Third letter and response regarding Chick-Fil-A at Cal Poly, SLO (August 2, 2012)

Dear Director Murphy and President Armstrong,
I believe you have mistakenly framed this problem in the category of free speech, politics, and religion.   Our situation at Cal Poly is not in those categories.  People frequently mask their bigotry behind their religion and politics, but this does not make bigotry itself a form of behavior we should accept.  Our problem here is in the category of civil rights.  And it is about making the right business choices in that context.

Cal Poly is under no obligation to do business with any particular organization; if we disagree with the business practices of a campus partner, we should stand by our mission statement and sever ties with it.  Chick-fil-A’s campus contract was renewed in 2010 and ends in 2015 (and is the only Chick-fil-A franchise on the Central Coast).  That it is locally operated is irrelevant to this bigger issue.  However, one worry on your part is certainly pragmatic: that we will be cited for breach of contract.  While understandable, this consideration merely puts an actual dollar price on our university mission:  for the price of a breach of contract settlement, the university is willing to compromise its principles.  This gives the impression the university’s core ideals can be bought, which is unfortunate.

Cal Poly has an amplified responsibility to make the right business choices in light of its strong mission statement and its recent WASC accreditation report.  Cal Poly already has serious diversity problems, and associations with organizations like Chick-fil-A compounds the issue.  Other universities, cities, and organizations around the country have had the courage to take a prompt stand against the policies of Chick-fil-A by severing their business relationship. Cal Poly should follow suit.

As you must know, Chick-fil-A’s business practices are becoming a national issue; many recent news articles have covered the evolving situation.  I strongly encourage you to further investigate the problem and see the bigger civil rights issues at stake.  I hope the Armstrong administration has the courage and conviction to act promptly and be on the right side of history in this matter.


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 third letter:

Dear Professor Gutierrez:

I fully agree with you that many people mask their bigotry behind their
politics or their religion. Of course, many people don’t bother masking
their bigotry at all.

We’ll have to agree to disagree, however, that the Chick-fil-A situation
is a civil rights issue, or that this issue involves the company’s
business practices. We have seen no evidence that the company has violated
anybody’s civil rights. If any evidence surfaces, I assure you we will
re-examine our contract. The only thing we know is that Dan Cathy has
strong feelings about what constitutes marriage.

I must reject your assertion that the university is willing to compromise
its principles for the sake of a dollar. In fact, if we are to remain
committed to our scholarly mission, we are required to assess the
situation for what it is, and to me that means we should be very careful
before jumping to a decision to abrogate a contract because a business
owner has expressed an opinion we might not like. I respect that you see
this situation differently.

On a matter that we can agree on: We are carefully monitoring
Chick-fil-A’s business practices, and we are reviewing how we approach
entering into contracts. For more on that, let me direct you to a fuller
statement I have made on this situation, which we posted online earlier
this week and can be read here

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me. I appreciate your
candor and interest in this issue.


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