WU ends partnership with Target

| Staff Reporter

Wash. U. backed out of a partnered event with Target Corp. after the retail powerhouse received heat for a donation it made to an organization backing a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate with a history of staunch opposition to gay rights.

University administrators opted to cancel the Target After Hours Shopping Event—a nationwide program in which Target keeps various stores open after hours and provides transportation for college freshmen to shop and receive prizes. This was to be part of the First 40 Days series of events at Wash. U. for the incoming freshmen class.

Target donated $150,000 to Minnesota Forward, a political action committee focused on creating private-sector jobs and economic growth. The PAC then purchased TV ads for Tom Emmer, a candidate who, according to his campaign website, believes that ‘marriage is the union between one man and one woman’ and has consistently supported legislation that aims to protect this union.

In statement to various news outlets, representatives from Target have said that their support for the LGBT—lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender—community is ‘unwavering’ and that they back Mr. Emmer’s economic stance, not his social values.

Best Buy also contributed money to Minnesota Forward.

Target’s donation rankled LGBT activist groups and garnered attention in media outlets throughout the nation. Jill Carnaghi, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said that news of the controversial donation prompted her to look into the policies of Emmer and, after discussion with other administrators, ultimately led to the decision to cancel the event.

Campus Pride, a non-profit LGBT advocate organization that works with college campus nationwide, recently announced that Wash. U. was one of 19 campuses to receive five stars, the highest honors, for LGBT friendliness on campus. The ranking is based on a questionnaire fill-out by university administrators and takes into account LGBT- friendly policies and programs and practices on campus.

“We need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk,” Carnaghi said.

The Target controversy has become the poster-case for the potential backlash of the January Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United—a decision that enables corporations and unions to donate money to political campaigns. Prior to this decision, Target would not have been able to make the $150,000 donation to Minnesota Forward.

Minnesota Forward was established after the Citizens United decision to collect donations from corporations.

Despite the urging of activist groups, Target has decided not to make a political contribution of equal or greater value to a political campaign with liberal social views, according to a statement issued by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights group in the country working for LGBT equality.

The HRC subsequently dropped Target and Best Buy from their list of LGBT friendly companies and donated $150,000 to elect pro-LGBT equality candidates in Minnesota.

A Facebook group urging people to boycott Target currently has over 70,000 fans.

This is not the first time that a company Wash. U. has conducted business with has come under fire for its LGBT policies.

Last year The Laclede Group, a major gas and energy provider on campus, was ranked dead last in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index of companies’ LGBT employment policies.

Though their policies did not protect LGBT employees, the University did not cut ties with the Laclede Group.

According to Carnaghi, who had no authority over the Laclede Group situation, the Target shopping event logistically was easy to cancel because it was an optional event set to occur on a Thursday night.

“We are hopeful that Target will get it together and that we will work together with them in the future,” Carnaghi said.

Correction: The original published version of this article reported that Wash. U. participated in the Target After Hours Shopping Event since 2007. The University has never participated in the Target After Hours Shopping Event. Student Life regrets the error.

  • Jack

    So next step fire Katz. But he’s also the worst professor at WU

  • Christi Hiatt

    I am not surprised. I have found Target stores the most aggressively unfriendly stores in which I have shopped since entering gender transition. Today was the last straw in the Jacksonville NC.

    Christi Hiatt

  • PatrickJH

    BRAVO, WU for standing up to this PURELY commercial event.

    Many are REALLY missing the point. No one is denying anyone access to Target before or after this “event”. What WU said NO to is being in bed with Target, and letting Target bus your kids and colleagues to their store to SPEND THEIR MONEY… money that then funds politicians who have no value for your life after your pockets have been picked.

    This Target event is as much a community service event as Black Friday is a religious holiday.

  • Jeremy

    You know who else says that marriage should be between a man and a woman? Barack Obama. If he were invited to speak at Wash U, would all these liberal campus groups turn him away? Of course not, hypocrites.

    I’m also assuming that Wash U should spurn any company or individual who contributed to or supported the Obama/Biden compaign for president. Just looking for a little consistency here (though that’s never something one should reasonably expect from liberals who only see the most superficial elements of an issue) . . .

  • Nazani14

    Here’s why I’m boycotting Target- one of Tom Emmer’s positions is allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. This a life or death issue- some years ago I would have died of anemia if my doctor had not prescribed birth control pills. Target’s CEO must state that Target will never hire a pharmarcist who thinks he knows more than my doctor before I will shop there again.
    Read about Emmer’s shady business dealings, and ask yourself why Target would support such a person.

