Watch the video above for a full, uncut interview with Student Body President Carlo Fassi.
Some UNF students just want chicken and waffle fries, while others don’t want their school paying for Chick-fil-A’s donations to anti-gay organizations to further restrict the rights of the LGBT community.
Although student Body President Carlo Fassi submitted a special request Aug. 18 to fund renovations to Building 8 that would replace Sbarro with a Chick-fil-A for nearly $700,000. The request also outlines plans to replace Salsarita’s with a Papa John’s for nearly $210,000.
But students don’t have to treat the plans as final, just yet.
Fassi said the Student Government Budget and Allocations Committee, which handles all requests for activity and service fee funding, will hear the special request at its Sept. 17 meeting. Then, the final verdict will come, when the Senate hears the request at its meeting Sept. 24.
Still, installing a Chick-fil-A on campus, due to the company’s CEO Dan Cathy’s July remarks about homosexuality, seems insulting to some LGBT students.
Alexander Ruiz, a UNF biology senior, is not happy with the potential changes. He said Fassi is going out of his way to make gay people feel unwelcome at UNF. Ruiz said UNF is trying to promote equality and acceptance to its students, but installing a Chick-fil-A is promoting hate, inequality and discrimination against the gay community on campus.
But Fassi said he does not feel bringing a Chick-fil-A to campus is being insensitive to the LGBT community.
While Ruiz said SG should have prepped the UNF LGBT Resource Center on its initiative to bring a Chick-fil-A to campus, Fassi offered no comment as to whether or not he thinks SG should have asked the resource center its opinion.
Fassi said he is not in the business of screening political points of view in bringing vendors to campus. However, he said he sees how Chick-fil-A can make some students feel uncomfortable, but nobody is forcing them to eat there.
Shannon Campbell, a UNF history senior, is on Fassi’s side. She said bringing a Chick-fil-A to campus might make some students feel uncomfortable, but it has the right to have an opinion.
Campbell said if people want to be tolerant of everybody, then students should be tolerant that Chick-fil-A has an opinion of the LGBT community. She said she thinks a Chick-fil-A on campus is a great idea and that it would do really well at UNF.
Cathy is advocating for restricted rights for gay and lesbian people by supporting the organizations and causes that he does, said Krista Paulsen, associate professor of sociology and chair of the sociology and anthropology department at UNF.
UNF has many students who feel the owners of private businesses are within their rights to support any causes that they choose, Paulsen said.
Paulsen said it’s important to remember that when people patronize businesses, they put money in the hands of the owners of those businesses. People have a right, as consumers, to recognize where that money goes. And if people don’t like it, then they have a right not to patronize those businesses, therefore indirectly supporting those causes, she said.
Papa John’s hasn’t been very vocal about its anti-gay stands as Chick-fil-A has, Ruiz said. Chick-fil-A is now a symbol for people who are anti-gay, and stopping Chick-fil-A from coming to UNF first is more important than dealing with Papa John’s, he said.
Gerald Joseph, a UNF psychology senior, said he has seen UNF transform to what it is now from when he started in 2009. He attributed UNF President John Delaney and vice president Tom Serwatka as two individuals who are progressive.
He said the actions to bring a Chick-fil-A to UNF is a step in the wrong direction and said he feels it undermines Delaney and Serwatka’s progressive work.
And with a Chick-fil-A already at the St. Johns Town Center and a shuttle that takes students to the Town Center, Joseph questions why UNF needs a Chick-fil-A on campus.
Bringing Chick-fil-A to campus
Benton Jones, the Chick-fil-A marketing director for UNF, said Chick-fil-A will be good for UNF.
Jones said he doesn’t think the controversy about Chick-fil-A’s stance on the LGBT community should make students feel uncomfortable. Chick-fil-A just wants to sell everybody chicken, make everybody happy and treat everybody the same way, he said.
Fassi said he wants to enhance the overall student experience, not just the dining experience, but he doesn’t think Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s are alone the answers.
