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Faculty Senate wants open dialogue on hiring policy

The Belmont Faculty Senate postponed a vote on a resolution calling for clarification of Belmont’s hiring policy concerning sexual orientation, but passed a resolution encouraging the university and administration to have a open dialogue on campus.

Religion professors Dr. Robert Byrd and Dr. Ben Curtis introduced and recommended the resolution that passed unanimously at the senate meeting. It encouraged a conversation about the university’s hiring policy, while affirming the Senate’s belief “that sexual identity of individuals should not impact’s that person’s standing on campus.”

“The Senate encourages the administration to believe in the ability and will of the University family to engage in open dialogue on the topic and urge the administration to offer leadership in such dialog,” the resolution stated.

The Faculty Senate meeting also led to a unanimous tabling until January a resolution proposed by Dr. Nathan Griffith, professor of political science. That proposal, previously reported by the Belmont Vision, called for clarification and conversation of Belmont’s hiring policies, particularly in regard to sexual orientation. A number of faculty senators were concerned about the effect of a hasty resolution and the actions it might force.

“We would like to have open conversation about that issue before we rush to clarify a nailed-down policy,” said English professor Dr. Annette Sisson. “We would like to have a voice in the conversation about what that policy should be.”

Despite his resolution’s tabling, Griffith was content with the direction of the board.

“I think we made some pretty good decisions today,” he said.

The resolution that was passed is an effective, forward-thinking first step to addressing the problem stemming from coach Howe’s exit, Sisson said.

“Dr. Curtis’ resolution invited a conversation, and it took a stand about what we believe is appropriate for the future for our community instead of expressing censure or judgment about a specific instance that just occurred.” Sisson said.

The resolution also “acknowledged the necessity for all of the Belmont community to act in a moral and legal manner.”

Both resolutions were proposed in lieu of the controversial exit of former Belmont women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe and called into question how the university would move forward regarding hiring or standards of conduct for employees.

According to an article in Sunday’s Tennessean, Marty Dickens, chairman of Belmont’s board of trustees, said, “We do adhere to our values as Christ-centered, and we don’t want to make apologies.” He said the policies that prohibit sex outside marriage apply to everyone at the university—faculty and staff, students, administrators and board members.

Since the article appeared, Dickens has come under fire from local attorney and Metro Council candidate John Ray Clemmons. In a report on the political blog, In Session, Clemmons questioned Dickens’ continued suitability as chair of the Metro Convention Center Authority. Clemmons was quoted as saying the authority can’t be led by some­one who has “made a choice to put his per­sonal belief sys­tem ahead of his duty and respon­si­bil­ity to rep­re­sent all the peo­ple of Nashville.”

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