Ideas for Campus Campaign Against Chick-fil-A
August 28, 2012 6:35 PM   Subscribe

What ideas do people have for a college campaign to get our Chick-fil-A removed from campus? A group of us have been meeting, talking, planning, strategizing, and I would love to hear any thoughts from other people about how to be effective and efficient with this.

If it matters, we're a private University located in the South. The contract is through Sodexo, although the University itself could ask Sodexo to find a new restaurant for the campus food court.

I'm interested in hearing people's thoughts about what would work well on a college campus. My guess is that there are a lot of people who would consider themselves allies of queer people here, but also a lot of people that really like Chick-fil-A.

We also might get funding to buy some shirts. What would be a good slogan/idea to put on a shirt?

We also might do a large event, although we're not sure if we want to do that. What sort of protest, or rally, or sit-in, or petition signing drive might be effective? Or something else?
posted by davidstandaford to Education (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Don't make this a one-issue campaign. Recruit people who are against Chick-fil-A for other reasons, such as vegetarians and people who like to support small businesses instead of chains. Then consider a replacement that would work for all of you (salad bar? smoothie place? Student-run place? Thai or Indian food?).
posted by parrot_person at 6:40 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

To answer the question, look at what some other campuses have started:Maryland students circulate petition to oust Chick-fil-A from campus .

It's too early to tell how effective it is, but the online petition seems to be at least doing two things: 1) getting big press (Baltimore Sun) involved and 2) The Student Union/Food court managers seriously taking the petition as well as other groups (does your campus have a LGBT POLICY or group?)

#2, a LG is definitely your starting point.
posted by sandmanwv at 6:44 PM on August 28, 2012

Best answer: Someone, or a committee, is in charge of deciding what restaurants are on campus.

First, figure out who that person/committee is - then try to set up a meeting with them. Ask them about how open they are to asking Sodexo to replace Chick-fil-A with a different restaurant. If they aren't open to that idea, ask why. Ask them what they would want to see before they made the decision to ask for a different restaurant. Then, target your campaign to exactly that.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:44 PM on August 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

The contract is through Sodexo, although the University itself could ask Sodexo to find a new restaurant for the campus food court.

How much does the contract cost? Will Wendy's, Burger King, McDonalds, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Church's Chicken, Popeye's, Zaxby's, Dairy Queen or Sonic fill that space at a lower cost?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:45 PM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'd consider talking to the administration as a first step. Without making demands or threats, try to find out if that's something they can even do -- can, say, Emory, get rid of Chick-fil-A because the stance is against whatever the university is calling the school tolerance policy? If they can, your efforts are going to be focused on persuading and petitioning the administration. If not, your goal is going to look more like trying to make it bad business for Sodexo to have them on campus, for instance because people have stopped eating there.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:46 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go through policy, find the contracts, and see what power the school reserves for itself, if in fact they don't just give Sodexo free-reign. If they do, then you can start agitating at the school level, in the vein of "why do we give control over the school to private companies," "we have no choice," etc. etc.
posted by rhizome at 6:49 PM on August 28, 2012

Response by poster: #2, a LG is definitely your starting point.

What's a LG?

How much does the contract cost?

The contract is actually between Sodexo and Chick-fil-A and the University isn't allowed to see it. We have no idea what's in it.
posted by davidstandaford at 6:51 PM on August 28, 2012

I meant to say, LGBT related office/group/organization.
posted by sandmanwv at 6:53 PM on August 28, 2012

If the contract is between Sodexho and Chikfila, and the university is not allowed to know its details, then you're dead in the water.

The best thing to do would be to organize a student boycott against Chikfila, on the basis of whatever your grievance against the company is (I assume its CEO's comments on gays, etc.)
posted by dfriedman at 6:55 PM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sorry, I meant Sodexo and Chik-fil-a.
posted by dfriedman at 6:57 PM on August 28, 2012

If you don't want them there, don't eat there. Encourage others to not eat there. If the place doesn't make any money, it will close. But the University's contract probably has a clause that penalizes the University if the contract is broken before its expiration date, so think about what you're doing and who ends up hurting the most.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:59 PM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, if the university has no say, it's going to have to be worth Sodexo's while to terminate its contract with Chick-fil-A.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:00 PM on August 28, 2012

The contract is actually between Sodexo and Chick-fil-A...

