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Food service deal OK’d despite Chick-fil-A controversy

Plans to bring a Chick-fil-A outlet to the College of DuPage campus in Glen Ellyn almost sunk a proposal to extend the contract of the college’s food service provider, Sodexo Food Service.

Pointing to the college’s non-discrimination policy and the controversy of perceived anti-gay actions by the Chick-fil-A management, several college trustees questioned Thursday if the service contract should be extended.

Sodexo’s three-year extension includes plans to bring on campus a Chick-fil-A, whose CEO, Dan Cathy, has consistently made his opposition to same-sex marriage clear.

“This behavior of a CEO is highly controversial and courting such a business is in direct opposition to the values of the college and the local community,” student Marilyn Claes told the Board of Trustees before the extension was approved by a 4-3 vote.

Claes said that, in the past, Chick-fil-A had donated to anti-gay groups, and although the company had ceased making donations to some groups she described as anti-gay, he was still making contributions to The Marriage and Family Foundation and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, organizations opposed to same-sex marriage.

Two other members of the public joined Claes in voicing their displeasure during public comment, finding common ground with some trustees.

Kim Savage, who joined Dianne McGuire and Nancy Svoboda in opposing the extension (with student trustee Stephanie Torres abstaining), agreed that the company had not always acted with tolerance toward the LGBT community.

“Chick-fil-A does have a history of discriminatory practice,” she said, especially in the areas of religion and sexual preference.

While stressing that she had no ill will toward Sodexo, Savage pointed out that COD had a campus policy of non-discrimination that she felt would be compromised by including Chick-fil-A.

“I would hope that Sodexo would consider a different business licensee,” she said.

McGuire said she would be “delighted” if Sodexo sought an alternative, but Vice President and Treasurer Tom Glaser indicated that a change at this time would be problematic.

Glaser said that Sodexo was aware of the controversy Chick-fil-A prompted in supporters of gay rights, saying they “had spent a great deal of time” with the company before including it in its plans.

Board Chairman Erin Birt pointed out that there would be financial repercussions in the loss of revenue, and stressed that the college wouldn’t be providing the best food service possible.

Birt also noted the controversy generated by Chick-fil-A in the past, pointing out that she was in favor of letting students vote with their pocketbooks.

“Leave it to the students to decide,” she said before the vote.

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