LAWRENCE (Mercer) — A Rider University faculty member said she resigned from her position as dean because of the school's decision last year to not allow Chick-Fil-A to open a restaurant on campus.

A student survey in 2017 found that a large number of students wanted to see Chick-fil-A on campus. But a survey this fall did not include the chain as an option after the university cited the company's opposition to same-sex marriage and other positions on LGBT issues.

"We understand that some may view the decision as being just another form of exclusion. We want to be clear that this was not the spirit in which the decision was made," a letter from Rider president Gregory G. Dell’Omo and Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg explained last year. "We fully acknowledge an organization’s right to hold these beliefs, just as we acknowledge the right for individuals in our community and elsewhere to also personally hold the same beliefs."

In an interview posted Monday by the conservative website Campus Reform, Cynthia Newman said her views as a "very committed Christian" and the fast food chain's views "mirror" one another.

The decision made the former College of Business Administration dean feel like she had been "punched in the stomach."

Newman said her resignation as dean was effective Feb. 14 but she did not quit her job entirely.  Newman will rejoin Rider's faculty in September and be a member of the provost's leadership team as a special assistant to the provost, according to Rider spokeswoman Kristine Brown.

The final straw for Newman was the "talking points" she said Rider handed out regarding its decision, which offered an explanation but not an apology.

"I am not willing to compromise my faith and Christian values and I will not be viewed as being in any way complicit when an affront is made to those values," Newman said.

Chick-fil-A, founded in 1967 by the late S. Truett Cathy, prides itself on holding strong Christian beliefs. It does not open its 2,300 locations on Sunday in order to allow employees time with their family or to attend religious services.

In 2011, Cathy and his wife refused to allow same-sex couples to attend their marriage retreats. After reports that they had donated millions to Christian groups that opposed same-sex marriage, the Jim Henson Company severed its ties with Chick-fil-A and some LGBT activists called for a boycott. The company in 2012 said it was a restaurant and did not want to debate the issue as a company.

"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," Brown said Wednesday. "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+.

"The University thanks Dr. Newman for her many contributions to Rider since assuming the role of dean in 2017."

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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