Here at UCR, diversity and inclusion are promoted; while we usually do well in demonstrating those values, there are occasions when we miss the mark. ASPB demonstrated that on Friday, Oct. 4 when they held their “Pooloza” event during which they hosted the well-known, homophobic fast-food chain, Chick-fil-A, who catered the event. If this was the first occurrence, they could have been forgiven for their lack of knowledge of Chick-fil-A’s long-standing reputation for donating to pro-family values organizations such as The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, The Salvation Army and Family Research Council, all of which promote conversion therapy and spread anti-LGBT propaganda. Chick-fil-A has even been sued for religious discrimination toward a Muslim employee in 2002.
While ASPB may not hold these sentiments as an organization, hiring a prominent anti-LGBT fast-food chain to cater an event is a cause for concern. Last spring quarter, LGBT students attended an ASUCR meeting and articulated their frustration regarding the use of Chick-fil-A as an incentive for voting in the 2019 ASUCR elections. The Highlander Empowerment Referendum, an initiative to continue funding for ethnicity, gender and sexuality programs at Costo Hall, was also on the ballot and it was in bad taste to use Chick-fil-A to cater the event. The message ASUCR seemed to be sending was a simple one: “We don’t care for Costo Hall or your identity.”
The advertisements for the chicken sandwiches made no mention of Chick-fil-A when the marketing for the event began on Instagram on Oct. 3. Every other aspect of the event was tagged to its respective vendor or performer, but the chicken sandwiches did not receive the same treatment. The marketing seemed strange at first, but it made sense when ASPB’s Instagram story included a picture of a Chick-fil-A sandwich.
ASPB had a quarter to acknowledge the general outcry from LGBT students. There was active pushback and an article detailing the event’s occurrence, but there was a lack of acknowledgment on ASPB’s part to demonstrate inclusivity in their events after the spring quarter’s outcry. This event suggests that ASPB doesn’t believe campus issues are connected to student’s lives or that those issues matter. Events for students on campus always require sensitivity to political issues and the campus environment. It is crucial to keep a campus de-politicized, but hiring the franchises and entities that actively combat students’ lives just bring conflict to campus.
ASPB has recently apologized to individual students for mishandling the event, but they have yet to apologize to the campus as a whole. That being said, apologies do not matter since there is no concrete evidence that they will avoid Chick-fil-A or other franchises who do not align with our campus’ values of diversity and inclusivity. Having such organizations will affect ASPB’s image as a campus organization. They lack communication with students and instead try to please all students with “universally accepted” event components. This process proves to be lazy and insensitive to the students they exclude unintentionally.
Now coming forward on improving events for the future, ASPB should acknowledge the sentiments expressed by students on their social media posts and in ASUCR’s meeting. This would entail full disclosure in their marketing tactics to inform students of every vendor and caterer involved in future events. One way to address these issues is for ASPB to create a council comprised of individuals who are involved within Costo Hall’s identity programs. Their varied backgrounds and knowledge of campus demographics would determine if a vendor is fit for our campus. Although the details of ASPB’s future events are unclear, there is certainly room for improvement within the organization.