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Vision 2020, the next steps

Growth is something Belmont students are used to.

Since the start of Dr. Bob Fisher’s tenure as university president, Belmont has added 17 building projects, three of which are still in the works, and from 2001 to 2011 student population grew 104 percent.

That huge building boom and connected student population bump has allowed Belmont to rise to national prominence academically and athletically, create new programs and increase the value of a Belmont degree.

All good things you say, and I agree. But Belmont has reached a point to where an external business-minded approach needs to take a back seat to inwardly focused plans.

Fisher has announced that the next step is just that. At his ‘State of the University’ address, Fisher said that planning for Vision 2020 would begin this year.

Since August students have been surveyed and in January the Board of Trustees has identified areas they believe deserve focus–technological advancements, increased campus diversity and small student-faculty-ratios. These are admirable goals. Goals I believe are necessary for the university to maintain as it moves forward. (Especially if it means the death of Blackboard.)

However, Belmont is missing the point.

Not every respectable goal is based in sheer numbers growth. Sometimes it’s about maintaining a healthy infrastructure.

For the 2013-14 school year, 6,915 students study, work and/or live on this campus.

And if the past few years are any testament, that number will only continue to increase by a steady 4 percent.

Student-faculty-ratio has managed to stay low but even nursing professor Dr. Linda Wofford admitted during the January Board of Trustees meeting that “there are times where the faculty feels very stretched.”

If faculty members feel stretched to accommodate the ever-increasing student population, how do you feel Belmont non-academic staff members feel?

Take the Student Financial Services department for example. For every 532 students, there is one staff member. And that completely ignores the fact that each staff member in that department focuses on a specific element of financial aid.

Not sure about you, but that sounds a lot like being stretched thin to me.

Students encounter more than just their professors. They deal with Financial Aid, Student Affairs and counseling services–the very people who can make or break a student’s college career are operating on shoestring resources, whether that be funds or personnel.

For four years, I’ve encountered staff members who could only be reached through scheduled well-in-advance meetings, watched friends be wait-listed to receive counseling and have anxiously waited for responses from financial aid concerning my tuition. And that’s only increased as the years have gone by.

Belmont cannot continue to push the growth, both building and population, without consequences.

In order for Vision 2020 to be a successful bridge from the structural based five-year-plans of the past to one that meets, as Fisher said in his opening convocation, what kind of world the students want to live in, Belmont has to be willing to go beyond the numbers.

So Belmont, you got the students here. Now what?

Vision editor, Autumn Allison is a senior journalism major.

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