Wednesday, Belmont University president Bob Fisher announced that the university's board had amended school policy to include sexual orientation in the school's non-discrimination clause, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Although the decision comes following a December incident in which soccer coach Lisa Howe was allegedly dismissed for revealing to her team that she is a lesbian, Fisher asserts that the change in policy is not a reaction to the public outcry surrounding Howe's case, but a codification of the school's longstanding, if de facto, non-discrimination policy.
In a statement given following a board meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Fisher said that the new policy would include a preamble asserting the university's commitment to diversity:
Today our Board of Trustees met and affirmed officially who we are and who we will continue to be. We are a Christian community that is welcoming, loving and inclusive of everyone. To reflect the unique character of Belmont University, the Board added a preamble to our existing non-discrimination statement. The language in this preamble was inspired by our existing mission statement and our current employment handbooks. It states that Belmont is a Christian community, and the university's faculty, administration and staff uphold Jesus as the Christ and as the measure of all things.
In addition, the Board voted today to amend the university's written anti-discrimination policy to reflect our long-standing practice of non-discrimination as it relates to sexual orientation.
Despite the strong words, it is not yet clear how the updated policy will be implemented. When asked whether or not openly gay people will be employed by Belmont as a result of the change, Fisher said he "would put that in the hypothetical category," reports News Channel 5.
The Belmont Vision reported that Lisa Howe made a statement in reaction to the board's decision:
I am thrilled for the Belmont University community. This is a great victory for the values of inclusion, human dignity, and respect. 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.
But Howe's attorney Abby Rubenfeld sounded less optimistic when she spoke with News Channel Five: "Given Dr. Fisher's response to the question about what the policy means, it's kind of troubling and I'm not sure if they've take the next step," she said. "The next necessary step after adding the words is to make sure the words have some meaning."
News Channel Five speculates that the modification may have been inspired by practical considerations, like fear of losing out on accreditation for their law school as well as of sacrificing an opportunity to host another presidential debate.
Check out News Channel Five's coverage below:
Do you think Belmont's new policy is sincere? Let us know in the comments section.