  • Jeremy Loscheider

    Thanks for pointing out that the contributions were to the PAC Minnesota Forward (MNF). If you look at the 7 candidates or incumbents who MNF currently supports, the common thread is that each has sponsored legislation aimed at improving Minnesota’s ability to compete – and condemning this organization for Emmer’s anti-gay stance ignores other incumbents’ pro-gay stance.

    For example, Terri Bonoff supported SF 341 which extends death rights to domestic same-sex partners, while Jim Pelowski supported SF971, which requires schools to adopt policies prohibiting harassment, discrimination or bullying of students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The HRC (which initiated the Target boycott) would certainly support both these candidates on both of these bills, but it condemns MNF anyway because MNF supports Emmer.

    From this we must conclude that the “morally superior” standpoint is one that tolerates zero deviance from support for gay rights issues. Emmer’s nays wipe out the value from Bonoff’s and Petrowski’s yays. Let’s make no mistake that the HRC’s action against Target was initiated on this sole basis.

    We could play this card against the HRC as well. Bonoff authored legislation to encourage corporations to divest themselves of business in the Sudan as a condemnation of that governments human rights’ record. Pelowski introduced a bill to provide additional job training for persons with development and physical disabilities. Should we then say that the HRC is for the genocide in Darfur, or that it is against disabled persons?

    The HRC used Target as a proxy for Jim Emmer. They took a visible target (no pun intended) that was very responsive to public pressure. Target, as an organization, makes a very large point of being concerned about the community’s perception of it as a corporate citizen and so emphasizes social responsibility. Rather than offend anyone, they apologized for their donation.

    It does not make sense that Wash U condemned Target AFTER Target has apologized, and to the detriment of its own students. What possible further point could Wash U make with this condemnation? Would it not make more sense to issue a statement in solidarity with the GLBT students and praise Target for seeing the error of its ways and apologizing?

  • MissouriNative

    The article only mentioned the common media talking point about “gay marriage” being the issue. The truth is that Emmer’s position on GLBT equality has been horrendous as a state legislator in Minnesota…and on may fronts. He has even refused to back down on his statement of the so-called “Christian” band You Can Run but You Can’t Hide (which Emmer’s has financially supported), in which Emmer’s said they were “nice people” AFTER Band member Bradlee Dean said on a radio talk show: “Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America,” Dean said. “This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”
    So for all those Neocons and myopic business school types that seem to think that businesses should operate ONLY on their “perceived” interests, which are supposedly only in the interests of their shareholders….would you be supporting those interests if they gave to a candidates who was racist against blacks or anti-Semitic, literally calling for their execution? The GLBT community sees Emmer’s record as being no different. Is this good for business? No…especially when there are over 73000 people alone on the “Boycott Target Until They Stop Funding Anti-Gay Candidates” Facebook page alone. So perhaps what is happening here is an example of how the “free market”and Democracy plays out. But, unfortunately, there are many who believe these corporations should still be able to hide their donations so there is a LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY. A majority of Americans are against the Citizens United decision and believe that corporations should not be given this new free reign to influence our elections. They should not be treated like people. At the least, donations should be completely transparent so that Democracy can play out.

  • cevin

    @s many who don’t get it…..PACs are ways of funding agendas without getting your hands dirty. You gave the money to Joe, but you didn’t know he was going to buy crack with it. WHAT? Joe is a crackhead! You’ve known for years!

    You can’t hide behind his economic policies, knowing is views on other issues that affect your community and customer base. How would you feel if every customer was only paying for things in the basket…and not the million things they hid underneath, saying ‘i’ll pay for these few things. Don’t worry about the stuff you don’t see. But I’ll take them too. Just not ging to pay you for them. Thank you.’

  • really?

    Here’s a good one:

    Sam Fox

    Donates $50,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, helping to sink Sen. Kerry’s 2004 Presidential run, helping to re-elect George W. Bush.

    Now I’m sure we all remember the Federal Marriage Amendment and a lot of politicians spoke out at that point. Let’s not forget DOMA either.

    So…Sam Fox supports Bush (not really a friend of same-sex marriage) but he gets his name on the art school. Let’s see Carnaghi walk the walk on that one.

    Oh even better- let’s talk about California. 52% of the voters there, in fact. That’s how many supported Prop 8. Remember that? Basically torpedoed same-sex marriage in that state for a while? Anyone? Remember?

    Is WashU going to refuse to recruit or admit students from California? After all, we know at least some of them or their families probably voted for prop 8. I guess we only walk the walk when it’s easy and won’t really upset anyone that much.

