Who You Calling Chikin?

I work on a Chick-fil-A campus.

And a Pepsi campus.

A Capital One campus.

A Comcast campus.

Oh, and let’s not forget: A Northrop Grumman campus.

You, too? Yeah, welcome to the neoliberal university. I’m not a big fan of any of these companies, all of whom (yes, whom — because corporations are persons) either make crappy, dangerous products or engage in practices that are at odds with my own values and commitments, even when they aren’t flat out illegal. Only one of them is currently being targeted by a petition aimed at booting them off campus, and I’m guessing you know it isn’t the one that once employed Scooter Libby as a consultant.

Here is a link to the petition to remove the homophobic chicken purveyor from the sacred space of the food court in the student union at QTU. (Attention, new readers: “QTU” stands for Queer the Turtle University. It’s the pseudonym for my employer that I started using on Roxie’s World several years ago. The pseudonym is explained here.) I imagine there are similar drives being launched on campuses all over the country. There are, for example, at least two going on in that hotbed of homo-enablement, Kansas. By all means sign or launch one of these petitions if you feel moved to do so. I haven’t and I doubt that I will. On the other hand, I’m delighted to support the effort by QTU grad student Brian Real to get folks to donate the cost of a Chick-fil-A value meal (about $6.50) to LGBT causes and organizations tomorrow, August 1. That effort is a response to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s call to make tomorrow national “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” in support of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s recent declaration that the company supports “the biblical definition of the family unit.” Cathy said in a radio interview in June, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'”

Raising money for causes such as marriage equality or anti-bullying is an excellent way to shake our collective fist at Cathy’s bigotry, because it will materially help to counter the more than $2 million his company has contributed to anti-gay groups and causes over the years. That’s a positive tactic and one likely to be of significant political value, particularly in places like Turtle Country, where marriage equality will be on the ballot in November. (Hey, Turtles, if you’re looking for someplace to send your $6.50 [or more!], click here.) I would also support a boycott, but that would be pointless in my case because I haven’t eaten at Chick-fil-A since I escaped the malls of my Midwestern girlhood. I can’t, however, get behind the charge to kick the company off campus because, as the opening of this post suggests, the outrage here seems selectively applied. QTU did not, for example, kick ROTC off campus during the Vietnam war or over the military’s discriminatory policies on sexual orientation. As far as I know, there’s been no serious opposition to the university’s doing business with any of the other companies mentioned above, though I’ve heard rumors of contraband Cokes stored in top-secret refrigerators in rogue offices on campus. That is strictly entre nous, of course.

Look, consumers have every right not to give their money to companies whose policies or practices they find objectionable. Such withholding does not infringe on the company owner’s freedom of speech or religion, contrary to what the shrieking idiots of the right might want us to believe. I assert my own freedom by refusing to do business with homophobes, though, like a lot of bourgeois lefties, I manage to turn a blind eye to the labor practices of companies like Whole Foods and Apple because they sell stuff that I want a whole lot more than a fried-chicken sandwich. I would be delighted if Chick-fil-A would leave my campus because customers decided they would rather take their business elsewhere. I would feel uncomfortable booting them off campus for failing to represent the values of the university when it’s clear we don’t hold the vast majority of companies who do business with the institution to anything like that standard. We — and by “we” I don’t mean the administration; I mean all the consumer-citizens of the university community — turn a blind eye to the banks, cable companies, and defense contractors on campus either because they seem too big to fight or because they supply goodies we want. There are very serious questions here about who universities are doing business with these days and how we might pressure our schools to be more transparent about where money is coming from and how contract and licensing arrangements are made. We don’t look serious, however, if we target one chicken-$hit bigot and conveniently ignore the missile manufacturers in our midst.

Tell me if you think I’m wrong about this, Madpeople at your Laptops. Should I, as an official BDOC (you know — Big Dyke on Campus) be leading the charge to get the chicken-$hit purveyor of fried-chicken sandwiches off my campus? I’ll go pour a cold, frosty glass of unhealthy, illicit Coke while I await your replies. Remember, though, that tomorrow you are going to send $6.50 (or more!) to some totally gay cause or group as a way of annoying Dan Cathy, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and assorted other chicken-$hit bigots. Need help finding a cause or group? The Madwoman likes this one, because she wants Turtle Country to be the first state in the nation to win a vote on marriage equality. You choose your own, though. It’s a free country, right? Peace out.

(Image Credits: Picked up here and here.)


  1. BDOC: Big Dyke On Campus

    Love itte!!!!!!!


  2. I would like to see Icky Chicken gone from QTU. The school frames itself as a place that welcomes and celebrates diversity, specifically including LGBTQ people. I may not like missiles, but as far as I know, QTU doesn’t have an anti-military policy. Actions > words, and I’d like to see the admin at least make a statement that they won’t renew their contract. There are better chicken places anyway. (I’d have also liked to see them take a stand on the ROTC/DADT issue).


