A Bradley University alum is making a stand as his alma mater prepares to add a new Chick-fil-A in the Michel Student Center's food court.
To Eric Miller, including a franchise whose CEO recently made statements against same-sex marriage and who donates to anti-gay organizations goes against the advertised core values.
"It's bringing students in under a false guise of promising a safe learning environment that's free of hate and free of any anti-gay remarks against them, but then they're bringing in a business like Chick-fil-A to be on campus," said the 2010 graduate. "Bradley needs to stand up and publicize what its true message is going to be."
Miller was initially drawn to the Peoria, Ill., school because of its core values and enjoyed what he described as a welcoming environment. During his time there, he was involved with the Wellness Program called HEAT (an acronym for Help Empower and Teach), which acted as a peer education group focusing on health and safety on campus.
Disagreeing with the university's business decision to include a Chick-fil-A in the student center, a hub for campus activity, Miller took action by writing an objection letter to the university president and spokesperson July 29.
"You will go out and express who you are and find out the kind of mark you want to make on the world and it's not just about finding your career path, but it's really about self reflection and identifying the type of person you want to grow up to be and a lot of the things I took away from Bradley are part of the reason I'm coming back at it now," Miller said.
According to Miller, the danger of including the corporation on the campus involves Bradley collecting a profit from its sales and also assisting in its continuation of funding anti-gay organizations.
"I felt it was my role and my duty as an [alumnus] having gone through a great Bradley experience and picking up all of these things, these lessons, these morals, these values that were instilled to me while I was at Bradley," he said. "I need to come back and use that education that I paid for to educate the administration now."
A week later, on Aug. 2, after the letter ran in Peoria Journal Star, Bradley University Vice President of Business Affairs Gary Anna sent a response letter on behalf of the university. Anna defended their position by stating the fast food chain is merely an option in the food court and that the university had to abide by certain policies.
"As you may realize, it is most difficult for the University to impose our policies on othersin particular when those practices, contrary to our policies, have no direct bearing on campus life or the experiences of those at Bradley," read the letter.
Miller expressed disappointment and betrayal with the university's lack of empathy or definitive stance on the matter.
"If they want to separate themselves from this they need to say this is a business decision, we're not supporting it, we're doing these things to counter that support," said Miller. "This whole notion that their hands are tied and they can't do anything, it just really feels like a slap in the face to me. They need to learn from this and establish a way to better screen the business vendors they're going to be doing business with."
Miller fought back, responding to Anna's letter. As he addressed each paragraph of Anna's reply, he provided researched statistic as well as steps the school could potentially take to help rectify the situation.
"It's really coming from a data-driven, factual basis and not 'This is how I feel emotionally and I just want to spout off the first thing that comes to mind,'" he said. "I really wanted to provide a response and lead a conversation, a dialogue, with the administration on how this truly will affect not only current students, but alumi as well."
Miller has received an email with regard to his second letter informing him a response will be issued to him soon. It is still in question if Aramark Food Services, who represent Chick-fil-A suggested the fast food chain, or Bradley requested it. Miller aims to understand the processes that occurred and why the choice was made.
When asked for a comment, Bradley University Associate Vice President for Communications Shelley Epstein sent Windy City Times a statement that read, "Bradley University has a long history of embracing inclusion throughout the University community. The recent personal comments by Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, do not reflect the values of the University. Bradley respects all people, regardless of race, creed, color, gender or sexual orientation. As a University, we will continue to celebrate our diversity.
"Bradley recently received proposals for our dining services operation. Each of the three national firms that responded recommended Chick-fil-A as one of the anchors in our reconstructed Michel Center food court. As a result, there is now a five-year contract with Chick-fil-A to serve the Bradley community. The Michel Center food court is not part of our core residential dining plan and, therefore, dining at Chick-fil-A is discretionary for students and others in the University community."
Letters can be found on Miller's blog at bustopthehate.blogspot.com . BRAVE: Bradley Respects and Values Everyone (NOT!), a Facebook group, serves as a sounding board for the cause on Facebook.