Chick-fil-A, Starbucks still coming to campus

Construction on the upcoming UNA Academic Commons Building began Aug. 14, but the new building could be bringing a little more controversy than anticipated in light of recent events.

That’s because, Director of Facilities Administration Michael Gautney said, Sodexo Dining Services is bringing a Chick-fil-A and a Starbucks to the new building—two major players in a recent frenzy of debate over the legality of same-sex marriage.

There will also be a Frostbite Frozen Treats and a Listerhill Credit Union, but those likely won’t raise a fuss.

But, so far, there haven’t been any complaints from the community about bringing Starbucks, which openly supports same-sex marriage, and Chick-fil-A, which recently took a stance against same-sex marriage, said Alan Kinkead, general manager of Sodexo.

“I have not heard any complaints so far,” he said. “This was decided two years ago, long before there was anything with all that going on. Starbucks and Chick-fil-A were simply two of the most popular college restaurants at the time.”

Director of University Communications Josh Woods said he thinks bringing the establishments with opposing views to campus should cancel out any perceived bias.

“I’ve not heard any complaints, but certainly if anyone were to complain about Chick-fil-A, I would simply point out that Starbucks is coming too, and they have actively supported gay rights,” he said.

Woods said including the two restaurants in the Academic Commons Building is in no way an endorsement of either view.

“The university culture supports people sharing and debating values and respecting everyone’s opposing views,” he said. “Both establishments are certainly welcome on campus, and their coming here does not reflect UNA’s view one way or the other.”

Tamsen Brooks, a UNA senior nursing major, said she thinks bringing restaurants with political stances to campus could cause problems.

“In Florence, I think a lot of people will have a problem with it,” she said. “A lot of people were upset when the controversy happened—and not in a way I would hope.”

But Ethan Cagle, a UNA senior industrial hygiene major, said differing political and social ideas shouldn’t cause problems for students.

“I don’t think it should make a difference,” he said. “College is about exposing students to new things—sort of to broaden the comfort zone. It’s helpful to do that.”

He said he has no objections to Chick-fil-A or Starbucks on campus.

“I have no problem with either business coming,” he said. “Really, it’s important to know where your money is going, but once you give a business your money, it’s no longer your money.”

Brooks, however, said she believes people will still have reactions to the restaurants, even on a college campus.

“I think (the controversy) should factor into the decision to bring them here, honestly,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that much to me, but I think (officials) should consider that it might offend people. It might not be students, but it might be parents.”

Both Brooks and Cagle said boycotting either establishment probably isn’t an effective method of hurting either business.

“On a larger scale, one person not eating at either place is not going to stop them from making money,” she said. “If there were a million of me, it might make a difference, but I don’t think just one person has that much of an effect on it.”

It’s confusing that these two organizations were singled out for their political views, Cagle said.

“Chick-fil-A is obviously not hurting, and I don’t think Starbucks is either,” he said. “Lots of organizations and businesses have very firm stances on same-sex marriage.”

But, overall, there probably won’t be too much commotion when the Academic Commons Building opens its doors, he said.

“I don’t think it’s going to cause a problem to bring them here,” he said. “There are two things most students love: coffee and fried food.”

Kinkead said it’s hard to predict how people will react to sensitive issues, but he hopes the upcoming UNA dining options won’t cause much trouble.

“I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “There are always people unhappy for one reason or another, but I expect the majority of people will be fine with it.”