Belmont students stage sit-in at university president's office

Monday, December 6, 2010 at 12:42pm

In a show of activism uncommon for Christian-affiliated Belmont University, approximately 45 students staged a sit-in Monday morning outside the office of university president Bob Fisher to protest last week’s dismissal of soccer coach Lisa Howe after she revealed that she and her same-sex partner are expecting a child.

The purpose of Monday’s sit-in was two-fold, according to organizer Robbie Maris: to highlight Howe’s situation, as well as the effort to have Belmont officials formally recognize a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group called Bridge Builders. In the past year, officials have twice rejected the group’s requests for official status on campus.

“Lisa Howe is not the first person who has left,” said Maris, a junior majoring in music business. “But she is the face [of the student activism].”

Fisher was out of town for an academic meeting, and the university issued the following statement:

“Belmont University has smart and passionate students who really care about their role in making a difference in the world. The university supports their right to express their opinions. The Belmont community will continue — as it always has — to engage in meaningful conversations about these issues.”

No high-ranking Belmont officials approached the group during the orderly hour-long sit-in.

Monday’s protest is part of an ongoing effort to push the university to be more accepting and embrace its stated mission of diversity in the wake of Howe’s departure, which players have said was forced by administration officials uncomfortable with her sexuality. On Sunday, a group of about 50 students stood on Belmont Boulevard in the shadows of the Curb Event Center to voice their displeasure. More protests are planned for the near future.

Karlen Paxton, a Belmont sophomore majoring in social entrepreneurship, said the goal of the sit-in was “to make the administration aware the student body disagrees with Belmont’s policies regarding the LGBT community.” Asked if the effort could be a chance to lay the groundwork for a still-skittish administration to make policy changes in the future, Paxton said, “We’ve been in the seed-planting process for quite some time. I’m ready for change now.”

Katelynd Wolf, a senior majoring in psychology, said university officials’ unwillingness to change school policy is having both visible and indirect negative effects on the student body.

“We don’t want to have people say, ‘You’re a Belmont student … you must be homophobic,’ ” she said.

Belmont officials dispute the group’s contention that the coach was fired, saying instead that Howe’s departure was the result of a mutual agreement between the two parties. They have also said the university maintains a “Christian” policy that forbids pre-marital sex, and have used that as a justification for Howe’s dismissal. 

 

27 Comments on this post:

By: gdiafante on 12/6/10 at 3:00

"They have also said the university maintains a “Christian” policy that forbids pre-marital sex, and have used that as a justification for Howe’s dismissal."

Considering that homosexuals can't marry legally, I'd say that pre-marital sex is a given. Belmont is looking very stupid right now.

By: District 8 on 12/6/10 at 3:17

One thing I've yet to understand...is Belmont trying to assert that the pregnancy is the result of lesbian pre-marital sex? Surely they know that not all pregnancies, from both gay and straight couples, are not the result from sex...pre-marital or otherwise.

By: richgoose on 12/6/10 at 4:09

I have been told that it is okay to refer to homosexuals as "queers: "The Tennessean has used that word when referring to this story. (at least they used the words of one of these protesters as a quote.) If the word queers is a legitimate term that can be used in the future this is a definite breakthrough in communication.

By: RTungsten on 12/6/10 at 4:27

Why does everyone act like the soccer coach is the only gay person at Belmont? Have you been to the music theatre building? Seriously, drop by sometime. More guys wearing girls pants than girls.

By: OrthODXTRUTH on 12/6/10 at 5:27

This is a 5 barf bag out of 5 situaton at Belmont!!
Very scary times ahead for EVERYONE if these young (and completly lost)people are the future of this country!!!

By: OrthODXTRUTH on 12/6/10 at 5:32

completely.....my bad must of must an E...

By: OrthODXTRUTH on 12/6/10 at 6:05

missed

By: BenDover on 12/6/10 at 8:11

The students should break out the bibles and ask the administrators to point out where Jesus condemns homosexuality. I'll give them a hint... He didn't. As a follow-up exercise please count the times He harshly condemns divorce. There's also that whole 'throw the first stone' thing and 'motes in the eyes' and such.

There is a biblical argument to be made in support of this employee. Let's focus on the top 10 list and the golden rule and loving the Father instead of these polarizing arguments.

That said, it is the final decision of the University to establish its own codes of conduct. (note to administrators: above is your out on all of this… you had the b@lls to stand up to SBC… how about a little leadership here?).

By: pswindle on 12/7/10 at 9:46

Good for the students, sit tight until someone comes to their senses. It is tricks like this that turns the young and old away from the church.

By: HighlyAnnoyed on 12/7/10 at 9:54

It's really funny how most christians ignore most of the evil stuff in the Old Testament until they are looking for justification for their bigotry of homosexuals. Christians are the biggest hypocrites there are. These students should leave Belmont and enroll in another university. I wouldn't want to be associated with a religious bigoted university.

By: Alphadog7 on 12/7/10 at 10:03

A sit in? Please... I thought Belmont students were more dignified than that.
News Flash students, out in the real world, there are better ways of communicating your grievances, and better ways to create dialog and get results.

Remember, Belmont is a private religious school. It can do what it wants. I doubt any of the students are there who don't want to be. Its not an easy school to get into, and its not cheap.

By: not_guilty on 12/7/10 at 10:08

Let's see now. Belmont officials "have also said the university maintains a 'Christian' policy that forbids pre-marital sex, and have used that as a justification for Howe’s dismissal."

