By Joash Mencias
Update, Dec. 2: Student trustee Stephanie Torres said her decision to abstain was the best decision in terms of representing students. When asked about how she felt about Chick-fil-A coming, she said: “I think that the decision has been made. But no matter what happens, Student Leadership Council will continue to focus on supporting diversity.”
The board of trustees approved a contract extension with Sodexo last Thursday, paving the way for Chick-fil-A Express to open in the cafeteria by January. The vote was 4-3, with one abstaining, in favor of extending the College of DuPage’s partnership with Sodexo Food Service until at least 2019. The close vote came after some trustees and students voiced concern over Chick-fil-A’s recent controversies over LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, including the CEO Dan Cathy’s comments in 2012. Marilyn Claes, COD student, expressed opposition to a licensed location opening on campus based on the controversy.
“This behavior of a CEO is highly controversial, and courting such a business strategy is in direct opposition to the values of the college and the local community. Such wave-making actions are foolhardy, shortsighted and counterproductive to a learning environment.”
Trustee Kim Savage echoed Claes’ sentiment during board discussion on the matter before the vote.
“I’m concerned that we as an institution would be allowing, our publicly funded institution, to generate revenue for an organization that does not uphold our campus non-discrimination guidelines… I personally object to having a Chick-fil-A on campus.”
Savage and others also added that they were only against Chick-fil-A on campus, not Sodexo’s partnership with the college. Several trustees asked questions regarding the Sodexo contract extension to Thomas Glaser, senior vice president. According to Glaser, the college was left under the impression Sodexo shared COD’s values and the idea of bringing Chick-fil-A was based on the potential of generating revenues. Trustee Dianne McGuire was initially concerned about contract long contract extension, but after the discussion she was made more aware of the controversy and leaned away from the idea of the chicken chain on campus.
“It would be delightful to see an alternative proposed…it seems like there should be another fit.” Before the vote, Chairman Erin Birt diplomatically stated what seemed to be some sort of a disclaimer over the trustees’ choice in extending Sodexo’s contract.
“I’m sensitive to all the comments that were made, and I don’t want the way a member votes this evening to be perceived as if they’re in support of one thing or not in support of one thing.” Trustees Savage and McGuire along with Nancy Svoboda voted against the contract extension. Trustees Kathy Hamilton, Allison O’Donnell, Joseph Wozniak and Birt voted in favor. Stephanie Torres, student trustee, abstained.
Towards the end of the discussion, McGuire added her final word regarding choice trustees were deciding upon.
“The idea of walking our talk, you know, we say one thing we do another, it doesn’t ring very true.”