The Real Reason Chick-Fil-A Got Banned From Rider University

When students at Rider University in New Jersey were asked what restaurant they would like to see on campus, their top choice was Chick-fil-A. According to The Rider News, Chick-fil-A topped student surveys in 2016 and 2017, while other media outlets reported that Chick-fil-A was number one in a survey of students conducted in the spring of 2018 (via Fox News). But that fall, Rider's administration declined to begin a partnership with the fast food chain. What changed? Why was Chick-fil-A no longer an option after students showed that they wanted the fast food restaurant on campus?

Administrators explained their decision in a message posted on the university's website dated November 23rd, 2018: "Chick-fil-A was removed as one of the options based on the company's record widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ+ community," said the letter, signed by the university's president and the vice president for student affairs. "We sought to be thoughtful and fair in balancing the desire to provide satisfying options for a new on-campus restaurant while also being faithful to our values of inclusion... Ultimately, we decided to lean in the direction of creating a welcoming environment where differences can be appreciated and where each individual can expect to experience dignity and respect."

Chick-fil-A has angered the LGBTQ+ community more than once

Chick-fil-A has been the target of protests, boycotts, and bans since at least 2012, when an interview with Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy appeared in the Baptist Press (via Vox). Cathy told the Baptist Press that Chick-fil-A's values were rooted in the "biblical definition of the family unit." That would of course be one man and one woman, bonded in marriage. Cathy wasn't speaking in a political vacuum, either; by that time, some states had legalized gay marriage, leading up to the 2015 Supreme Court decision to make the marriage of same-sex couples legal in all 50 states (via Georgetown Law Library).

Chick-fil-A has also has been criticized over the past decade or so for giving huge sums of money to anti-LGBTQ+ groups annually, including to youth organizations that promote the idea that gay relationships are unacceptable (via Think Progress). Given this evidence of Chick-fil-A's continued stance toward the LGBTQ+ community, Rider University let students know about its decision to exclude the controversial fried chicken chain in an email sent on November 1st, 2018: "We are uncomfortable pursuing Chick-fil-A at this time in that their corporate values have not sufficiently progressed enough to align with those of Rider" (via The Rider News).

Chick-fil-A was banned at Rider out of respect for LGBTQ+ voices

Jan Friedman-Krupnick, Rider's assistant vice president of student affairs, gave a fuller explanation of the university's decision to Campus Reform, a publication that seeks to promote conservative voices on college campuses. "There are a number of factors that contribute to a campus' decision to invite a retail partner on campus," the Friedman-Krupnick told the outlet. "While Chick-fil-A is among other restaurants preferenced by Rider students, there are members of the community (faculty, staff, and students) who strongly opposed the option as well."

This statement said a little more than administrators' November 1st email to students. Chick-fil-A was banned because some people at Rider made it clear they felt the fast food restaurant would be a controversial or unwelcoming addition to the campus. Administrators heeded those concerns and vetoed the broader student body's vote in favor of the fast food chain. Rider student John Modica told The Rider News it would be wrong to allow Chick-fil-A to set up shop on campus, as if everything were okay with the values the company stands for. "A community needs to consider the space it is creating for its members, whether it is allowing them to feel seen. There is a politics to remaining silent about something that affects the lived experience of others," Modica said.

Conservatives at Rider University found irony in the school's desire to be inclusive

Meanwhile, Rider student and the author of the Campus Reform article, Joshua Amionov, asserted that a vocal minority had silenced a larger group of students who wanted Chick-fil-A on campus. Amionov assumed many of the students who chose Chick-fil-A in surveys were liberal, telling The Rider News he believes "most students don't take interest in mixing politics with what they eat."

Other conservatives on campus also found irony — if not hypocrisy — in the administration's efforts to create a more inclusive environment, saying they felt the Christian perspective was ignored and even insulted. Dean Cynthia Newman even went as far as to resign from her position at the school, calling the decision "an affront to her Christian beliefs," and a "judgmental statement about Chick-fil-A's values — values that reflect the essence of the Christian as well as other faiths" in a resignation letter, according to CNN. In response to the Rider ban, the people at Chick-fil-A stated that their restaurants welcome everyone, saying "We have no policy of discrimination against any group, and we do not have a political or social agenda." It would seem, for now, Rider University disagrees.