Students raise concerns over diversity, transparency and growth at Vision 2020 meeting
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Students raise concerns over diversity, transparency and growth at Vision 2020 meeting

While university President Bob Fisher revealed his seven strategic priorities when crafting Vision 2020, Belmont students were more concerned with questions regarding Belmont’s growth, student fees and diversity at Monday’s Vision 2020 Town Hall Meeting.

“I think that the revealing of Vision 2020 was a great opportunity for students to see the strategic priorities set forth by Dr. Fisher,” said Jeanette Morelan, Student Government Association President.

“I think it was also a great opportunity to express and recognize some of the pressing concerns to the student body regarding very important issues and make those a priority for the coming years to reflect a commitment to student-centeredness.”

Fisher spoke to a packed Massey Performing Arts Center about the goals and expectations he hopes Belmont to achieve by the year 2020. The strategies included increased transparency, more diversity, a student-centered focus and becoming more linked with the community.

Those initiatives included:

  • Strive to attract, retain and graduate extraordinary students
  • Pursue transparency, open conversations and positive relationships as tools for creating a renewed sense of mutual respect and collaboration
  • Ensure long-term organizational strength by the efficient and responsible use of our resources
  • Engage in ongoing evaluation of our learning processes and adapt to changing environments through cross-disciplinary, inter-connectedness, integration and systems thinking that will help drive both our learning and administrative mindset
  • Utilize technology related to information dissemination, learning, instructional delivery and administrative practice to innovate for the benefit of our students
  • Continue our commitment to be “Nashville’s University”
  • Exemplify our Christian faith by responding to the imperative expressed in James 1:22, which states, “Do not merely listen to the word… Do what it says”

Fisher also revealed the enrollment goal for 2020: 8,888 students.

Fisher opened the floor for questions and comments and students took full advantage of the opportunity.

Senior Danni Kosturko, president of Belmont Panhellenic Association, asked Fisher about the possibility of adding another sorority to help manage the growing number of women interested in Greek life. She also asked for more meeting space for sororities.

Fisher acknowledged spacing for Greek organizations is an issue, but said the size of the sororities isn’t. He compared them to larger Southeastern Conference schools with chapters boasting well over 200 members.

Kosturko said Fisher’s response was disappointing.

“Being in a community that has done so much for this campus, and asks for very little, I was hoping to have our problems recognized and acknowledged,” she said in a statement emailed to the Vision. “Instead, we were compared to other SEC schools and given a very generic, ‘We’re looking into it’ response.”

In February, Kosturko said she submitted a request to the Belmont Senior Leadership team about adding new sororities and has yet to receive a reply.

Junior Danny Zydel asked Fisher about transparency related to student fees. Zydel wanted to know how the exact dollar amounts were broken down on a student-by-student basis on the consolidated student fee, and if that information would be publicly accessible.

Fisher responded by saying it was already taken care of last year and that he would provide that information to Zydel.

“I think that has been made publicly accessible,” Fisher said.

A number of other inquiries dealt with student diversity, adding more historically African-American Greek chapters and the university’s plans to be more inclusive to the LGBT community.

“Certainly, Belmont’s a place that, I believe, has always been welcoming and inclusive of that community,” Fisher said in reference to the LGBT community.

He was less open to the idea of adding historically African-American Greek organizations.

“In regards to what I call segregated sororities and fraternities, that may be the route we have to go, but that’s not my dream for Belmont,” he said. “My dream is a day when everybody is included in whatever we do.”

Another question came from junior Cam Bryant, who asked if Vision 2020’s strategy on diversity included plans for a multicultural center at Belmont.

“At Belmont, our response has been not to create centers, but to create teams of people who attack problems and seek to solve them,” he said. Belmont’s Welcome Home Team is the driving force for creating diversity on campus, said Fisher.

“But if we can find a way to achieve the same goals that a center might achieve, maybe there is a place we can create where we could have people come together for the express purpose of expressing their cultural identity.”

Fisher wrapped up the question and reminded students that the closer we get to our collective goals, the harder we would have to work to achieve them.

Morelan said 2020 Town Hall meeting demonstrated the need for further student involvement in decision making. While she liked Fisher sharing the strategic priorities with students, there needs to be more she said.

“I think it is a charge to both administration and students to find out what that means and looks like and to make that our main focus for not just the next five years, but as part of Belmont’s history.”

This article was written by Kirk Bado, Grayson Hester and Will Hadden.

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