Second letter and response regarding Chick-Fil-A at Cal Poly, SLO (July 11, 2012)

Dear Director Murphy and President Armstrong,
As I said in an earlier email, thank you very much for your prompt reply on this issue, and thank you for looking deeper into the problem.  However, in reading your response more carefully, there may have been a misunderstanding about the nature of my complaint.  I was not claiming that Chick-fil-A had formally discriminated against anyone, nor that there was a documented history of such discrimination.  Nor had I asserted that our particular campus franchise, or anyone who works here, was acting inappropriately.  I was addressing a different concern about the nature of Chick-fil-A’s larger corporate philosophy, reflected in their recently released financial statements, which indicate they’ve made contributions to organizations that run contrary to our University’s mission statement.

This presents perhaps a more nuanced problem for the University and CPC than outright discrimination because it is one step removed from our local professional relationship with the franchise.  But, for example, if we discovered a campus partner regularly and legally made contributions to white supremacists groups, but otherwise behaved as an ordinary company following all employment and customer service laws, I still feel we would need to examine our desire to have a financial relationship with such a partner.  Arguments like “their local franchise is run by the campus, so they are ok” and “they don’t have a history of discrimination in the courts, so must be ok” would not be addressing the relevant core concern.

Based on the kinds of financial contributions their larger corporate organization has made to groups that actively opposes the rights of gays and lesbians, I would strongly encourage the University and CPC to look again into the matter and reflect on whether Chick-fil-A is an company we wish our campus to partner with.

Thank you for your time and best regards,

Thomas D. Gutierrez
Associate Professor
Physics Department, 25-223
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407

Cal Poly Corporation Director Bonnie Murphy’s response to the second letter:

Hi Professor Gutierrez,

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. We agree wholeheartedly with
you that discrimination of any type is wrong and that we, at Cal Poly,
should never be directly or indirectly involved in discrimination.

As we act, we recognize that the very fabric of a university requires that
openness and objectivity be applied to counter conditions that might lead
to discrimination.  Data must drive our conclusions, and evidence as well
as experience must be included in those decisions.

I also believe that Cal Poly, in all of its operations and functions,
needs to instill in students, faculty and staff the tools to fairly and
intelligently assess situations, data and opinions, and make sure we check
our assessments against the backdrop of our values in arriving at rational
conclusions.  Just as we act to mitigate discrimination, we also must act
to mitigate any air of aggressive intolerance.

As shared, we did a review of Chick-fil-A and found no evidence that the
company has discriminated against gays and lesbians in employment or
customer service.

While its owners have, through their family foundation, given money to
various causes that espouse political and social views, we, as a campus,
embrace the First Amendment and free expression, and that means tolerating
views with which we might disagree.  As we also know, corporations are
free to engage in political activity. By the same standard, of course, no
one has to buy food at Chick-fil-A as we offer a variety of choices.

I think we all would agree that as a public institution, Cal Poly cannot
be in the business of deciding who its vendors should be on the basis of
the corporate owners’ political views. We can, of course, remove from
campus any organization that engages in discrimination.

It’s worth noting that while we have an agreement with the franchise,
Chick-fil-A on campus is operated by the Cal Poly Corporation, so all
employees and services are for us and provided by us.  As such, we have
not received any concerns from the Cal Poly community indicating that the
Corporation staff has acted in any way but respectfully to employees and

Based on all the research and experience that we have, Chick-fil-A
provides quality product and service in an environment free of
discrimination.  With that in mind, it is our intention to honor our

Please let me know if you would like to discuss this further.  Best wishes
for a good summer.


Bonnie D. Murphy
Associate Vice President of Commercial Services
Executive Director of Cal Poly Corporation
California Polytechnic State University