Yesterday, the President of Belmont University announced that the Board of Trustees has added “sexual orientation” to its non-discrimination policy. This could be good news for those who want Belmont to institutionalize a more progressive Christian perspective welcoming people of all sexual orientations. However, if the policy was adopted solely in response to pressure from high visibility financial supporters of the university, like Mike Curb, it remains to be seen if the university will back the policy with action to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees and students.
In his announcement of the policy, President Fisher clings to the fantasy that Belmont has always welcomed LGBT people as part of the community. Somehow he makes this claim even though instances of discrimination against LGBT student groups and employees at Belmont are part of the public record.
In response to reporters’ questions, Fisher would not say whether the new policy meant that openly gay people could work at Belmont. “I would put that in the category of a hypothetical,” he said.
This response does not bode well for the sincerity or effectiveness of the new Belmont policy. If a non-discrimination policy does not mean that gay people on campus can be open, what does it mean? That was the problem with soccer coach, Lisa Howe. She was tolerated as long as she did not talk about being a lesbian. As soon as she did come out, she was gone. It remains to be seen whether or not the new policy is anything more than an attempt to keep some big donors happy.
The gay student group has again applied for official school recognition. They have been turned down twice. Will the new policy have any effect on the school’s decision to recognize the group this time? We’ll see.