It’s not about the sandwiches. Cynthia Newman, dean of the College of Business Administration at Rider University in New Jersey, announced Wednesday (March 6) that she will leave her post in August as a protest against the school’s decision to stop a fast food franchise from setting up shop on campus.
Newman’s move came after Rider administrators sent students a survey last year asking which restaurant they would most like to see on campus. Chick-fil-A won easily, but the school decided to block the chain based on its president’s infamous statements opposing gay marriage. In a November email explaining the decision to students, Rider cited a divergence between the school’s values and the franchise’s.
That wasn’t good enough for Newman.
“As some of you already know, I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ,” Newman said in her announcement, first reported by Campus Reform, a right-leaning campus “watchdog.” “As such, I endeavor every day to do exactly what Chick-fil-A puts forward as its overarching corporate value: to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to me and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with me.”
CONTROVERSY OVER GAY MARRIAGE FOLLOWS FRANCHISE
Chik-fil-A, of course, is not just any fast food franchise. Its president, Dan Cathy, inserted the Atlanta-based chain into the middle of a heated national conversation when he said in a 2012 interview that America was “inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.” Cathy, who is also Chik-fil-A’s COO, later added, “We are very much supportive of the family, the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.”
However, despite a vow to “stay the course,” Cathy soon bent to pressure from corporate partners. Amid the shifting winds of political favor, Cathy announced that Chik-fil-A would no longer donate to anti-LGBTQ+ groups; in 2014 he expressed dismay that he’d aligned his company with bigotry. Still, Chik-fil-A remains a political lightning rod, serving as the fast food of choice for conservatives who consider their support of its chicken-heavy menu a thumb in the eye of the country’s liberals.
Rider University’s survey of students about fast food preferences produced a clear winner in Chik-fil-A, but the school balked at welcoming the controversial franchise, saying it would change course as a statement of “inclusion for all people.” The fast food franchise’s “corporate values have not sufficiently progressed enough to align with those of Rider,” the university told students in a November 1 email.
‘PUNCHED IN THE STOMACH’
Newman, a “very committed Christian” who had served as dean of Rider’s College of Business Administration since 2017, told Campus Reform that she felt “punched in the stomach” by the university’s statement. She will leave her the deanship on August 31, continuing her role as professor at the unranked Rider B-school.
According to her CV, Newman earned her MBA from Rider in 1991 and her doctor of philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania Higher Education Administration in 1998. Her areas of expertise are listed as positioning, strategic market planning, marketing of higher education institutions, and marketing research.
“While we respect Dr. Newman’s personal decision, we maintain that the decision about choosing an on-campus restaurant franchise was in no way a judgment on religious values,” said Kristine Brown, Rider’s associate vice president of marketing and communications, according to NJ.com. “Rather, our intention was to foster a sense of respect and belonging of all members of the campus community, including those who identify as LGBTQ+.”
Rider University is located in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, about 8 miles north of Trenton. It offers MBA, Master of Accounting, and Executive MBA programs.