Although students gathered outside Chick-fil-A at New York University today to stand in opposition to the restaurant’s substantial contributions to anti-LGBT groups, the university's student government chair sent out an email to all students reiterating the governing board's position made in 2011 when it "voted not to support an institutional ban of Chick-Fil-A" from campus.
"The Student Senators Council believes that freedom of expression is the most important virtue of an institute devoted to education," Albert Cotugno, chair of the Student Senator's Council wrote in an e-mail to students. "The SSC also believes there is a fundamental difference between personal boycott and institutional prohibition. To ban any entity from campus for ideological reasons is, in most every case, to limit freedom of expression."
The students, however, rallied on behalf of over 10,890 others who signed a Change.org petition urging the university to disband itself from the fast-food chain by ending its contractual agreement on campus. The petition, started by Hillary Dworkoski, a bisexual freshman at the university, is one out of a series of petitions against the restaurant, but has recently picked up the attention of the media because it is the only Chik-fil-A location in New York City.
"While Hillary may not be the first person to take on New York City's only Chick-fil-A, I wouldn't be surprised if she's the last," said Change.org Campaign Manager Mark Anthony Dingbaum. "With no budget and armed with only a laptop, Hillary has amassed a student-powered campaign ... and she's showing no signs of stopping until Chick-fil-A is removed from campus. She's one indefatigable freshman."
According to Equality Matters, IRS 990 forms reveal that Chick-fil-A's charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, donated almost $2 million to anti-gay groups in 2009. This money has supported a number of groups – including Focus on the Family, Exodus International and the Family Research Council – opposed to LGBT equality.
"It's a contradiction of values," said Dworkoski. "I chose to attend NYU because it's known to be one of the most diverse and accepting schools in the country. Supporting Chick-fil-A, which gives millions of dollars to anti-gay organizations, completely undermines our university values."
Although the university student government does not support banning Chik-fil-A from campus, Cotugno encourages students to continue to express their opposition to the chain. "The Student Senators Council encourages concerned students and other community members to continue investigating the issue and further urges them to exercise their right to personally boycott any entity that offends their moral sensibilities," he wrote.
UPDATE @ 10:15P: Despite student government's message, Dworkoski remains committed to giving Chik-fil-A the boot. "This email does not affect me at all," she said. "I will continue raising awareness about this issue and trying to get rid of Chick-fil-A on campus even if it takes all three of my remaining years at NYU."
[Photo: Hillary Dworkoski (Photo via Facebook.)]
READ the full Student Senator's Council letter below the jump.
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TO: Members of the NYU Community
FROM: Albert Cotugno, Chair, Student Senators Council
RE: Chick-Fil-A Decision
I am writing, on behalf of the Student Senators Council (SSC), to inform you of a decision made at the end of the Fall 2011 semester regarding the presence of the Chick-Fil-A restaurant at NYU.
Last year, a concerned student brought to the attention of the Student Senators Council the alleged link between the Chick-Fil-A franchise and organizations that support marriage solely between heterosexual individuals. Over the course of the fall semester, the Student Senators Council spent considerable time and effort investigating this alleged link and discussing a potential ban of Chick-Fil-A on campus.
As a general rule, the Student Senators Council believes that freedom of expression is the most important virtue of an institute devoted to education. The SSC also believes there is a fundamental difference between personal boycott and institutional prohibition. To ban any entity from campus for ideological reasons is, in most every case, to limit freedom of expression. It is because of this fact that the Council takes the weight of evidence very seriously when considering proposed bans.
After extensive deliberation, the Student Senators Council agreed that there was insufficient evidence at this time to justify a ban of Chick-Fil-A. At this point, there have been no reported acts of discrimination on the part of the restaurant chain, according to the information presented to the council and the additional research undertaken. It is for this reason that the Council voted not to support an institutional ban of Chick-Fil-A.
The Student Senators Council encourages concerned students and other community members to continue investigating the issue and further urges them to exercise their right to personally boycott any entity that offends their moral sensibilities.