Updated: Sep 21, 2022
Belmont University is looking for ways to support black students on campus following criticism of university President Dr. Bob Fisher’s response following the death of George Floyd.
After an email statement from Fisher caused minor controversies across the student population, Dr. Susan West announced Belmont will meet virtually with the Black Student Association Executives to directly gauge how they are feeling at this moment and what the university can do to help.
Fisher’s email addressed the strangling of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers incited worldwide protests and riots.
The email, which came a week after Floyd’s death, received backlash from students.
“I was highly disappointed and not satisfied,” said sophomore Kyra Keller. “He barely addressed the problem at hand, it seemed rushed and he didn’t give any support for the black community.”
Students like Keller quickly responded on social media and via email, saying Fisher was vague, danced around the problem and didn’t address the concerns of the black community.
In the original statement, Fisher listed two major forces he believed would allow students to confront current social issues: education and the love of God.
“My hope – my challenge, even – for all of us is that we will be a positive force in confronting the world and its problems with education and the love of God,” wrote Fisher.
Some students responded with the notion that Fisher’s opinion in the matter, while important, is not enough. They want to know how he is going to use his power to insight change across campus, and celebrate diversity on a larger scale through education and community efforts.
Senior Vakia Robinson was contacted personally by Fisher after she emailed Fisher her frustrations — her biggest concern being that Belmont might not be able to back up the letters and emails with actions.
“If they want to ease our concern and the unrest in our spirits then they’ll look at how their institution operates as a whole and make the honest necessary changes they need to make,” Robinson said.
Four days after the first statement was made, West sent an email to the student body on behalf of the Welcome Home Diversity Council and the Office of Multicultural Learning and Experience.
“This meeting will be the first of many listening sessions that will take place this summer, in consultation with Dr. Fisher, so that members of our community can speak, and we can listen,” said West, “It is our hope that this series will galvanize our work of building a diverse and inclusive campus where all members feel accepted, safe and valued.”
West’s email left students like Keller with mixed feelings — optimism for change, but lingering disappointment that it didn’t happen sooner.
“After reading the email I felt neutral to it, because on one hand, it felt like we had to force this change to happen, but on the other, I want to see this change,” Keller said.
It is unknown when the first meeting will happen, but West assured it will be the first of many this summer.
This article written by Julieann Challacombe and Evan Dorian.