Who else besides Sodexo can do this job? Contact them and encourage them to contact the school for the contract.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:01 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do it the old fashioned, American way and vote with your dollars. Recruit/promote others to join you.
posted by uncaken at 7:02 PM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: If the contract is between Sodexho and Chikfila, and the university is not allowed to know its details, then you're dead in the water.

To be clear, if the University wants Chick-fil-A gone, it will be gone. While Sodexo could independently make that decision on its own, the University could definitely tell Sodexo to replace it with something else if the University decides to do that.
posted by davidstandaford at 7:05 PM on August 28, 2012

How much does the contract cost? Will Wendy's, Burger King, McDonalds, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Church's Chicken, Popeye's, Zaxby's, Dairy Queen or Sonic fill that space at a lower cost?

Yeah, approach the school to see if they are willing to change who they contract with. Add KFC to this list: I remember seeing somewhere that at least one franchise of that chain were advertising that their service was bigotry-free.
posted by trip and a half at 7:07 PM on August 28, 2012

People usually start by thinking of the tactics rather than the goal. You've gotten a lot of good advice here. Action is most effective when you know who it is that can say yes or no to your demand.

When is the contract up? Who makes the decisions about vendors (is it one person or a committee. When and where do they meet next?)

Is this an issue that is widely felt AND deeply felt? If you lack either of those two, you're dead in the water. Lots of issues are widely felt but not strongly, or deeply felt by just a few people. If you have to educate people a lot to try to make them feel more deeply -- youre going to run out of school year and lose momentum. Are there any smaller "yes's" you can get leading up to your Big Demand? Who are your allies (and do they feel as deeply and strongly?)

Are you sure that whomever you get to replace chick-fil-a won't have their own human rights scandal a few months later?
posted by vitabellosi at 7:24 PM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Hey, I'm a professional organizer/campaigner and have, in the past, worked with lots of campus activists to run campaigns like this. Some advice gleaned from what I learned on these campaigns:

This is the most important thing: before you think about t-shirts, events, or anything else like that, figure out your strategy.

First, who has the power to get Chick-Fil-A off campus, and what will it take to get them to make that decision? Looks like you've already started working on that. Sodexho is not a great target, because they're not accountable to the students, so maybe it's the person who is ultimately responsible for vendor contracts (like a dean). Or maybe your school is small enough that the best target is the President. If it's an office or a board, figure out who ultimately has the power - people are always better to target than entitities. It's got to be someone who can both make this happen and cares about student opinion.

Second, how do you influence them? You might want to consult some people who know how campus/administration politics work. A sympathetic professor who's been there forever. A cool assistant dean. Students who have previously won campaigns like this. You get the idea. Find out what they care about, what moves them. Are they progressive or conservative? Do they like engaging with students or do they see it as a nuisance?

Once you know how to influence that person, you can start thinking about your tactics. For instance, if it's a small school and the target is the college president who prides herself on being a progressive, a petition with signatures from a quarter of the student body, some well-placed calls from board members, and a noon rally during National Coming Out Week might do it. If it's a large school with multiple entities involved, you may need to go through a whole administrative process that's well laid-out. Anyway, this is the stage where you figure out if you need to do a sit-in or just a regular rally or just a petition, and not any earlier.

Some general tips on tactics:

- Try to pull together some sort of action people can take when fall quarter/semester starts. Even if it's as simple as a petition or a pledge not to eat at Chick-Fil-A. This way you can table at Freshman Orientation and activity fairs, with an eye towards collecting names and contact info for students who are interested right away.

- Visibility is important, which is where T-shirts come in handy, but they're expensive. Fliers and stickers are cheaper and great for campuses. Or maybe you could have signs you ask people to put in their windows.

- Someone upthread suggested looking at what other schools have done and this is a great idea. Find other campuses working on this issue and get in touch with the students so you can share ideas and tactics.

- Meetings are boring but important for making sure new people can get involved. Don't just meet casually with your buddies in someone's dorm room - have open, publicized meetings and make sure everyone leaves every meeting with something to do, even if it's just to get 5 of their friends to sign the pledge (or whatever).

- On a similar note: when you decide to do something, make sure everyone knows who's responsible for what. Write it down. Hold each other accountable.

