Augustana University will partner with Sodexo to add a Chick-fil-A station to the lower level of the Morrison Commons in an effort to modernize campus dining options.
Announced via email on Oct. 4, the restaurant will be open in fall 2023. According to Augustana’s CFO and executive vice president Shannan Nelson, the restaurant will include the full Chick-fil-A menu. However, the establishment will not be open on Sundays.
“Sodexo provided us with considerable data and research demonstrating that, among the multiple dining options that Sodexo works with, Chick-fil-A was by far the preferred choice among college-age and prospective students,” Nelson said.
According to Nelson, Sodexo provided Augustana with data from across the United States, but Augustana’s student body was not specifically surveyed.
“Chick-fil-A was probably one of the most exclusionary companies they could have picked,” sophomore Joshua Nichols said. “The company doesn’t support queer people, doesn’t support religious minorities, [and] is exclusionary to dietary restrictions [like] vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or gluten-intolerant.”
Augustana Student Association President Sara Alhasnawi said she has dietary restrictions that prevent her from eating at the food vendor.
“As someone who has to eat halal food, I’m always limited by what exactly I can eat upstairs, and so with them bringing Chick-fil-A in, I don’t think that the addition really helped,” Alhasnawi said.
Alhasnawi also said a lot of students were hoping for vegetarian or vegan options to be seen on campus and that the Chick-fil-A addition adds more of what students already see on the menu.
Junior Alex Gaspar said food is something he is really passionate about and that it has a deeper meaning for him. Because of this, Chick-fil-A presents issues.
“People often eat meals together and bond over that food and are able to connect through that, and I just feel that it’s not something I can really connect with different people on,” Gaspar said. “I don’t want to go with them and share a meal with them at that place.”
According to Herseth Sandlin, Augustana took a holistic analysis when evaluating the decision to consider Chick-fil-A as a dining option. Herseth Sandlin said multiple factors were considered during research including Augustana’s missions of diversity, equity and inclusion and enrollment, as well as past public comments from Chick-fil-A CEO and the company’s willingness to change its philanthropic priorities.
“I completely understand that there are some who continue to have concerns,” Herseth Sandlin said. “I respect that they have those concerns, but I cannot allow those concerns to drive overall decision-making for the university.”
While many students and student-led organizations have spoken out about the decision, others have welcomed the idea of a Chick-fil-A. Sophomore Caleb Schuler said he is excited about the planned addition.
“I think it’s a very good idea because it will incorporate good fast food meals, like a quick chicken sandwich,” Schuler said.
Freshman Maggie Szerlong said she sees adding Chick-fil-A as a way to stay competitive with other South Dakota institutions like SDSU and USD.
“Big schools have Chick-fil-A, so why don’t we?” Szerlong said.
Junior John Babineau said he believes Chick-fil-A will attract high school students to Augustana.
“Sub-Connection is great, but when you have prospective students coming in, Sub-Connection means nothing because it’s not something they recognize, but if you have a Chick-fil-A, that’ll make them more apt to come to the school,” Babineau said.
Freshman Eli Klavetter said he believes that politics and business can be separated. He states even though he does not agree with the company’s political stance, he still eats at the restaurant.
“The same way people can have their own opinion, businesses can have their own opinions,” Klavetter said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t go there or patronize them just because you disagree with them.”
Freshman Emma Driehorst said that she would’ve preferred a Qdoba, while sophomore Sofia Cinco said she isn’t against Chick-fil-A but that it wasn’t her first choice.
“I would prefer something different, but better a Chick-fil-A than nothing,” Cinco said.
Chick-fil-A has donated to anti-LGBTQIA+ organizations in the past, and former CEO Dan Kathy made public comments opposing gay marriage. According to CNBC, in 2019, the company announced they no longer support such organizations and were switching their philanthropic focuses to education, homelessness and hunger.
According to President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Chick-fil-A’s actions did factor into Augustana’s decision to bring the company.
“I was asked if we wanted to remove Chick-fil-A from consideration because of past controversies, and as the president, I didn’t feel that we could just remove them from consideration before doing the additional due diligence,” Herseth Sandlin said.
Pastor Ann Rosendale said the past actions of Chick-fil-A do not align with the ministry’s values and that recent events have given the ministry another opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to its welcome statement.
“We will continue striving faithfully [to] welcome, celebrate and support those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,” Rosendale said.
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Willette Capers said she believes the Chick-fil-A addition hurts students. However, she has not had any students reach out to her since the announcement.
“I never want anyone to feel like who they are and how they show up in this world doesn’t matter,” Capers said.
Klavetter and Alhasnawi said they wished more students would have been a part of the decision.
“I think opening the dialogue would’ve been good because if it is a really controversial issue, you don’t want to ostracize a certain part of the population here,” Klavetter said.