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Opinion: Belmont has been silent about CoreCivic for too long

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

When students stand up, school administrations should listen.

That’s what happened at Tennessee State University.

When TSU university president Glenda Glover announced that she would be joining CoreCivic as a board member in February, the backlash was immediate.

CoreCivic, a for-profit prison company in Nashville, fell under fire for accusations that it is using its prisoners as slave labor and assisting ICE by detaining immigrant mothers and children.

Alumni and community leaders spoke out against Glover’s choice. Metro council member Delishia Porterfield was among those who criticized Glover’s decision.

“I am deeply disappointed to see that the president of my alma mater THE Tennessee State University has accepted a position on the board of directors for CoreCivic,” Porterfield tweeted.

“I heard from dozens of alumni tonight who are furious. This is unacceptable and I hope the students are organizing to make their voices heard,” she tweeted.

And, that’s exactly what happened: alumni and student voices were heard. Glover evaluated how the students she served responded and changed her actions accordingly.

“After careful consideration and listening to the voices I trust, I have decided to decline the offer to join the board of CoreCivic, inc.,” Glover tweeted.

This decision only took one day.

Meanwhile, students and alumni at Belmont have been rallying, protesting and petitioning since 2018 to have CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger removed from the university’s board of trustees.

They’ve even formed an entire activist organization, Be Better Belmont, that’s devoted to calling on Belmont to cut ties with CoreCivic completely.

But, for three years, student action has been met with no change.

In that time, Nashville Metro Council has pushed to sever its 28-year relationship with the company. Glover reversed her decision to join CoreCivic’s board. All the while, Belmont continues to affiliate itself with CoreCivic.

It appears Glover’s decision to join CoreCivic’s board was made with the intent of fostering change from within the company.

“As the daughter of a civil rights leader, it is my belief that I would be in a better position to help the population that needs it most by speaking from the boardroom where decisions are made,” Glover tweeted.

Belmont, on the other hand, has no stance on the impact of the for-profit prison industry.

The university believes its board of trustees, three of whom have ties to CoreCivic, to be comprised of “accomplished professionals, committed Christians and people of high character.”

But whether or not Belmont administrators agree with the actions of CoreCivic, that’s not the point. The issue is that the administration doesn’t acknowledge its students’ views on the matter.

It hasn’t mattered how many signatures petitions have garnered, how many furious tweets have been shared or how many people have gathered on the streets outside of Belmont.

Plain and simple, administrators aren’t listening.

We have to ask, when other universities are taking notice of these demands, why isn’t ours?

This article written by Kendall Crawford and Vivi Smilgius.

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