- If you can, it's worthwhile to get this campaign "sponsored" by a campus group (say, the LGBT group) because this makes it easier to get access to campus resources (meeting space, funds, printing, etc.).

- Make it fun! People will want to get involved if it looks like people are having fun.

Also, the New Organizing Institute is a great group that does free, regular online trainings in all aspects of campaigns and organizing - check them out!

Good luck, and feel free to memail me if you have specific questions.
posted by lunasol at 7:26 PM on August 28, 2012 [23 favorites]

ps: petitions are less impressive than they used to be -- unless you can deliver a large proportion of the campus -- but they're still really useful for getting contact info and building your network.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:27 PM on August 28, 2012

Lunasol has good advice. You should also see if your campus has an anti-sweatshop group, possibly associated with United Students Against Sweatshops. These students will have experience building coalitions and also pressuring the person/people on campus with responsibility for purchasing and contracts. Ask them what they can help you with. You should reach out to other stakeholders (not just students) including state legislators if you are at a public university, and trustees if you are at a private university.
posted by cushie at 7:30 PM on August 28, 2012

Any big donors to the campus that are potentially sympathetic? Start by plugging the names on all the campus buildings into google to see if you can find anyone who might support your cause or political or personal reasons. At my small school, a big donor once got the college president fired.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:57 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

A one, a two, a hell of a hullabaloo ... ?

Err. Pardon me. Of course the school will call this a problem with Sodexo, and try to shrug it off. But the university president can make a call any time he likes. You just need to get him to make that call. You need to make it easier for him to make the call than for him not to make it.

Use the campus paper, talk to the student government, graduate student governments, and attend faculty/staff meetings to persuade them to join your cause.

In my day, this would have been solved with a sit-in in Cow- the president's office. Not to say that's the most effective strategy, but I will tell you the university doesn't like having to have administrative buildings open overnight, or to have to pay security personnel overtime, or to have to worry that something will cause enough of a scene that someone other than the school paper will care.
posted by brina at 9:31 PM on August 28, 2012

fshgrl: "Isn't it a franchise? I think you're hurting the wrong people here"

IIRC, Chik-fil-A doesn't use a standard franchising model, all restaurants are owned by the head office. The "franchise" operator still does have a certain amount of control, but can't stop a large proportion of the profits from flowing to Chik-fil-A HQ, of which a portion will go to anti-gay organizations. I think it's just fine for students to object to that.

There appear to be at least of couple of branches that are supportive of gay rights, though. Maybe you could talk to the franchise's operator and see if they're willing to make that clear?
posted by vasi at 3:44 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do students work there? What will be the effects of the closing on them? Sadly, minimum-wage part-time jobs don't do much to defray the costs of tuition and books, but they can make a big difference for some students. Make sure they don't get lost in the shuffle.
posted by tommasz at 5:37 AM on August 29, 2012

I have stopped eating at Chik-Fil-A, and I miss their sugar-free lemonade something awful.

I am very uncomfortable with trying to oust them from campus. This is America and unless they are breaking a law, they should have the right to conduct business anywhere they have a contract to do so.

Also, the other students who do not feel as you do have the right to buy shitty chicken sandwiches wherever they like. You don't have the right to decide for them.

Based upon the layers of contracting to get the restaurant on campus, it may prove to be a lost cause petitioning to get them thrown out due to the fact that the University may not be able to cancel the contract, Sodhexo may have issues, it gets messy.

Your best bet is to make their restaurant unprofitable.

If the majority of students on your campus agree that the anti-LGBT policies of Truett Cathy are offensive, then you should focus your attention on them, and hit Chik-Fil-A in the pocketbook.

Voting with dollars will get many people's attention. In this case though, Mr. Cathy believes that he is fighting for his faith, and he doesn't much care if you don't eat at his restaurant. Also, there are enough folks who agree with him that he can afford to keep the stores open on just their business.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:26 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ruthless Bunny says it well. Your goal might seem admirable to you, but it denies other students the right to eat the sandwich they want. Instead, you should vote with your dollars.
posted by tacodave at 4:33 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Update: This question was about Emory University, and they have just announced that they will be booting Chick-fil-a from campus. Mission accomplished.

Thank you to everyone for your advice in this thread.
posted by davidstandaford at 10:55 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

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