Cindy Folefack
Managing Editor
POSTED
2 weeks ago

Racist comments by chain’s former CEO prompts Dining Services to consider closure

The Papa John’s Pizza location in Dining Hall West is facing removal after a report emerged alleging the company’s former CEO used a racial expletive during a conference call.

The chain’s founder, John Schnatter, was removed as chairman of the board, and his image was taken off of advertisements on July 11 following the publication of a Forbes article stating he used the n-word during a conference call in May. The company took steps to remove Schnatter after he admitted to using the racial slur while on a call with marketing agency Laundry Service. Director of Food and Retail Services Carrie Chutes-Charley released a joint statement with resident district manager for Chartwells Higher Education Steven Goodwin concerning the Papa John’s location in Dining Hall West.

“UT Dallas Auxiliary Services and our food service partner, Chartwells Higher Education, are exploring all options for removal of the Papa John’s franchise from campus in light of the highly offensive behavior,” Chutes-Charley and Goodwin said in the statement.

Chartwells representatives met with Auxiliary Services within a week of the Forbes article’s publication to discuss next steps in the wake of Schnatter’s removal. Chartwells is the food provider for the UTD campus and works with Auxiliary Services to provide dining options for students.

Chutes-Charley said while she hasn’t received any complaints from students, she encourages students to attend the Food Service Advisory meeting on Sept. 4 to share their opinions on whether or not the franchise should be removed as well as possible options to replace it. Goodwin added that the future of the on-campus location depends largely on students.

“Our program is very customizable, we really want to go after what students truly want and desire, so we don’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction removing Papa John’s, and some of our students still want that brand, or replace it with something else and (students) are looking for something totally different,” Goodwin said. “I think there has to be a process like surveying students and stuff like that that we have to go through in deciding what our next steps look like.”

Papa John’s is Chartwells’ top brand among college campuses, with over 400 locations nationwide. Goodwin said while UTD is considering ending its partnership with the chain, each institution is given the choice to keep or replace its on-campus franchises, though Chartwells itself is legally obliged to continue its contract with Papa John’s. Goodwin declined to comment on his personal opinion pertaining to Schnatter’s comments.

“We’re still in the process of exploring whether we’ll continue the relationship with them or not,” Goodwin said. “At this time, we’re contractually bound with Papa John’s, as we are with other brands as well, so we’re still looking into it.”

Schnatter initially stepped down as CEO in January after criticizing NFL players who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality, which resulted in the brand losing its spot as the “official pizza of the NFL,” according to Yahoo Finance. Since the new allegations came to light, several major league baseball teams such as the Miami Marlins have cut ties with the chain. Schnatter is now suing the company to access records pertaining to his resignation.

The on-campus Papa John’s location will remain open as usual once the school year begins, pending a decision from the student body to decide on its possible removal. Chutes-Charley said this is partially due to the fact that the campus franchise is a shared space.

“We operate a convenience store out of that space too, so that’s one reason why it will be open,” Chutes-Charley said. “We don’t want to penalize the students living in the residential area to not have the convenience store items too, so it’s important that we look at the big picture there.”

According to the university’s fall 2017 class profile, African-Americans accounted for 5 percent of the total student population, or about 1,400 students. In response to possible concerns from these students, Chutes-Charley stressed the university’s position of prioritizing an inclusive campus.

“We take pride in creating a campus dining program that embraces diversity, inclusion and respect and is committed to working with partners who share the same values,” she said.