Belmont extends anti-bias policy to gays and lesbians

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 7:23pm

Nearly two months after Lisa Howe’s controversial departure as women’s soccer coach at Belmont, the university’s board of trustees voted on Wednesday to amend its written nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation.

At a press conference after the board’s vote, Belmont President Bob Fisher said the change to the policy was made to affirm “what we have been doing for a long time and that is the message.”

Wednesday night, Howe issued a statement, noting she is “thrilled” about the change.

The new policy, which does not include gender identity, applies to students, faculty and staff. (Read a copy of the policy here.) 

Howe’s exit in early December came just two weeks after she disclosed to her team that she and her female partner are having a baby. The university first announced she resigned and then said Belmont and Howe had reached a mutual agreement for the two parties to part ways.

“This is a great victory for the values of inclusion, human dignity and respect,” Howe said in a statement issued through her attorney, Abby Rubenfeld. “I am incredibly proud of the Belmont faculty and students for pushing for this policy. I am also grateful to the Belmont board for recognizing that being gay and being Christian are not mutually exclusive. This is a landmark day.”

The situation drew local and national media attention, with Howe’s former players, Belmont students and local politicians speaking out against the university. Because of that, Fisher said student focus groups were held to discuss “the campus culture as it relates to sexual orientation and the university’s Christian mission.” 

“One of the questions we ask every [focus] group is ‘Do you think Belmont is a welcoming place to everyone? And, overall, the response, especially from the students, was ‘Up until December I did, and then I got confused,’ ” Fisher said. “That is why we are trying to make it as clear as we can because we think we should, on behalf of our students, be clear as to … how much we value them in our community.”

The policy change comes one week after the Metro Council voted on first reading to approve a bill that would require companies that contract with Metro to adopt nondiscrimination policies covering sexual orientation and gender identity. That includes Belmont, given the university’s work on Rose Park with the Metro Parks and Recreation Department. But Fisher dismissed the notion that it was a factor.

"I can tell you specifically and directly from the conversations with our board today this is not about any Metro action,” Fisher said. “This is about Belmont and who we are and who we want to be and what we think of one another … I walked out of the room today feeling more supported and encouraged by my board on this issue than any issue I have ever dealt with at Belmont.”

Some questions remain, though.

When asked if openly gay staff and students were welcome at Belmont, Fisher responded, “I would put that in the hypothetical category,” referring to an earlier question about the university’s stance on gay and lesbian practices. Fisher later said that sexual practices — like sexual orientation — had not been considered in any employment or firing decisions.

Asked again if an openly gay lifestyle was acceptable, Fisher said, “I am here today to talk about a policy that has been adopted, and the implementation of that policy will unfold over time. Those conversations will be ongoing within our campus community. … There is nothing ambiguous about what happened today with our board. It was clear. It was decisive, and it is a policy decision. I am not willing to play the hypothetical game.”

As for the toll the ordeal has taken on Belmont’s reputation and image, Fisher seemed unconcerned.

“We spent it a lot of time building Belmont, but we never built it based on how other people see it,” he said. “We just built it the way we want to build it. Others will see what they want to see in us, and I’m very comfortable with where we are. Certainly it has been a difficult time.”

Fisher would not talk about Howe and what unfolded in December, again citing that the university does not disclose information about personnel matters.

Fisher also said he not talked to Howe since she left.

Asked if he planned to reach out to her, he paused and said, “I haven’t thought about that.”

23 Comments on this post:

By: dangerlover on 1/26/11 at 10:44

Belmont take themselves way too seriously.

By: global_citizen on 1/26/11 at 10:46

Bob Fisher has shown a real lack of leadership throughout this incident over the last two months. In fact, he's shown a sort of spinelessness that has diminished his standing in this community.

And his comments about Belmont's board being "my board" show he's really detached from reality. They are not HIS board, he is THEIR president, hired and retained at their discretion.

By: govskeptic on 1/27/11 at 5:45

The Headline for story is very misleading! Belmont stated
they were putting what has been their policy in writing and
making it public. Mr. Fisher has acted far more reasonable
and Honorable throughout this far flung story than his critics
or the Press. His Presidency at Belmont has been great for
the University as well as the City of Nashville! Enough already.

By: spooky24 on 1/27/11 at 7:46

Perhaps it would be a good idea for Mr. Boettcher to have read the policy. Cleaver lawyer word usage clearly shows that nothing has really changed. Here is to Belmont for sticking up for their convictions and beating political correct nonsense at their own game. Headline today-forgotten tomorrow.

sp

By: global_citizen on 1/27/11 at 8:12

Spooky, I don't know what bizarro world you live in where standing up for convictions = capitulation.

I am not interested in brow beating Belmont into changing their policies, although I do think if it wants to be an internationally respected university that is taken seriously in the 21st century, it can't have discriminatory policies of the 19th century.

I think this change in policy (er, clarification of previously unwritten policy) is a good thing, but Belmont came to it kicking and screaming.

If one were to rely on your account, we might think Belmont told everyone to take a hike and kicked the gays off the campus.