    Before I go- remember that letter that WashU sends whenever we have a military recruiter on campus? The one that says the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy violates our nondiscrimination policy but our hands are tied because by blocking recruiters, we would forfeit ALL federal funding (NIH included). If we really want to walk the walk, we should find a way to enforce our nondiscrimination policy and live without the federal cash.

  • Who?

    This is beyond asinine. Carnaghi should be replaced with someone interested in improving the quality of living and learning at WashU. We don’t need some liberal elitist who is more concerned about making a cheap political point at the expense of students.

    I’m sure many alumni will be terminating their recurring donations to WashU in the coming weeks over this issue. The Post-Dispatch and other local media have already picked up on it. Productive alumni who are doing well by doing good in society are not going to want to share their wealth with this type of lunacy when they hear about it.

  • Jeremy Huston

    So, where are the boycotts for the businesses that have donated directly or indirectly to President Obama? He is for marriage for staying between one man and one woman. I don’t hear any outrage directed at him or any other Democrat who feels the same way. Hypocritical much? I think so.

  • Brad

    I think Target can support whoever they want to. Denying the freshmen the after hours for Target is really unfair to them.

  • anonymous

    oh yeah and monsanto is a real charmer

  • Henry Polmer

    Good for WU. In my opinion, the purpose of boycotting Target is not just that Target’s contribution to a PAC (apparently intended by Target to support tax relief) inadvertently went to an anti-gay candidate. The broader purpose is to discourage corporations from using their newly Supreme Court-endowed ability to make political contributions. Actions have consequences, especially for companies with consumers as customers. Leave contribution-based political speech to individuals.

  • fboyer

    This is stupid…Target endorses all sorts of candidates for various reasons and you can’t expect every candidate that someone supports to share your same views. WU ending their relationship with Target only hurts WU students.

  • Percy

    The fact that Target did not donate to Tom Emmer specifically because of his gay marriage position does not obviate the fact that he holds those positions. You can’t donate to just one part of a platform. The fact that they might not personally hold Emmer’s agenda does not mean they didn’t materially help his agenda.

    Further, the entire point of this is to make donating to anti-gay-marriage candidates NOT rational – they can’t increase returns for shareholders if donating to morally objectionable candidates leads to boycotts. It’s like claiming that the non-dolphin-safe tuna boycotts were irrational because the tuna producers weren’t specifically trying to kill dolphins. They killed dolphins as a byproduct of trying to fish tuna as efficiently as possible – similarly, the byproduct of Target’s donation is helping the religious right agenda.

  • For the record, I am not taking any cold showers, though perhaps I could be persuaded to do so, to show solidarity if not moral superiority.

  • This is crazy

    Whether you’re a liberal or a conservative, can’t we all agree that we’ve really lost perspective here? Think about it. Target could have donated to politicians affiliated with weapons manufacturing, or companies that did business in countries that oppress women, or who were pro-abortion, or held any of a hundred other ideas that hurt people a whole heck of a lot more than someone who believes that marriage with should be between a man and a woman, and WashU would not have canceled this event. And Target didn’t even donate to this fellow, they donated to a PAC that then helped this fellow. But here is where we draw the line!? Really? Ridiculous. Political correctness trumps reason once again at our fair institution.

  • As usual, WashU’s administration is overreacting. Emmer received these donations from Target by way of Minnesota Forward based on his economic positions. Target, as a corporation whose sole function is to increase returns for shareholders, is thus acting rationally, and not demonstrating any sort of objectionable agenda. Likewise, the proposal that they donate to liberal candidates in equal order is absurd, as it overlooks the very fact that their economic positions are the source of Target’s displeasure. But as usual, the need to feel morally superior has led to a myopic review of the circumstances and the reaching of a conclusion that harms the students of this university.

  • Call me old fashioned, but I still believe an American university should prepare its students to be free citizens of a democracy, not corporate drones or corporatist ideologues.

    Small symbolic protests such as this event cancellation, or choosing to take cold showers, can be effective, if they lead to dialogue and change of hearts and minds.

  • Jeremy Loscheider

    Take the next logical step! Turn off the LGBT-unfriendly gas from Laclede! Better that students should take cold showers than support a bigoted organization, no?

    Yes, this is sarcasm. Business students – your university is out of touch with the reality that most corporations do not want to become progressive touchstones so much as efficient producers.

  • How Predictable

    Thank God we have Wash U’s administration to be self-righteous for us! Does this mean I need not pay my tuition if I don’t support the candidates and opinions that the administration supports?