• Lillie Burke

Faculty Senate recommends handbook changes

Belmont’s Faculty Senate voted to recommend adding “sexual orientation” to existing nondiscrimination policies in faculty, staff and student handbooks.

The proposals, to be presented to the office of the provost for review, ask that the university’s written policies reflect Dr. Bob Fisher’s recent statements regarding hiring and admissions. In recent media statements, Fisher said, “Sexual orientation is not considered in making hiring, promotion, salary, or dismissal decisions at Belmont.”

His statements came in response to wide media attention around the exit of women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe, who left the university after she revealed that she and her same-sex partner were expecting a child in May.

In Friday’s special meeting of the senate, considerable debate took place before the motions passed.

Business professor Howard Cochran stood in opposition of the motions—mostly because of the time frame of the situation. He presented a list of 15 reasons why the Faculty Senate should not pass two motions on the floor. Among them were:

  1. Faculty Senate action is unnecessary. The president is already committed to having discussions on the issue.

  2. Further action by the Faculty Senate may draw more negative media attention, and the president deserves an unobstructed way to work out the issues.

  3. The exact wording in the handbooks needs to be constructed with legal guidance.

  4. It would be better to let the situation work through the internal processes, so that the whole academic community at Belmont could have one unified voice.

Cochran then moved to withdraw the earlier motion that would call on administrators to add “sexual orientation” to university policy . After his effort failed, he made a new motion to table the original motion until the Board of Trustees has approved a new policy or until Dr. Fisher or the board asks for the Faculty Senate’s comments.

Several voices, including political science professor Dr. Nathan Griffith and religion professor Dr. Ben Curtis, presented points in favor of the motion.

  1. Griffith said that instead of waiting on the internal processes, the Faculty Senate should actively be a part of the internal processes.

  2. Curtis suggested that the Faculty Senate act now in order for the momentum to carry on. “Time  is of the essence,” he said.

There was also deliberation over the exact wording of the resolutions. Ultimately, the senate agreed to amend both to simply include “sexual orientation” rather than re-word statements within the specific nondiscrimination policy.

“I’m very happy about how it came out. I think it’s appropriate that we processed it thoroughly as a Senate and that all voices were heard,” English professor Annette Sisson said.

“We’ve been trying to move into a more engaged Senate all year, so we’ve had those kind of discussions before. But I think it’s a sign of health that people are just not going along.”

Sisson, who presented the resolutions, said she hopes that the Faculty Senate’s actions spur a more in-depth discussion on campus.

“I hope that they are the catalysts for the deep conversation that needs to happen among the board members and the senior leadership at Belmont,” Sisson said. “I hope that we arrive at a place where our identity is less confused.”

Motion text:

Motion 1 We gratefully acknowledge the policy statements clearly and forcefully articulated by President Fisher in his Press Conference on December 8, 2010: “In the ten years that I have served as Belmont’s president, sexual orientation has not been considered in making hiring, promotion, salary, or dismissal decisions. I need for you to hear that clearly—sexual orientation is not considered in making hiring, promotion, salary, or dismissal decisions at Belmont. Neither is it considered in student admissions.” In accordance with these policy statements, we move the addition of the phrase “sexual orientation” to the Belmont Faculty Handbook Section 2.5.1.3.1., the first paragraph of 2.11.3, and all other applicable places in the Faculty Handbook. Motion 2 We gratefully acknowledge the policy statements clearly and forcefully articulated by President Fisher in his Press Conference on December 8, 2010: “In the ten years that I have served as Belmont’s president, sexual orientation has not been considered in making hiring, promotion, salary, or dismissal decisions. I need for you to hear that clearly—sexual orientation is not considered in making hiring, promotion, salary, or dismissal decisions at Belmont. Neither is it considered in student admissions.” In accordance with these policy statements, we encourage the inclusion of language prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in all applicable places in the Staff and Student Handbooks.

#facultysenate #GLBTissues

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