By: Cold Floridian on 1/27/11 at 8:34

"The policy change comes one week after the Metro Council voted on first reading to approve a bill that would require companies that contract with Metro to adopt nondiscrimination policies covering sexual orientation and gender identity. That includes Belmont, given the university’s work on Rose Park with the Metro Parks and Recreation Department. "

nuff said..

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Think before you post. You could be displaying your ignorance.....

By: Alphadog7 on 1/27/11 at 9:20

"Being gay and being a Christian are mutually exclusive..."

Meaning each excludes the other... Isn't that the opposite of what she meant to say? A pretty humorous gaffe considering the nature of the situation... LOL

By: Nitzche on 1/27/11 at 9:41

Lipscomb , Trevecca here they come!

By: gdiafante on 1/27/11 at 9:46

Um...the quote is "I am also grateful to the Belmont board for recognizing that being gay and being Christian are not mutually exclusive.”

Reading comprehension not your strong suit, Alpha?

By: dangerlover on 1/27/11 at 10:28

Alpha just got burned...

Does Belmont realize that most educated people are simply laughing at them?

By: pswindle on 1/27/11 at 10:47

If Fisher believes what he is saying, then rehire Lisa. Put your words in action. Otherwiise, you are not a man of your word.

By: PKVol on 1/27/11 at 10:51

Does dangerlover not realize 'that most educated people' does not equate to 'smartness'?

By: dangerlover on 1/27/11 at 11:30

'Smartness' is not even a word, and your sentence makes no sense, so I'm guessing you fall into the category of 'uneducated.' Or perhaps you simply went to UT, as your name suggests.

By: iTiSi on 1/27/11 at 12:54

Wonder if this will include those whose sexual orientation is "pedophile"? That would change it to "LGPBT". After all there are some who have completed their prison time and cannot be rehabilitated. The Center for Mental Heal and Addiction now says that is their sexual orientation due to a brain wiring fault and a "lack of gray matter in the brain cells". Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, I wonder? Will Belmont now accept pedophiles as students and teachers?

By: wihunt on 1/27/11 at 1:21

Belmont is misleading as to this preamble. Right after they purport to say they will not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, the next sentence says, " the university may discriminate on the basis of religion." Earlier the preamble says the University will uphold Christian standards of ethics and morality. They have already indicated that they perceive homosexuality to be outside of those standards. Thus the preamble still authorizes them to discriminate.

By: Antisocialite on 1/27/11 at 1:36

Wonder if this will include those whose sexual orientation is "pedophile"? That would change it to "LGPBT". After all there are some who have completed their prison time and cannot be rehabilitated. The Center for Mental Heal and Addiction now says that is their sexual orientation due to a brain wiring fault and a "lack of gray matter in the brain cells". Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, I wonder? Will Belmont now accept pedophiles as students and teachers?

Once again iTiSi swoops in to astound us with his/her amazingly bigoted remarks.

First, equating homosexuality with pedophilia is just ridiculous on its face. Comparing what two CONSENSUAL sexual partners do in their own bedroom to having sex with a child, who has not reached the age of consent yet, is something that even you should recognize as baseless.

Second, and this may ruffle a few feathers, we really do need to find ways of identifying and helping non-offending pedophiles in the hopes that we can someday rehabilitate them.

By: 3angels on 1/28/11 at 8:25

@Antisocialite. First of all, being "gay" is a sexual preference. We are not talking about race here, I am so tired of all the gays tring to use this in the same way. It's a Christian school hello! Come as you are, but "go and sin no more".Yes we are all sinners and a pedophile, gay whatever is all the same sin in God's eyes. Sorry truth is truth.

By: Alphadog7 on 1/28/11 at 9:39

@gdiafante, @dangerlover

Yes, my bad, I misread or maybe they corrected it. You should be proud of yourselves for being so astute.

By: Alphadog7 on 1/28/11 at 9:43

@Antisocialite

Most of you claim those who are attracted to the same sex can't be rehabilitated. Why would those who are attracted to children be any different?

By: global_citizen on 1/28/11 at 9:44

"Yes we are all sinners and a pedophile, gay whatever is all the same sin in God's eyes"

I think I just had an epiphany! You're saying that God sees gay people as being just as evil as pedophiles?

I guess that's why I think the idea of "God" is silly and have such disdain for the nutcakes who look to "God" for their sense of justice rather than rationalism. Obviously, "God" has a warped sense of justice.

By: global_citizen on 1/28/11 at 9:48

Rehabilitated? You think someone NEEDS to be rehabilitated because they happen to be attracted to people of their own sex? Give me a break. What's wrong with letting them be who they are and minding your own business.

Gay people do no one any harm. Contrast this with pedophiles, who forces a sexual act on a sexually immature person who doesn't have the intellectual development to give or not give consent.

Comparing the two in any way, shape, or form is just disingenuous sophistry. There is no validity to any such comparison.

By: NewYorker1 on 1/28/11 at 2:41

Lets hope Belmont either burns to the ground or floods and doesn't have enough insurance to rebuild.

By: Nitzche on 1/28/11 at 5:08

Carpet Munchers unite