In a 21-20 vote, the Student Government Association at Elon University upheld the veto of the legislation against Chick-fil-A’s presence in the future Lakeside Dining Hall. A two-thirds majority vote by the Senate was required to override the veto, which was ordered by SGA Executive President Darien Flowers Oct. 21.
Though the veto was upheld, the legislation may be amended and presented to the SGA Executives within two weeks.
“This is not about one side winning or losing,” Flowers said. “The fact of it is, my colleagues and I have disagreed about how to handle this issue, and this vote was the Senate voicing its opinion on how this issue should be handled.”
More than 150 Elon community members attended the SGA meeting to witness the procedural vote by the Senate, and 29 students, faculty and staff members voiced their opinions during the open forum prior to the vote.
Fifteen students encouraged the Senate to support Flowers’ veto, and eleven students and three faculty and staff members encouraged the Senate to override it. All urged the Senate to think critically about the implications of Flowers’ veto, which was met with mixed reactions on campus this week. Today, hundreds of students gathered in the Octagon Cafe to show their support of the veto, and their efforts were boycotted by a group of students outside Moseley Center.
Several students attested to the polarizing nature of the Chick-fil-A controversy during the open forum.
“Chick-fil-A has divided the campus,” said freshman Nate May. “Why should we keep a franchise on campus if it splits the student body and creates hostility between those who were once friends?”
Sophomore Josh Kaufmann agreed.
“The red Chick-fil-A logo has changed from a symbol of the best chicken on campus to a symbol of hatred and discrimination,” he said. “This is how I came to my decision to support the removal of Chick-fil-A from campus. When my peers and friends hurt, I hurt, too.”
Other students felt the controversy could be resolved without removing the franchise from campus.
“This is not about one side being right or wrong,” said senior Dan Johnson. “This about accepting different viewpoints and trying to reach a compromise that makes progress. Raise awareness for your cause. Instead of polarizing this issue, find a way to compromise instead of creating one winner and one loser.”
Senior David Brown agreed with the need for compromise, though he clearly expressed his support for Chick-fil-A.
“Removing Chick-fil-A from our campus shows we are as narrow-minded and intolerant as Chick-fil-A has been,” he said. “Vote with your wallet, not with this legislation.”
Junior Palmer Brown also criticized the legislation as intolerant.
“What precedent does it set that a group of likeminded individuals can remove a franchise from campus?” he asked. “You have to respect the rights and decisions of others. We are all entitled to our opinions.”
But Laura Lee Sturm, vice president of Spectrum, insisted the legislation is not intolerant of intolerance, like some students argued, but rather intolerant of discrimination. She cited Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony as examples of people who fought against discrimination, not intolerance.
“We are intolerant of the active oppression that Chick-fil-A supports,” she said. “This is real. Discrimination or intolerance? It’s a fine line, and you’d better know the difference.”
Kevin Morrison, director of study abroad and dean of global studies, encouraged the Senate to take a stance against such intolerance.
“We just want what the majority take for granted: a community where we feel welcome, valued and supported,” he said. “Members of the Elon community have resorted to using Chick-Fil-A as a means to taunt, harass and bully the LGBTQIA community. I will not be silent. I cannot be silent, and I hope you will not be silent either.”
After a brief open forum, the Senate members casted their votes. The outcome pleased many students and SGA Senators.
“I think this vote accurately reflected the opinion of the student body,” said junior Patrick Brown, Flowers’ chief of staff. “The Senate took into account what the students want.”
Some students found the outcome disappointing, though.
“I personally feel uncomfortable and discriminated against on this campus,” said sophomore Delaney McHugo. “I wish the SGA had overridden the veto because it’s an incredibly important precedent to set that we do not tolerate discrimination.”
But senior Sarah Dodge, an SGA representative of the School of Communications, said the issue is far from over.
“This legislation is going to be amended and brought back,” she said. “This issue is far too important to take a mushy stance on. It’s a big decision.”