Belmont provost David Gregory announced Wednesday that the university will begin considering Jewish faculty and staff in the colleges of law, pharmacy and medicine.
That same policy will eventually be adopted university-wide, he said.
Prior to the announcement, all faculty were required to be Christian.
The Vision asked several professors and a staff member what the new policy change meant to them and its potential impact on the university.
ROBIN FOSTER, Head of Cinematography
Foster said it has sometimes been difficult to hire professors in the motion pictures department.
“I know that we have had to reject several Jewish people. These are people who are highly qualified, wonderful people, would be great teachers and want to teach here,” said Foster.
“We need religious diversity. Jewish students are supported, so we should be supporting that among the faculty.”
Foster said the change will have a positive impact on Belmont’s student body.
“You go to college in order to broaden your experiences, your horizons, whatever you want to call it,” he said. “If your faith is shaken by merely having a Jewish professor, I think you need to reassess your faith.”
MONA IVEY-SOTO, Assistant Professor of Education
“I think by broadening this, it does show a commitment to moving in the right direction. When I first started here we had a person who was part of our department who was Jewish. He came in a consultant role. I think he wanted to do more and was not able to so I actually saw the side of this not happening previously,” Ivey-Soto said. “This change feels very affirming and positive for me.”
Ivey-Soto has experienced many major Belmont transitions during her seven years on staff and is looking towards what’s next.
“Some people would say, ‘OK, now we could include all world religions.’’ I don't know that that's the direction that we need to go in or should go in. I think there's sort of like the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, you know, that are rooted in a similar faith tradition. So perhaps there could be a movement to include other faiths, if people still understand that the institution has a Christian identity.”
MARK MCENTIRE, Professor of Biblical Studies
Professor McEntire spends his days talking about the Bible and teaching Hebrew to Belmont
"There's been an effort to define and amplify that Christ-centered message. It's always been my hope and understanding that when we call Belmont a Christian-centered university, we're making it the center and not fence,” he said. “We're not fencing people out, we're defining the center of the university even if people are at different places in relation to it. That they can still gather around that center, but not necessarily all be the same distance from the same side.”
RONNIE LITTLEJOHN, Professor of Philosophy and Asian Studies
“Part of the reason I came here is because it is a Christian higher education institution so I have always found that comfortable,” Littlejohn said.
“Belmont has had a steady trajectory of trying to be open. I think this is a part of the story of expanding our sense of identity.”
KELLIE MEEKS, Administrative Assistant
“I think it would be a good thing for diversity because we have more: we have more people, we have different backgrounds,” she said.
“It's going to change the whole faith base of Belmont.”
Meeks, who last year was presented with the Gabhart Award, given to the person who best exemplifies university values, said this decision, “doesn’t change my love for Belmont. It doesn’t change my love for other people,”she said.
“Anybody, everybody, we can show you the love of Jesus.”
This article was written by Gracie Anderson.