Chick-fil-A controversy spreads to Southern Miss

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The controversy over fast food chain Chick-fil-A has spread to the University of Southern Mississippi campus.

The popular restaurant chain has been in headlines nationwide for weeks after its owner made statements proclaiming his stance against gay marriage. The owner has also funded anti-homosexual nonprofit groups. Whether or not a business executive should express such opinions and how the public should respond has been a water cooler conversation across America for weeks.

But now, at USM, there's a new element: What should happen when that business is on a college campus and the students start speaking out?

Southern Miss student Andy Bearden has launched a petition online aiming to get what the form calls the "extremely anti-equality" restaurant booted from the campus Union, a popular place on campus for students to gather and eat.

The petition has a target of 15,000 signatures. So far, more than 500 students and staff have gotten involved, and more are clicking 'sign' by the hour.

When asked for a comment, the university's Chief Communication Officer Jim Coll issued a statement that did not address the politics or the petition, but instead iterated the business contract: "The University of Southern Mississippi has out-sourced all of its food service operations through a long-term contract with the Aramark Corporation. Chick-fil-A is one of ten different retail dining options available on campus. Aramark provides dining services on more than 600 college campuses nationwide including five public universities in Mississippi."

USM professor Kate Greene has requested the issue be put on the faculty senate's agenda.

"We have a non-discrimination policy at USM that includes sexual orientation and so if we have that policy, I think to live up to that, then we should not be doing anything to support organizations that are anti-gay," said Greene.

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