Hope. It’s been the paramount theme for President Greg Jones since he arrived at Belmont, and he’s making it an even more integral part of campus.
The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will now fall under the umbrella of the Office of Hope, Unity and Belonging – known as the HUB. Belmont hired Baylor University vice provost Lori Baker as vice president for aspirational excellence, which will put the HUB under her purview.
The change comes after the recommendation by a task force to create a more centralized space for DEI.
“We’re going to be changing the title to hope, unity and belonging. Those were the three themes the task force recommended as a way that Belmont could be distinctive and go deeper and broader than other universities,” President Jones said at the Sept. 12 faculty senate meeting.
Jones said that having a vice president over DEI and The Hub will “shape a deeper conversation.”
“I thought a Christ-centered university ought to be better at all those issues than the ordinary conversations that you get into where there’s lots of talk but little action,” Jones said.
Joining Baker in The HUB is Title IX coordinator Carly Elliott and a new Equity Compliance Specialist.
“What was very clear from the committee is that Belmont needs to continue to evolve into a community where truly everyone, regardless of who they are, where they came from, what they look like, who they love, what they believe, where everyone can belong and feel welcome,” said Dr. Jose Gonzalez, who is on the task force.
DEI offices are standard on most college campuses but the change in language to The HUB is too vague for School of Music professor and faculty senator Mark Volker.
Volker commends the work Jones has done at Belmont but said the change to the HUB is “unsettlingly open-ended.”
And while Volker agrees with Jones’ motivations, he disagrees with Belmont’s position in the conversation as a Christian institution.
“I am concerned that as a Christian university we actually have an obligation to make a stronger case for our DEI policies, especially if we promote enrollment and participation of non-Christian students,” he said.
Diversity has improved on campus in recent years, but the current freshman class is comprised of 74% white students. And for Justice Dudley, president of Belmont’s Black Student Association, putting DEI in the HUB is unnecessary.
“I don’t feel like people should have the need to ask about what something is in terms of student matters like diversity, equity and inclusion. There should be no questions,” she said.
“Although the name is cute, there’s nothing cute about the lack of diversity here at Belmont.”
PHOTO: Sarah Maninger/Belmont Vision
This article was written by Sarah Maninger.