A proposal concerning the possibility of allowing a Chick-fil-A to open on the Hopkins campus was debated at this week’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting.
The meeting began with junior Andrew Guernsey — Co-President of Voice For Life (VFL), a pro-life group on campus — who spoke as a member of the Catholic Community at Hopkins, posing a question to SGA.
“Are social conservatives still welcome on the Hopkins campus?” Guernsey asked.
This rhetorical inquiry was in response to the recent resolution stating SGA’s opposition to current and future Chick-fil-A development plans on and near campus. Guernsey asked that SGA “do nothing about a hypothetical Chick-fil-A,” calling the bill “a discriminatory policy.”
The idea of a Chick-fil-A on campus first came about when students posted on the SGA Facebook page that they would like to see a franchise opened on campus. Two weeks ago, DSAGA brought the hypothetical issue of Chick-fil-A opening on Hopkins’ campus to the SGA. Freshman John Hughes, a member of DSAGA, called the statement a proactive measure if Hopkins were to consider opening a Chick-fil-A in the future.
Then, during last week’s meeting, other students expressed their opposition to this possibility, prompting a group of senators to write a statement concerning the issue.
Free speech is at the center of the debate. Hughes differentiated between political opinion and hate speech, believing that banning Chick-fil-A because of its anti-gay stance is not violating free speech because Chick-fil-A was engaging in acts of hate speech.
“The types of organizations that Chick-fil-A contributes money to were not a church which happens to coincidentally be anti-LGBT. Chick-fil-A was giving money to organizations which were supporting the formulation of things like laws in Uganda that were literally allowing gay people to be executed for being gay,” Hughes said.
To expand on this point, Hughes raised different factors, such as services and reputation, that would go into decisions about what businesses are going to be on university property.
“It’s just like when CNN hires a news correspondent,” Hughes said. “They’re hiring that correspondent to represent CNN.”
Though he was not present at this week’s SGA meeting, Hughes’ view was that SGA should ban the opening of a Chick-fil-A on campus to keep campus a safe place for members of the LGBTQ community.
Later, sophomore John Kuhn remarked on behalf of Hopkins Students for Liberty.
“As libertarians, we do support equality for LGBTQ members, and we do believe in their ideals, and we do believe that non-heterosexuals should be treated equally under the law,” Kuhn said. “However, we did come down in opposition to the bill.”
Kuhn addressed certain societal ideals and norms and discussed that the Chick-fil-A business model is not discriminatory.
“They treat gays or transgenders or anyone equally. It’s just a food franchise. And there haven’t been any instances of discrimination at Chick-fil-A,” Kuhn said.
To emphasize his point, Kuhn drew a parallel by saying that if Chick-fil-A were to be banned, many companies would also be banned.
“I generally am opposed to liberal policies, but you don’t see me trying to ban Starbucks or Ben & Jerry’s because their CEO made liberal remarks,” Kuhn said. “No student group should have that kind of preferential treatment and that unique power to just ban whatever franchise or organization that they don’t agree with. I support everything they stand for, but I think people are very afraid to deny them what they want because it’s politically incorrect to say no to the LGBTQ community.”
Both Guernsey and Kuhn made the proposal at the meeting that Chick-fil-A should be allowed on campus.
Following these presentations, SGA Executive President Janice Bonsu clarified that SGA was not voting to ban Chick-fil-A and does not in fact have the liberty to do so. Rather, the resolution proposed by SGA was intended to express an opinion on the matter, one that the administration may not necessarily share.
The discussion culminated in a vote in which an overwhelming majority, 18 in favor and 8 against, supported an adherence to the statement made by SGA in the resolution: that all other options should be exhausted before Chick-fil-A were to come to campus.