Putting in a Chick-fil-A in Building 8 will boost Alumni Square, Fassi said. He said he is looking into keeping a section of the Osprey Cafe open 24 hours a day, as well.
Fassi said students have approached him saying they want bigger brand names on campus when it comes to dining. Based on student feedback, Sbarro, Quiznos, Chick-N-Grill and Salsarita’s were not cutting it, he said.
The 2011-2012 Brockelman administration initiated the Chick-Fil-A proposal, Fassi said. He said he feels a burden to carry out Brockelman’s previous campaign initiatives because it would be a disservice to let the project go.
The means of funding for Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s will be coming out of the SG fund balance, Fassi said. Every year, the students pay an activity and service fee. Not all of that money is spent every year, and it rolls over into a fund balance, he said. That fund balance is for student scholarships and projects such as these.
Fassi said it’s unacceptable to have students pay into fees and then to have the money not all be exhausted or used up. If the projects are going to benefit the student body, then it’s completely appropriate SG uses the money that is sitting there.
Dave Jordan, the district manager for Chartwells at UNF, said Chick-fil-A is a winner no matter where it goes. Chartwells operates all of the dining facilities on UNF’s campus. Right now, the new cafe is the winner, he said, and it has taken a lot of business away from the other dining services on campus.
Jordan said Chick-fil-A sent down its representatives who looked at the Sbarro facility because it’s the only place large enough on campus to replace with a Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A then agreed and said it could do it, he said.
When asked what would happen to the long-time Sbarro employees, Jordan said the employees would probably find somewhere else to work on campus. He said some of them have been at UNF for 10 years. Chartwells doesn’t get rid of people when it rids an area of franchises, he said.
So, where’s the pizza?
With the plans to replace Sbarro with Chick-fil-A, students then expressed their concerns about not having a place where they can buy pizza on campus, Fassi said.
Enter Papa John’s.
Papa John’s has a higher acceptability than Sbarro, Jordan said. Salsarita’s is the slowest out of Quizno’s and Chick-N-Grill in the Student Union, so that is why Salsarita’s would be the one being replaced, he said.
SG conducted a Facebook poll when it was in the initial stages of seeing if students wanted Chick-fil-A, Fassi said. SG found more than 700 students in favor of placing one on campus out of 16,000 students, he said.
Osprey Voice, run by SG, goes out to campus multiple times a week and surveys students, Fassi said. SG has surveyed over 11 percent of the student body, and more than 87 percent of those surveyed have expressed approval of swapping Sbarro with Chick-fil-A and Salsarita’s with a Papa Johns, he said.
Since March 2012, SG has surveyed 1,700 to 1,800 students out of 16,000, Fassi said. SG conducted the last survey over the Summer B session. So far, SG has three additional dates scheduled for surveys. This is considering that the funding request gets approved, he said. Fassi said SG will continue to survey until it has accurate numbers.
Staying healthy amid the fast food
Ross Keen, a UNF anthropology sophomore, said Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s go against the idea of the healthy Osprey. He said it would spit in the face of UNF Health Promotion.
Keen said he loves Salsarita’s because it has cheap veggie rice-bowls. He said it’s the cheapest place to get healthy food on campus.
Travis Spain, a UNF graphic design junior, said he is satisfied with Salsarita’s and does not want Papa John’s to replace it. Spain enjoys Salsarita’s gluten-free selection of items.
The only gluten-free items Papa John’s has is its wings, according to its website.
But Fassi said he does not think Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s go against the idea of the healthy Osprey, especially since UNF just opened up a wellness center on campus.
And as the dates for the budget and allocations committee to hear the request and for the Senate to decide the final verdict draw closer, Fassi said he will continue to do what the students want.
He said if SG has an overwhelming majority of students that is not in favor, then it would have a serious impact on the project. Fassi said he would then formally rescind the project.
Email Bonnie Mulqueen at email@example.com.