GLEN ELLYN – Plans to extend College of DuPage's contract with food service provider Sodexo were met with opposition from some students and members of the Board of Trustees at the board's meeting Nov. 21, because the contract extension includes bringing Chick-fil-A to campus by January.
The contract is set to expire Aug. 4, 2016, and after a 4-to-3 vote, the college will renew it for three years, with the option of extending the contract for an additional four years.
Those who voted against the extension worried about bringing a restaurant on campus that would make some students uncomfortable.
The restaurant chain Chick-fil-A has faced controversy in the past for comments made by its leaders against gay marriage.
"As a company, they certainly have a right to their own religious freedom and religious beliefs, but I'm concerned that we, as an institution, would be allowing our publicly funded institution to generate revenue for an organization that does not uphold our campus non-discrimination guidelines," said Trustee Kim Savage, who moved to have the vote on the contract extension removed from the meeting's consent agenda and added to the regular agenda.
Similar concerns were shared by College of DuPage (COD) students who spoke during the meeting, including Marilyn Claes.
"In the past, the Chick-fil-A former president and current CEO has made contentious comments about gay people that, though he has since rescinded, would associate his kind of firebrand with our school, and that's not OK," Claes said.
While Savage said she was against the addition of Chick-fil-A on campus, she did not oppose continuing to work with Sodexo, which is considered an LGBT-friendly company, she said. Because Sodexo has access to many different licensees, she hoped it would consider introducing a different restaurant.
Trustee Diane McGuire asked if the college had discussed its worries about the chicken chain with Sodexo.
While Sodexo was aware of the concerns, the company felt Chick-fil-A was a partner it was comfortable doing business with, COD Senior Vice President Thomas Glaser said.
"While those issues were raised, we were left with the idea that Sodexo had values that were the same as College of DuPage, and we thought it was a good partnership for us to work with Sodexo to bring in Chick-fil-A, based upon additional revenues that could be generated by bringing that concept into COD," Glaser said.
Trustee Nancy Svoboda inquired whether it would be a deal breaker if the college were to approve a contract with Sodexo but request that Chick-fil-A not be included in its plans.
However, the contract extension as proposed already included the concept of introducing Chick-fil-A and outlined associated revenue share and capital commitment items for both COD and Sodexo, Glaser said. The contract process would have to start over if the extension were not approved.
A January vacancy in the spot planned for Chick-fil-A would cause a decrease in anticipated revenue for the college, according to Glaser.
McGuire joined Savage and Svoboda in voting against the contract extension with Sodexo, while trustees Erin Birt, Kathy Hamilton, Allison O'Donnell and Joseph Wozniak voted in favor. Student Trustee Stephanie Torres abstained.
When discussing her take on the issue, Birt said the decision ultimately belongs in the hands of students.
"Sometimes the position that I think I, at least, take is 'leave it to the students to decide,'" she said. "I mean, it's their dollar to make a vote for. If there's something there and they don't want to eat at Chick-fil-A, there is another place for them to eat at."