The Associated Students of the University of New Mexico approved a resolution on Wednesday night to replace the controversial Chick-fil-A in the SUB with another restaurant.
ASUNM Vice President Sunny Liu said that out of ASUNM’s 20 senators, 15 voted in favor of the resolution, three voted against, and two abstained.
Liu said the resolution reflects the student government’s official stance on the issue. He said the resolution aims to make the University more comfortable for minority groups, especially LGBTQ students, on campus, even though 85 percent of students surveyed said they wanted Chick-fil-A to stay.
“We did not feel that it was right to remain silent on such a big student concern on campus,” he said. “The Senate chose to put the question on the table and take a stance on it. We are here to represent all students, not just the majority.”
In June and July of last year, Chick-fil-A Chief Operating Officer 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 then 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. But on July 31, 2012, Chick-fil-A issued a statement saying it was leaving the debate over same-sex marriage to politicians.
The resolution was sponsored by four ASUNM senators, ASUNM Attorney General Jeff Dan Herrera and the UNM Social Justice League.
Liu said the resolution is ASUNM’s formal recommendation regarding Chick-fil-A, and that ASUNM plans to forward it to University bodies such as the Board of Regents, the President’s Office and the SUB Board. He said the SUB Board, which “has more jurisdiction on the issue” than ASUNM, will vote next Wednesday on whether to let Chick-fil-A stay in the SUB. The SUB Board will have the final say on whether to keep Chick-fil-A.
Liu said that because ASUNM conducted student surveys about Chick-fil-A before the vote, the resolution is intended to reflect undergraduate students’ stance.
However, ASUNM Senator Colt Balok, who voted against the resolution, said that 85 percent of the survey’s respondents said they want to keep Chick-fil-A in the SUB, and 15 percent agreed to remove the restaurant.
ASUNM Senator Earl Shank, who voted in favor of the resolution, said he supported it because Chick-fil-A does not line up with the principles of UNM.
“Chick-fil-A has made contributions to organizations that are opposed to the ideals of certain student groups on campus,” he said. “I felt that it was in (UNM’s) best interest to support the resolution … in favor of a less controversial restaurant in the SUB.”
Shank said Chartwells Dining Services has issued a statement stating that because Chick-fil-A employees actually work for Chartwells, their jobs will be secure even if Chick-fil-A is removed of the SUB.
Balok said that although he sympathizes with the LGBTQ community on campus, the homophobia associated with Chick-fil-A would not be solved by removing the restaurant. He said UNM should grant Chick-fil-A its freedom of speech.
“I do not believe in being cruel in any way to homosexuals, but I do believe Chick-fil-A has the right to speak what they believe is right,” he said. “Those people that are hateful against homosexuals will still be hateful towards GBLTQ community if Chick-fil-A is here or not.”
ASUNM Senators Austin Gonzales and Wesley Martinez also voted against the resolution. ASUNM Senators Holly Marquez and Jillian Martinez abstained.
ASUNM Senator Rachel Williams said she hesitated before voting in favor of the resolution because of the results from the ASUNM student survey, but she said the resolution represents the voice of LGBTQ students.
“I realized ASUNM should protect those voices that can’t be heard. The voices of our minority express that they did feel uncomfortable about Chick-fil-A on campus.”
Williams said that if the University decides to replace Chick-fil-A, any restaurant can take its place in the SUB. She said although she prefers for a local restaurant to take over, she expects ASUNM to conduct a student survey to identify the prospective business.
“I wouldn’t mind a franchise coming in,” she said. “Healthy options would be good.”
But Liu said ASUNM’s approval of the resolution does not guarantee the replacement of Chick-fil-A in the SUB.
“It’s a very long process,” he said. “There’s the process of finding a suitable replacement, dealing with their current contract, and, if they do decide to kick out Chick-fil-A, physical modifications to the area. It’s not like it’s going to disappear tomorrow.”