.
She said students who don’t support Chick-fil-A should simply not buy food from the restaurant.
“If you’re against Chick-fil-A why would you buy the food?” she said. “It’s like saying I’m for Victoria Secret, but Victoria Secret does not have anything for big girls in there. So when I’m in the mall, I pass Victoria Secret.”
But UNM Social Justice League head Amy Vesper said she was disappointed with the vote. She said the board seemed to be against Chick-fil-A when her organization met with board members before the vote, and that the members voted that way because the vote was done in public.
“The SUB committee felt like their job could be on the line if they voted for Chick-fil-A to get kicked out of campus because it’s such a touchy issue,” she said. “Before this vote, the board seemed to be in favor of following through the University’s business policy regarding sexual orientation.”
Vesper said Chick-fil-A poses a huge threat to student safety on campus, as students who want to get Chick-fil-A out of UNM have received threats from the opposing side.
“There’s an employee in the LGBT Resource Center who has received a threat on their desk regarding Chick-fil-A being removed off of campus,” she said. “Also, the senator who sponsored this resolution has been receiving threats. One of the threats told her to not walk alone.”
Vanucci said because of the vote, there will be no changes to Chick-fil-A’s contract with Chartwells and UNM. She said the board is set to discuss the results of the vote in their next meeting next month.