  3. @Digger: There are definitely better chicken places! How cool would it be to see one of those Peruvian roasted chicken joints out on University Blvd. taking over Icky Chicken’s spot in the food court? (Icky Chicken is brilliant, btw. Thanks for that.) You’re right about the missile thing. That may not be the best example, but I couldn’t resist. QTU is mighty cozy with the defense industry these days, and I find that a little creepy. A better example for these purposes, though, would probably be apparel vendors who rely on sweatshop labor. I know there’s been some attention to that issue on campus, but the movement to banish Icky Chicken has gathered a lot more momentum very quickly. I wouldn’t be sad to see them go, but I hope we’ll be as vigilant and feisty about ALL of the vendors who do business on campus.


  4. GlassPen says:

    Nah…you really can’t square free-excahnge-of-ideas values with booting a “person” off campus because the “person” doesn’t agree with you. However, this seems like a case where a little creative rebranding is in order. I like “Icky Chicken” a lot. Also, “Chicken$hit sandwich”. And Mayor Gray’s “Hate Chicken”. Other suggestions? Some market research, in the form of a poll?


  5. jgolden08 says:

    Lovely blog. I’ll be donating to Lambda Legal in honor of Roxie and Ruby.


  6. Contingent Cassandra says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one having trouble getting too worked up about Chik-Fil-A (though I will certainly stop patronizing their outlet on my own campus — not that I did much anyway, but, if nothing else, I’d be uncomfortable with the message seeing me there might send to my students. And I’d be delighted to see a Peruvian chicken place move in; thanks to a diverse student population, we’ve already got some pretty good ethnic food, as well as the usual ersatz Americanized versions, but more variety, and more authentic food, would be welcome).

    Another broader issue, not mentioned above, is that the outsourcing of all kinds of functions once provided in-house at state universities — including food service and cleaning, to name two big ones — means that what were once state jobs, with low pay but the same retirement and health benefits that all state employees enjoy, are now just low-paid jobs, some of which involve regular 3-month layoffs. Outsourcing also means no tuition remission, so the Columbia janitor who graduated from the university’s extension school recently couldn’t pull off that feat at my uni (or at least not without paying regular tuition). I’m told that, pre-outsourcing, we had cleaning personnel who commuted a long way in from the next (fairly rural, mostly impoverished) state, stayed for years, and often recommended friends and family for jobs. That suggests to me that those jobs were, at least in some ways, pretty good ones. We now have more local, mostly immigrant cleaners and servers, and I fear they’re getting a far worse deal.


    • Contingent Cassandra says:

      Oh, and as for Dan Cathy’s charge that we’re seeking to override God’s definition of marriage: if Cathy can figure out , based on the Biblical record, exactly what sort(s) of marriage(s) God endorses, then he’s a better exegete than I. My own take is that one should be very, very careful about claiming to speak for God. I’m not going to claim that God supports same-sex marriage, but I will say that my own faith, and my understanding of what it means to recognize and respect what the Quakers call “that of God” in each other, leads me, as someone who strives to follow the example and teachings of Jesus, to support both civil same-sex marriage and full recognition of such unions as marriages by my denomination. If I’m wrong, on my head be it as much on the heads of anyone I help to lead astray.


    • Contingent Cassandra says:

      And one more thought before I stop: the Bible has much, much more to say about economic justice in general, and fair treatment of laborers in particular, than it does about sexual behavior of any sort. Perhaps we ought to be asking Cathy about how his workers’ pay and benefits (and the pay and benefits of those who staff his university outlets, who may in fact work for one of the big food-service contractors rather than for Chik-Fil-A directly) square with his understanding of Biblical principles?


    • I actually did some research as I was working on this post and was pleased to discover that food service at QTU is NOT outsourced to Sodexo or Aramark, which means that the folks in the cafeterias and catering are university employees. Not sure about cleaning. Glad you brought this point up, though. It’s an important one to consider as we reflect on the politics and economics of the neoliberal university.


  7. Am I the only person in the U.S.A. never to have had an Icky Chicken sandwich? I think so. I have friends who looooove the place, as in, it’s the only fast food joint they’ll patronize. Me, I’ve never been tempted. I like the way you framed this post as a reflection on the neoliberal U., Madwoman.

    As for Contingent Cassandra’s comments on biblical marriage: clearly, the Old Testament recommends polygamy and polyamory (for men only,) but the U.S.A. had no problems whatsoever overriding God’s definition of marriage and insisting on monogamous heterosexuality back in 1890 when it admitted the state of Utah on condition that Utah outlaw polygamy. If we follow the clear precedent set by Abraham and all of the other OT patriarchs who were polygamous and also favored by God, then the only Americans practicing biblical marriage are those who live in SW Utah and northern Arizona.

    So long as you didn’t discover your father’s nakedness, it seems like anything goes for those biblical patriarchs!


  8. Shane in Utah says:

    Historiann, I’ve never had “food” from Icky Chicken either. I’m not sure they even existed in Tennessee before I was 15, which is when I quit eating meat. I don’t feel I’ve missed out on anything…

    I agree with the post. I’m not really comfortable with all the big-city mayors threatening to keep the Chik Fil-A Show out of their cities, either. Boycotts and mockery are better.


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