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Wednesday, April 11, 2012 07:13 pm

What would Col. Sanders do?

Chick-fil-A generates controversy at UIS

Chick-fil-A may be roosting at University of Illinois Springfield, and not everyone is happy with the prospect.

“Have we been in contact with them?” says Derek Schnapp, UIS spokesman. “We have been. We’re basically at the discussion stage with our campus community.”

Whether Chick-fil-A will return to Springfield since leaving the city in the 1990s has been a hot topic. In 2008, White Oaks Mall encouraged folks to send postcards to the Atlanta-based restaurant chain, asking for a restaurant here. Last fall, “Will Chick-fil-A Come To Springfield?” was nominated as the city’s Best Kept Secret when Illinois Times polled readers in preparation for the annual Best of Springfield edition.

The answer is maybe.

The UIS Student Government Association on Sunday is scheduled to take up the question. If the association says yes, then the entire student body could be asked to vote in a referendum, Schnapp said. If the association says no, then the proposal would go no further, he said. Schnapp said that he could not say when an on-campus franchise might open.

“There’s absolutely no time frame whatsoever,” Schnapp said. “We’re at the stage to hear opinions.”

Citing the company’s financial support for charities perceived hostile to gay rights, some on campus are against the idea. Junior Alex Williams last Thursday posted fliers around campus headlined “UIS Cares More About Chickens Than Their Students.”

Williams says that most of the fliers have been taken down.

“One day, I just got really angry after class, and I went and printed out 200 of them and posted them around campus,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of faculty and staff that are very concerned about this.”

Michael Murphy, an assistant professor in the Department of Women and Gender Studies, says that the issue should not be decided with a vote.

“The problem with that is, it puts the rights of minorities up to a popular vote,” Murphy said. “This is a problematic thing for us to be bringing to a state-supported university. … You put one fast-food franchise on campus, you basically have a captive audience.”

Chancellor Susan Koch has, apparently, not committed. When Murphy emailed Koch asking her to kill the proposal, the chancellor refused in an email the professor received today and provided to Illinois Times.

“It seems to me that this is a good educational opportunity and that it will be important for our students to explore the issue and take the time to learn about it,” Koch wrote.

According to equalitymatters.org, a website dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, a Chick-fil-A’s charitable foundation called WinShape donated nearly $2 million in 2009 to charities that have opposed gay rights, including marriage rights for homosexuals. The company has said that it does not discriminate.

“We’re not anti-anybody,” company president Dan Cathy told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year. “Our mission is to create raving fans.”

Cathy last year also issued a statement last year saying that his family, which owns the company, practices tolerance.

“While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com


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