On Tuesday November 30th, 2010, Lisa Howe, Belmontʼs Womenʼs Soccer Coach was fired for being gay. Athletic Director Mike Strickland gave Howe a choice to resign or be terminated because she came out as a lesbian to her team.
Howe has kept her sexuality private during her six successful seasons at Belmont, but felt it was time to be honest with her team, because her partner of 8 years, is pregnant and due in May.
Strickland told team captain Sari Lin that Howe violated a university policy pertaining to individual sexuality.
"He basically told me we have a donʼt ask donʼt tell policy and when Lisa told us about the pregnancy, it violated that. He said you can hide your sexuality, but you canʼt hide a baby," Lin said.
As a Belmont Womenʼs Soccer player alum, I can no longer say Iʼm proud to have graduated from Belmont. During my time at Belmont, I learned more from Lisa than from all of my professors combined.
As her bio states on Belmontʼs official Athleticʼs website, "The program has not only soared on the field but continues to excel in the classroom under Howeʼs leadership." More than 30 players have earned Atlantic Sun All-Academic honors. Howeʼs teams have posted a 52-48-16 record."
All of my fellow soccer student-athlete graduates feel just as strongly. We have united with the current players against Howe's firing.
"The team is shocked and angered by our coachʼs firing," stated current Senior forward Erica Carter.
We are not alone. Since Howe's firing, alumni, students, and faculty have joined the women's soccer team in their protest. Two protest have already taken place, and there are more planned.
"I think this is really important for us to show our support as a community and to show that not all of Belmont feels the way they their trustees do," sated Belmont senior Becca Stone to the Belmont Vision at Sunday's protest. "For us, firing Coach Howe because of her sexuality was not the Christian thing to do."
Currently a resolution is circulating for faculty signatures which, if it is approved by the Faculty Senate, would call on the administration to address issues in the university's hiring policy with respect to sexual orientation.
The Athletic Department and President of the university, Bob Fisher, were not prepared for the backlash they have received. Local Newspapers, The Tennessean, Nashville Scene, and The City Paper, have all released stories. National outlets, such as, The Advocate, and others have picked up on the story as well.
President Fisher has declined to comment, saying it was an athletics matter and questions should be directed to the athletics department. The Athletics Department has changed their official statement twice, neither one addmitting they fired Howe.
Recently, Belmont has spent millions of dollars on new buildings, pushed for a growing dominance in its academic music programs, boasts of new schools of pharmacy and law. It is currently Ranked in the Top 5 in the Regional Universities South category and named for the third year as one of the top "Schools to Watch" by U.S. News & World Report.
Though the school is expanding, it is apparent the minds of the executive decision makers have not. It is even more apparent, that they are completely disconnected from the values and opinions of the faculty and student body population.
As Guy Farmer, a 2009 Belmont graduate, expressed to the Tennessean on Sunday, "We want the university not just to apologize to the coach, not just to the gay and lesbian community in Nashville and the United States. We want an international apology to the gay world because this is 2010 and we all find this unacceptable."
So, the real question is, President Fisher, are you going to listen to your faculty and students, or are you going to continue to promote discrimination, and see all the amazing achievements you have brought to the university become unglued, because our soccer coach, the most successful Belmont Women's soccer coach, has decided to have a baby with her a long time partner?
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