Chick-fil-A backed out of the “Real Eagles Eat Chicken” campaign with the University of Mary Washington that was created to promote the EagleOne card after being pressured by students who objected to Chick-fil-A’s stance on gay rights.
The campaign, which was supposed to take place between Mar. 12 and mid-April, asked UMW club presidents to support the campaign that would give each UMW student votes for purchasing Chick-fil-A. Students who purchase Chick-fil-A receive one point, and students who purchase Chick-fil-A using their EagleOne card receive two votes.
The club that receives the most votes earns a prize of $1,000.
Chick-fil-A backed out of the event shortly after it was announced due to strong opposition by students and clubs on campus. When the Bullet contacted Chick-fil-A for a response, the manager was unavailable for comment.
UMW’s Principles on Diversity and Inclusion state that, “UMW values diversity in all forms—including diversity of age, culture, disability, economic background, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, marital status, national origin, political affiliation, race, religious background, sexual orientation and veteran status.”
The Chick-fil-A website states that its corporate purpose is to, “glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us,” and, “To have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.”
Rick Pearce, vice president for administration and finance, said he knew Chick-fil-A was conservative but was unaware of the denunciations against the queer community.
“The whole idea was a promotion for using the EagleOne card,” Pearce said. “It’s a source of revenue for us. We use it to help with the cost of the EagleOne card. Some of the money goes to support student programming.”
Annie Truslow, president of Feminists United on Campus and an activist in the queer community said, “I find it intensely troubling that…[the] university has aligned itself with a religiously affiliated corporation that abuses animals and supports anti-gay activism.”
According to an article in the Huffington Post, Chick-fil-A donated almost $2 million dollars to anti-gay groups in 2009, not including an additional $1 million dollars donated between 2003 and 2008.
In protest of the event, Truslow said she “started a Facebook group called “UMW Against ‘Real Eagles Eat Chicken’ Event,” which served as our platform for discussing the event and planning some form of action against it.” According to Truslow, “In less than two hours, 80 people joined the event, and by Wednesday, the group had more than 100 members.”
Just a few days into their protest, the event was cancelled.
Truslow said that some people questioned her motives during the protest. “Many people told me that I needed to take myself less seriously, because sometimes people just want to eat at Chick-fil-A. To that argument, I say every single purchase we make is political, whether we mean or want to be political.”
Fariss Hodder, a sophomore and member of the Vegan and Vegetarian community, was another strong voice of opposition to the event.
In a letter to some of the administration at UMW, Hodder said, “I feel that through supporting this organization UMW is isolating and disregarding the LGBTTQQIAAP community and its allies, the Vegan and Vegetarian community and its allies, as well as students who disagree with the fervent religious beliefs Chick-fil-A espouses.”
However, Cheryl Beckwith, president of the Vegetarian Society, agreed with both Truslow and Hodder when she said the event was carelessly thought out.
Beckwith said, “the entire event was disrespectful to those of us who don’t consume animal products, as well as disrespectful to students in other clubs that work toward social change and take issue in Chick-fil-A’s politics.”
Pearce said the EagleOne Card center did not mean for the event to be offensive to students. However, he also said, “I think we have to be tolerant both ways.”
Pearce said that Chick-fil-A, “never meant for this to be bad publicity for them or the university and didn’t want to put the university in an awkward situation.”
Truslow hopes that Chick-fil-A would not be considered a dining option on UMW’s campus in the future and that the partnership with UMW will dwindle.