Updated: May 6
Faculty left with a few unanswered questions but the response was predominantly positive
following President Greg Jones’ presentation on Wednesday about university realignment.
“The Belmont he described is the Belmont I wish I'd worked at for the last 20 years,” said Dr. Jimmy Davis, who was honored the hour before for 35 years of service.
Jones addressed a slate of institutional changes from general education to student life. He discussed the importance of adjusting to “a mid-sized university” mentality, which comes with the dissolution of certain roles, functions and organizational structures.
The changes Jones outlined will take effect after June 1.
Jones introduced a new organizational model which emphasizes five key points, each led by a different university executive or team:
Operational excellence will fall under the purview of executive vice president Susan West and will focus on the internal affairs of the administration.
Athletic excellence will be overseen by vice president and director of athletics Scott Corley.
Aspirational excellence will be led by a team under the Office of the President and focus on Jones’ five strategic pathways and include changes to the BELL Core and WELL Core programs.
Partnerships excellence will focus on development and outreach will be led by university counsel and newly-appointed executive vice president Dr. Jason Rogers and will include the Office of Communications, alumni and church relations.
Academic excellence will be spearheaded by the new provost and include the Office of Admissions, the registrar and the deans of each college.
Jones said the missing piece within the academic excellence branch will be filled by the new provost after a national search. Jones reassured faculty the new provost could come from anywhere.
“There is no stealth candidate waiting in the wings to be unveiled, you know, tomorrow or the day after graduation or anything like that. It's going to be a national search.”
And while he said he wants to wait until a new provost is in office to execute the full scope of his realignment, Jones is preparing faculty for what's to come.
Some of these changes, he said, might include getting rid of systems already in place at the university, comparing it to the pruning of a garden.
“Pruning doesn't mean just getting rid of the dead stuff. Pruning involves cutting away things that are fine in order to enable the whole garden to flourish or for the particular rosebush to flourish in more beautiful ways,” said Jones.
Jones’ presentation was given to a full audience of faculty looking to better understand what the future of Belmont looks like. And while Jones did his best to settle any nerves, some left with questions.
“As a metaphor it's a little frightening. What was he talking about there? I don't even know,” said Davis, acknowledging that some changes could be uncomfortable.
But despite the unknowns, Davis’ time at the university makes him hopeful that the changes will be positive.
“I do also know that if you work in good faith with each other that you could figure out how to make things work well,” said Davis.
Other faculty viewed the pruning analogy as a way to move the university forward in an ever-evolving industry.
“The only thing constant in this business, much like music businesses, is change. So things are always changing, and we have to adapt,” said Dr. Clyde Rolston, a professor in Curb College.
Some faculty and staff think the new vision opens up Belmont to all kinds of possibilities.
“You can't live in 2022 and say, ‘Why change it? It's already working. Why change it? It's not broken,’” said professor Jay Gilmore. “He has a new vision. He's a new administrator. So we're following that lead.”
“I think that it gives us the opportunity to look at what we're doing and not just say, ‘Well, we're going to keep doing it because we've always done it,’” said university minister Heather Daugherty. “Lots of things that we do at Belmont were created in and for a world that just doesn't exist anymore.”
But another subject Davis said he still had questions about was the future of BELL Core and WELL Core; specifically the departments being led by Dr. Amy Crook, who is the Vice President for Transformative Innovation, Character and Purpose, instead of faculty.
“One of the implications of changes like this that always happen is that people's jobs change, and I don't even know what all the implications of all these things are yet for individual persons,” said Davis.
But in light of these concerns, Davis said he was not too worried about this change, calling Crook a reliable person who has the best interest of the university at heart. And while she may be spearheading these departments, faculty still controls the curriculum.
“I just think it's too early to tell how this is going to work together,” said Rolston. “As president Greg said, it's a work in progress.”
PHOTO: President Greg Jones explains his plan for university realignment. Sarah Maninger/Belmont Vision
This story was written by Connor Daryani. Contributory writing and reporting by Sarah Maninger and David Pang.