Coach Howe's being in a stable, long-term lesbian relationship appears to have been tolerated, but her partner's conceiving a child is grounds for dismissal? The stories that I have read do not include the means of conception here, but I am confident that it did not result from lesbian sex with Coach Howe.

Can someone who supports the University's bizarre reasoning explain to me what I am missing here?

By: RTungsten on 12/7/10 at 10:23

@Alphadog7 - It's not that hard to get into BU. Regardless, there are probably more non-straight people at Belmont than any other University in the region. The Administration doesn't care what gender you like as long as you can pay the bill on time.

By: NewYorker1 on 12/7/10 at 10:43

Amazing that institutions like this are still in existence today. As a business owner, this speaks volumes and It would be very difficult for me to hire a Belmont graduate. Who would want someone working for them that could potentially cause your business to get sued for sexual orientation discrimination? If you are a Belmont student, I would be looking to transfer to another university and soon.

By: livinglively57 on 12/7/10 at 1:00

Belmont just took Nashville back 50 years. I am really shocked they allow the "Statue of Puberty" within a mile of their front door.
I so wanted my child to attend their music program in 2 years. I can't knowingly pay the tuition to a shool so full of bias and hate and such "Christian values". I guess we are Berkley, Boston bound.

By: yogiman on 12/7/10 at 1:03

Students need to understand; when you choose a particular college, you should agree to go by their rules. If you don't agree with their rules, look for another school until you find one that agrees with you in your way of thinking.

Its like going into service; you obey their orders. At least, you damn well better (just ask some vets).

By: RTungsten on 12/7/10 at 1:19

"As a business owner, this speaks volumes and It would be very difficult for me to hire a Belmont graduate. " - NewYorker1

Seriously? You just think you are God's gift to gay men, don't ya? I hate to break it to you, but every Belmont student isn't a carbon copy of the Board of Directors that are being published in these articles.

By: brrrrk on 12/7/10 at 2:17

You go kids.... I've given up on my generation to get it done as we've been co-opted by greed and our own self importance.... so it's up to you to save the world!

By: brrrrk on 12/7/10 at 2:20

Alphadog7said

"Remember, Belmont is a private religious school. It can do what it wants."

Really? Can they fire someone for JUST being black? Not to say that they wouldn't come up with some other bogus reason.

By: brrrrk on 12/7/10 at 2:23

not_guilty said

"The stories that I have read do not include the means of conception here, but I am confident that it did not result from lesbian sex with Coach Howe."

Could it have been an Immaculate Conception? Hold on Belmont, this could be the second coming!!!

By: brrrrk on 12/7/10 at 2:26

livinglively57 said

"I so wanted my child to attend their music program in 2 years. I can't knowingly pay the tuition to a shool so full of bias and hate and such "Christian values". I guess we are Berkley, Boston bound."

You're much better off.... Berkley teaches the practical skills of being a real working Musician rather than the fluff that you'd get from Belmont.

By: NewYorker1 on 12/7/10 at 2:38

RTungsten, let's get it straight for once and for all. I am God's gift Boo. I'm the one and the only, the Alfa and the Omega, the end all be all, and the cat's meow baby. Don't get it twisted.

By: NewYorker1 on 12/7/10 at 2:45

I just love myself. Can't you tell?

By: Ingleweird on 12/7/10 at 3:35

Mr. Williams:
Inquiring minds would like to know: exactly who in Belmont's leadership made the statement on the pre-marital sex policy justifying Howe's dismissal? Yours is the first media account I have come across which makes this claim.

@Richgoose:
Re: Your use of the word "queers" -
It's not the word itself that is problematic, but the context in which the word is used. If a homosexual chooses to refer to his/herself as such, it is more or less acceptable. However when YOU use it, you surround that word with negative connotations and derision. Think of it this way: some black folks refer to other black folks using the (so-called) "n-word," often times in a non-hostile manner. Then you have non-blacks using that word, thinking it's OK to use that word (often in a derisive fashion), but never uttered directly to a black person. That is not OK. Just as you can expect to get whooped if you utter the "n-word" to a black person, I hope you get whooped if you call a homosexual a "queer" to their face.

By: courier37027 on 12/7/10 at 9:58

I wonder how many of these students will take on President Obama, and all instutitions involved in social security administration and benefits. Unless there has been a drastic change in SSA bureaucratic policy, social security does not offer survivor benefits to gay couples.

Fight the power, students. Don't trust anyone over age 30. Take on FDR's legacy. Down with the collective. Scrape those Obama '08 stickers from your bumpers. Because by supporting Obama and continued social security policy hatred, you are part of the problem too.

By: Alphadog7 on 12/8/10 at 2:10

livinglively57 said

"I so wanted my child to attend their music program in 2 years. I can't knowingly pay the tuition to a shool so full of bias and hate and such "Christian values". I guess we are Berkley, Boston bound."

That is probably wise if you don't agree with Belmont's standards. But you'd better learn how to spell Berklee.

By: Alphadog7 on 12/8/10 at 2:24

Brrrrk said:

"Really? Can they fire someone for JUST being black? Not to say that they wouldn't come up with some other bogus reason."

I wasn't referring to race. Big difference.

I have to wonder why this poor woman took the job there if she didn't agree with their policies? The whole situation is just sad really. Why was their no dialog about the policy before this incident?