Dr. Bob Fisher’s opened the second “Ask Dr. Fisher” convo of the semester by noting what he saw as a small crowd at the Curb Café Wednesday.
“We’ve got a small audience, which means either everybody’s perfectly happy or they’ve given up,” he said.
He then addressed the crowd with an overview of what he knew would be major points of discussion: construction and parking. He noted the law school is on schedule to open in fall 2012, as is the new residence hall near Bruin Hills. Fisher “appreciate[d] the neighbors’ flexibility” throughout the process.
The president also said the law school’s underground parking structure is near completion. This should create 500 new parking places beneath law building, 300 of which should be open to students. Despite what many students project, he doesn’t foresee the growth plan of Vision 2015 complicating parking. 75% of students bring cars, and only 60% of freshmen bring cars, and those numbers are declining, he said.
Fisher also brought up scheduling before taking questions. He officially announced classes in spring 2013 will begin Jan. 7, not Jan. 2. His announcement brought much relief to several students at the event.
Fisher then discussed the future academic buidling on 15th and Wedgewood, confident that senior leadership is focused on providing unique learning experiences for students. He then held up a thick notebook the Student Government Association compiled of requests for the new building, complete with photos and details. This “creates a meaningful partnership,” and “requires me to be accountable,” said Fisher.
Then, a student posed the first live question, asking what can be done to increase equipment storage for student organizations.
“That’s why this new building is so important – we literally have converted closets into offices for some teachers, so we need to get them out of the closets and into real closets,” Fisher said.
The next question challenged how Belmont will recover from its “recent controversies” regarding sexual orientation.
While Fisher didn’t speak specifically on the exit of former soccer coach Lisa Howe, he stated Belmont has and will not use sexual orientation in any hiring decisions. The student then asked administration to be more explicitly welcoming to people who feel they have to hide their sexual orientation.
“If you’re a gay or lesbian student and you express that on campus, it means nothing to me, no stigma,” Fisher said. “It’s a student who’s part of our community and we embrace them. I don’t know a faculty member or staff member at Belmont who would not welcome that.
Fisher also told the Bridge Builders during their petition process last spring that he wants to know and be contacted directly if social issues like bullying or discrimination occur.
“If somebody is mistreating somebody else because of their sexual orientation, I promise you – I will not stand for that,” he said. “I will get overly involved.”
Fisher then responded to a student concerned the school’s increasing enrollment will change the school’s feel, saying the school will be transparent about their growth, but will try to remain personal.
Finally, a student asked “how important it is to [Fisher] and senior leadership that we claim to be a Christian university.”
“In my Christian faith, as a leader, my job is to bring people together, to love everyone. My job is not judgment – that’s God’s job,” Fisher responded. “We will never, on a subject of faith, be able to please everyone.” But he hopes Belmont will exemplify the biblical “fruits of the spirit.”
“I believe God is love,” Fisher said.
Vice President for Spiritual Development Todd Lake, said Dr. Fisher wants to create increasing evidence of Christian character in the university, as part of Vision 2015. “This doesn’t mean we’re meaner, narrower, and more judgmental,” Lake said. “It should mean we’re more welcoming.”