Month: August 2017

Five years of boycotting Chick-fil-A


My third ever post on this blog (back when the .xyz top-level domain did not even exist and I was on was entitled “Why you should boycott Chick-fil-A.”

Chick-fil-A, and more specifically, the president of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, is choosing to discriminate homosexuals. While homosexuality may not be right in your opinion, I firmly believe this is more discrimination than belief. Dan Cathy has even said that he is “guilty as charged” for his opposition to homosexuality.

He (and his family) can obviously donate to anti-homosexuality groups, but putting his large company’s profits to a very controversial topic is a bold and threatening move that will obviously deter customers away from their shops, especially in liberal areas. I believe his actions are very wrong and I must criticize him of his wrongdoings.

Please do join me in the boycotting of Chick-fil-A. This is an outrage and definitely discrimination. I hope this all goes to rest soon. Chick-fil-A needs to realize that this isn’t something that a whole company should do; it should be more like a family culture.

–Jeffrey Wang, 2012, age 12

Let’s do a few things before I proceed.

First off, 12 year old Jeffrey, “discriminate homosexuals” doesn’t make sense. It’s discriminate against homosexuals. And the more proper term would be “members of the LGBT community.” Second, the second paragraph is more of a “no duh” point. Yeah, he can donate to anti-LGBT groups, but that doesn’t mean he should. And third, unfortunately it has not gone to rest. And no, not even family cultures should be heteronormative, Jeffrey. Shame on you! (Remember this was back in 2012 and that I was raised in a conservative city in Texas.)

Five years later, I’ve changed a lot. I’ve changed schools twice, each time met with new people. Plus, I’ve met new people elsewhere, whether digitally or in-person. I’ve been many places that are different than Texas. I’ve experienced a lot. In the time between that post from 2012 and this current post, gay marriage was legalized through the Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges. But there is one thing that has not changed, something that I steadfastly continue to do today: I still continue to boycott Chick-fil-A.

I’m going to elaborate on why I started my boycott, why I’m continuing it, and how I manage.

Why did I start my boycott?

Around 2011 or 2012, same-sex marriage became a contentious topic. At that time, it wasn’t legal nationwide. That means my opinion was quite unpopular back then, especially considering I lived in a quite conservative city and surrounding metropolitan area. News organizations revealed that Chick-fil-A was donating to gay conversion therapy groups (Exodus International), anti-gay hate groups (Family Research Council; considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a source of information for the FBI), Fellowship of Christian Athletes (an organization that should not belong in public schools per the principle of separation of church and state, and one that opposes gay marriage and gay bedroom activity through its pledge), and more organizations promoting heteronormative relationships and marriages. In fact, the mayor of Boston prevented Chick-fil-A from building a new location due to their homophobic attitude.

Although it appears from my limited sources of information that Chick-fil-A has ceased donating to all of the above except for FCA, that won’t cut it for me. FCA’s continued promotion of heteronormative relations and unwarranted intrusion into our schools is concerning and violates the principle of separation of church and state. One of the school districts where FCA is allowed to be an official club in schools is my former district, McKinney ISD. As a Buddhist, I am concerned that FCA can have a club simply because it’s so easy to find students and a sponsoring faculty member that are Christian, yet was probably the only Buddhist in the entire school, faculty included, until I left. My former ISD forces everybody in the audience to listen to Christian prayers (and no other religion’s prayers) during graduation. In fact, they have committed so many violations that they were censured by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and finally stopped some of the intrusions of religion into classrooms. Not all have been fixed yet, including FCA still being allowed to operate as an official school club. I remember New York City kicked out all religious institutions using public property, including Buddhist organizations. I fully support their decision to do so, especially the Buddhist organizations. I am fair and impartial to the principle of the separation of church and state. I don’t discriminate against Christianity; it just so happens to be the majority, and that’s why all this anti-gay hatred has been amplified by Chick-fil-A.

Why am I continuing it?

Since Chick-fil-A has continued to donate to amplify anti-LGBT organizations while proselytizing at each of their store locations, I cannot resume monetarily supporting them. Under their current management structure, they will always send money secretly to these anti-LGBT organizations. I think it’s very simple why I’m continuing my boycott: until the company is completely changed, I can’t give them my money.

How do I manage?

Well, first off, my family didn’t really go out that often when I was 12. When we did, I made sure to suggest plenty of other delicious options in our vicinity, such as Market Street, Pei Wei, Fuzzy’s, Mooyah, and other comparable establishments. I made it clear I wasn’t going to Chick-fil-A and that I would rather starve at home than go. Whenever you crave Chick-fil-A, think of a member of the LGBT suffering because they were harassed due to their sexuality or their marriage isn’t recognized, all perpetuated by entities like CfA. Still want to go? For every cent you spend at Chick-fil-A, donate two to the Trevor Project or the ACLU or the FFRF.

Nowadays, I don’t remember the taste of Chick-fil-A. I’ve overcome the addiction.

And while a few dollars might not seem like much for CfA to lose, at least your conscience can rest easy at night. Plus, give your support to businesses full of real people who share the same loving attitude that supports LGBT rights. Trust me, happiness doesn’t require a Bible or a chicken sandwich. If we all pitch in our money to other businesses, eventually CfA will lose money and less money will go to homophobic hate groups.

Would I go back to Chick-fil-A if they stopped donating to homophobic hate groups, changed their management structure, and made it transparent that they were pro-LGBT? Short answer: no. Long answer: if I have nothing to eat, my weight isn’t killing me, and someone innocently bought me a CfA gift card, then I’ll reluctantly go. And hopefully then donate $100 to the ACLU and the Trevor Project for my sins.

