Belmont is in the space race, and while students aren’t exploring for inhabitable chapter meeting rooms on Mars, student organizations expressed their plans to expand with a diversity inclusion office, dance studios, Greek Life rooms and practice rooms.
Students voiced their ideas for space reallocation in Fidelity, Hitch and Gabhart on Wednesday at the Student Government Association’s Space Reallocation Town Hall.
“I was super happy with how the discussion went,” said President Jonathan Rankin. “I think everyone that came cared about Belmont, and they all have very good intentions and good ideas. This was better than I could’ve hoped for in terms of content.”
The Space Reallocation Town Hall was part of senior leadership’s initiative to collect student voices in addition to the MyBelmont Space Reallocation online proposal form and SGA’s Coffee & Conversation convos.
“I want this to be a comfortable channel for students to come in so they don’t feel like it’s such a gap between students and administration,” said Vice President Jade Cooper. “Their voices are truly being heard. So, this is essentially where each person if they feel called to do so can stand up and have a voice.”
As part of Vision 2020 initiatives, representatives from the HOPE Council, Hispanic Student Association, Bridge Builders and Black Student Association advocated for the creation of an office of diversity inclusion to serve as a safe space for underrepresented groups on campus in Gabhart.
“Among minority groups, having that central location where we purposefully interact with one another our shared experiences and also let other students come and get the resources they need while also having these collisions along the way” would benefit not only the recruitment but also the retention of diverse students, said Justin Lang, Black Student Association president.
The location in Gabhart would be ideal for the office of diversity of inclusion due to the proximity of Universities Ministries, Counseling Services and Campus Security, which all provide a sense of comfort and safety to marginalized groups, said Bridge Builders representative Hope Gipson.
“Diverse groups feel more uncomfortable by what’s not said than what is said,” said Gipson. “If there’s no clear space, no clear affirmation or no clear safety for them, then they feel like there’s no safe place where people are trying to take care of them.”
Belmont currently lacks a space on campus where underrepresented groups can feel welcomed and safe, and Hispanic Student Association President Alyssa Aloyo spoke against the argument that the Beaman provides a safe place for diverse groups to meet.
“I encourage you if that’s something that you guys think is a counterargument to please step outside and let me know why you think none of us are there. If we truly felt welcomed, we would’ve used that space,” she said.
Instead of always acting in reaction to challenges that diverse students face at Belmont, the office would serve as a preventative measure, said Aloyo.
Rankin asked representatives if the office of diversity inclusion could be located on the third floor of Fidelity instead of Gabhart.
The separated location of Fidelity “makes a statement that diversity is not that much of a priority at Belmont,” said Gipson.
Aloyo echoed that sentiment saying although she would accept any location over no location, the space is not ideal and Belmont tours would need to be more intentional in taking diverse students directly to the office to show the resources Belmont can offer.
Greek organizations–whose top priority is finding rooms for chapter meetings–are also proposing options for the Gabhart space, said Katie Serena, Panhellenic Council representative.
“We’ve contributed a lot to campus and to the community, and we need a space where we can cultivate to give back more to the community,” she said.
Other potential Gabhart space uses include a dance studio. Currently, dancers have access to room 12 in Massey Performing Arts Center, but the room has the incorrect flooring and too low of ceilings, both of which causes injury to dancers, said Katie Bays, representing Belmont’s dance company.
Dance minors also have access to Black Box Theatre, but the floor there is also inadequate and it’s inaccessible due to the frequent use for other productions, said Bays.
A proper dance space in Gabhart with the correct flooring and ceiling height would allow Belmont to add a dance major.
“We have music, we have art and we have theater, which are all great programs, but when people come to Belmont and ask if we have a dance major, we have to say no and turn away people from Belmont who were considering a double major,” Bays said.
Belmont currently lacks practice rooms space for music majors, and some professors have resorted to teaching in parking garages, closets and storage spaces, said Macy Thompson, sophomore commercial piano major.
Many practice rooms are not conducive for bands to prepare for showcases or seminars, said Jackson Dreyer, sophomore and commercial guitar major.
“Music is one of the big things in our heart at Belmont, but if we can’t service those students, that’s a big disservice to our community here,” said Dryer about his experience as a tour guide telling prospective students about the number of practice rooms on campus.
SGA’s University Initiatives Committee will compile the responses from the town hall, congress will vote on the resolutions and then cabinet will take the responses to leadership, said Cooper.
Submissions for the Space Reallocation proposal form are due Nov. 20. SGA will compile a report by December, senior leadership will make decisions next semester and building will begin fall of 2016, said Rankin.