The game of political chicken surrounding Chick-fil-A is getting uglier and uglier. The focus has moved to the company’s one lonely location in New York City, and the store isn’t even open in summer.
Chick-fil-A lovers in and around the city know the company’s delicious, briny fried chicken sandwiches can be purchased at a New York University food court the rest of the year.
Not that the family’s views were ever exactly a secret, but now that it’s come out that Dan Cathy, who heads the company and is the son of founder Truett Cathy, has put millions of dollars into organizations that oppose same-sex marriage, Chick-fil-A, and the NYU location specifically, are under attack.
Last week politicians in Chicago and Boston said they would block Chick-fil-A from opening in their cities. I wrote a column about how much I enjoy the chain’s sandwiches (so, so much), and how I feel I probably shouldn’t eat them anymore because I don’t want my money going to oppose what I believe is basically a civil right. I also discussed how truly impossible it is to limit my trade to businesses whose beliefs I share, because I mostly have no idea what local tradesmen support or fund.
The larger point of the piece was that these Chicago and Boston hacks who would try to ban Chick-fil-A because of Cathy’s views are far more dangerous and wrong than Cathy. People have the right to vote with their dollars, and by stymieing such a business, it is the people’s rights, in addition to Chick-fil-A’s, that are trampled.
So now, in New York City, we have a two-sided conundrum. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is using her bully pulpit to call for NYU to boot Chick-fil-A, which is reprehensible. If the greatest city in the world can’t allow businesses whose views diverge from the consensus to operate, it can’t hope to be the greatest city in the world for long.
But it turns out NYU has already discussed whether to expel Chick-fil-A, and likely will again. The issue is in the purview of the University Senate, composed of students, faculty and administrators. Last year, one unit of that group, the Student Senators Council, argued that free speech is at stake, students should be free to hold back their dollars, and the store should be free to stay.
Now the matter may be taken up by the whole University Senate, and the truth is that NYU has very different responsibilities than Quinn. It’s a private institution, and some of its students and employees are gay. Does it have a responsibility to allow a business on campus that funds a fight against the rights of its students and employees?
Not really. NYU could reasonably allow Chick-fil-A to stay, but it could also reasonably force it out.
And I honestly believe a lot of NYU community members’ opinions on the issue are governed by how much they love the sandwiches, not how much they hate the politics. They are delicious and unique. If they weren’t, this wouldn’t be such a big issue.