How to email professors about finding undergraduate research

Looking for undergraduate research opportunities? Here’s a good Quora question about emailing professors.
I’ll go over some of the top answers and analyze them. They all make different, meaningful points about this process.
The answer from Shaad M. Ahmad, Assistant Professor at Indiana State University is one you should especially pay attention to:
I cannot speak for all professors, but I will tell you how I view cold emails. I tend to receive two types of cold emails asking for research opportunities and have a very distinct response to each:
Emails that are obvious cut-and-paste generic messages sent out to a large number of professors on the slim hope that someone may express an interest: These, I utterly ignore. I am not interested in students or postdocs who are not interested and passionate about the research questions that my lab is investigating.
Emails sent by individuals that demonstrate that they have looked into my research interests, read my previous publications, and are actually interested in my lab’s research program: I am likely to actually respond to the senders of these emails. That is no guarantee of my necessarily accepting them into my research program, but at the very least, we will have begun a dialogue.
This answer is very truthful and shows how important it is to email each professor one at a time. NEVER email more than one professor at a time, whether through different emails or BCC. If they see another professor is emailed, they’ll be insulted.

Then there is an answer from William Beeman, Professor and Chair, University of Minnesota, which I will make comments on.
These emails generally are ignored. They are often bulk emails sent out to hundreds of people without regard to any individual’s personal research interests or their ongoing research.
Even if you do everything right, you might be ignored, for reasons such as: lab is full, you’re not suited for the lab, etc. I just talked about how you should never send a research interest email to more than one professor, so the above scenario should not apply. Below is a very good example for a PhD candidate on how to join a professor’s lab. In your case, saying that you are an undergraduate student majoring in XYZ and attaching a resume is good enough. It is best to mention the professor’s prior research and show how you can use your skills in their lab, as this demonstrates interest in their lab specifically and not others’ labs.
Here is a much better approach in the sample inquiry below:
Dear Professor X (name the professor)
I am completing my undergraduate studies and have read your work on (X subject). It has inspired my interest in a research career in your field, particularly in the (X specialty area—named specifically). I was especially inspired by your article(s) (books) (NAME THEM SPECIFICALLY). I plan to apply for the Ph.D. program at your university, and am writing to ask about the possibility of working with you if I am admitted.
(Then list your research experience, your credentials, etc. and attach a curriculum vitae)
We then have a nicer professor who understands the struggle of finding research.
Jason M Pittman, Professor of Computer Security & Computer Science
I’m open to cold emails as long as I can tell that the message is an honest attempt to connect and begin a dialogue.
I think a semi-closed door policy on cold engagements is dangerous insofar as new researchers (especially undergrads) do not always have the means to engage otherwise.
But some professors aren’t as nice. We then have this professor from Germany that has some pretty high standards. To be honest, professors’ personalities are also important. You two have to have a professional synergy. Personally, I would never want to work with this professor because I might accidentally offend her by breathing. That being said, she makes some good points among her contempt. I’ll comment on how you can deal with difficult professors using her answers.
Brigitte Mathiak
It is very hard to slip through the Spam barrier.
Wow, rude much? If you use your school email you should have no troubles with your emails being marked as spam. Look to fellow students for comfort and rejection support if a professor calls you a “spammer” and you were making a good-faith effort in the appropriate way.
Rule 1: Be very specific
Looking for an adviser on my Master thesis on XYZ
Tell them you’re an undergrad and what you’re majoring in.
Rule 2: Be very short
I will scan the subject and maybe first line of the email. Others have other email settings.
Yes, be concise and straight to the point. Professors don’t have much time to waste.
Rule 3: Tell me what you want and how much it will cost me.
Looking for a research project… I would assume that you are asking to be hired in some way. If I do not happen to have money, I immediately stop reading.
Doesn’t really apply; you don’t need to do a cost-benefit analysis because you’re not a PhD student.
Can I visit your lab?… Sounds fishy. What do you want?
As a general rule of thumb, just don’t ask for things you’re not entitled to. Visiting a lab will be a burden for some professors so just don’t. Let the suspense of what your future lab looks like arouse your passion for research.
Can we do research together?… You clearly don’t know how high-quality research works, so nope.
Some professors are elitist and don’t want lowly undergraduates in their labs. In that case just forget about them, Cee-Lo Green style. (jk don’t cuss at or insult them)
Do you offer research opportunities?… Nope. Actually, I am not clear on what that means exactly. Do you mean research job opportunities? Opportunities to do research? Topics for a thesis? Would I want to be adviser on a thesis? This is not me being confused, this is students seeming to think that this means whatever they happen to think it means.
Just be clear you want to join their lab. Assume they offer research opportunities and don’t ask indirect questions.
Rule 4: Don’t insult me. (Happens more often than you think)
Good example:
Sub: Looking for primary adviser on Master thesis
Dear Prof. Mathiak,
I am looking for a Master topic with regards Usability. I have read your paper “…” and would like to do something similar, but I am also open to other suggestions. Could we make an appointment? I am available …
Sincerely, …
Bad example:
Sub: REsearch oppurtunity
Dear Mr. Mathiak,
I have read all of your papers and I am very impressed with your academic prowess. I was wondering, if you could do research with me. I am sending you my c.v. I hope you can read OpenOffice, but I don’t believe in proprietary standards. If you can’t just send me an email and I will send you whatever format you prefer.
Many regards, …
Basically just don’t make it a pain in the @$$ for the professor to facilitate looking over your credentials and making a decision. At the end of the day, your email is asking for a part of their day and you should be very appreciative of the time they spend for you. So make it easy for them to accept you.

At the end of the day, you will get rejected by some professors, even if you do everything right. And it’s okay. Just keep on trying. They might not respond, or they might not have space in their lab, or they might need someone more qualified. In any case, don’t sweat it! You’ll fit in somewhere. Just keep trying.
Anyway, hope this commentary helps. Good luck with finding research!