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December 05, 2010

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Chris Bracco

I've only been out of school for a short while (graduated from penn state this past may), and I dove right into a job in the music industry after college. More than 50% of the people I have come in contact with so far have been gay or lesbian, and you're right -- I don't care. It doesn't matter to me, a 22 year old straight guy, because I am much more worried about establishing my career and keeping up with all the changes that happen daily in this industry.

However, I doubt Belmont "doesn't want gay people." That's a really bold and lofty statement to make based on one instance with a lesbian soccer coach. Maybe she was making the girls feel uncomfortable in the locker room somehow, you never know...I don't think you should try to stir up controversy like that when you don't know all the facts yet...don't be like a network TV station! You're a blogger, that's what makes you cooler and better!

Just my two cents. I subscribe to your blog and read it all the time.

Chris

David Hooper

Thanks for your comments. Have changed the subject of this post to something a little more in keeping with the post itself, as well as the theme of the blog.

But as for the comment that Belmont doesn't want gay people, this is one incident of many, which I feel shows that to be the case...at least on some level. As far as I know, they're not doing anything BYU-style, such as "reprogramming" or electro shock, but they certainly deny gay students groups and anything else they feel is controversial.

http://www.newschannel5.com/story/13481844/belmont-university-denies-gay-student-group for something that's happened within the last month.

Sarah Toshiko Hasu

Hi Chris, as a gay former Belmont student, let me assure you, they are happy to take money from gay students, and take credit for them when they do well, as long as those students, faculty, and staff are all willing to stay in the closet and never speak out for their own or anyone else's rights. I'm not sure if their policy has changed in the past few years, but while I attended, their student policy prohibited "homosexuality" and then "homosexual behavior." You can say I had a choice in attending Belmont, but I wanted the best music business education and, if it matters for argument's sake, I didn't know I was gay when I applied to Belmont at 16 or began attending at 17, so their policies, which would have involved expelling me if I came out, certainly weren't designed with creating a safe, supportive community for their students in mind. And their staff and faculty, including tenured professors, are held under a blanket "morality clause," which in the past has functioned as a means of firing anyone for any reason. I suspect that students, faculty, and staff are banding together and getting a little bit more power, because there's a campus organization called Bridge Builders that requested permission from the university to exist on campus and discuss LGBT issues - Belmont denied them as a student group. But just the fact that they dare exist, that students and faculty are signing a petition saying they want to exist as such, is a big leap forward from when I was a student.

Since Belmont hinges it reputation on its music business and music schools, and on its sports teams likes mens basketball and womens soccer, trying to deny all things gay is putting a huge blinder on its program and community. Can you really discuss music performance and the music business and pretend gay people don't matter? And if you have a winning soccer team whose coach happens to be gay, how can you think that coach isn't part of the formula? Supporting your coach is a good way to continue to have a winning team, especially if her team is willing to go to the press to defend her (since the team is the only source speaking up, they don't seem the least bit uncomfortable with the fact that their coach is having a baby with another woman). And if you want to talk about succeeding in music and the music industry, you might want to mention any number of gay people or LGBT-related things (see David's other blog where he used drag queens as a parallel). You might also want to support your LGBT faculty and staff who make your program worthwhile, and your students who make your program look good. I remember David spoke to the school of music business once while I was there, and the faculty member overseeing the lecture had no problem telling David how proud of me they were - because David had mentioned me. Which brings us back to the whole "we're happy to take your money and take credit for you, just please ignore your own identity and leave a huge part of your life at the door."

If you're gay and considering attending Belmont, I am begging you not to do it unless the university makes some huge changes. It's not just a matter of not being recognized and not being out, it's the personal toll that will take. It's the fear and the anguish, and putting yourself around other people who are just as fearful and anguished. None of that is good for you as a student, as a professional, or as a human being who has to be able to go home at the end of the day and deal with the world you live in. If you want to succeed in the music industry, it's all about getting out there and interning and creating a reputation for yourself - I learned very quickly to build a reputation that was entirely separate from Belmont, even though I continued to pay them outrageous sums for tuition for far too long. So my advice would be to not jeopardize yourself, and to not tie substantial sums of money and your reputation to a sinking ship. Gay or not, would you really want to show up for an interview or network with someone and admit a connection to Belmont right now?

Melissa

Chris:
Lisa Howe was fired for simply telling the soccer team that she and her partner were expecting a baby. I don't think any of the girls on the team even knew coach Howe was gay before this happened.

mark

Isn't Belmont a Baptist school? Why would anyone expect a Baptist school to condone homosexuality?

David Hooper

Funny you mention this, because the Tennessee Baptist Convention doesn't think so. That's why they sued Belmont to get back the $58,000,000 they donated.

Bottom line for me is that people, including Baptists, need to know what they're getting with Belmont. In my opinion, Belmont isn't being honest about their actions regarding this issue. If they'd come out and say, "This is a Baptist school and we don't want gay people here," I'd have a lot more respect for them, even though I think the policy is discriminatory.

Sarah Toshiko Hasu

As David said, Belmont's relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention ended in a lawsuit. Belmont sought to (and ultimately did) sever its ties with the SBC in favor of being a broader "Christian" institution - the boiling point being allowing non-Baptists on the Board of Trustees in order to present themselves as more diverse and progressive. And Belmont actively sought relationships with the city of Nashville and businesses on Music Row. They've built a public relations campaign on being a "progressive" academic institution that wanted to make a mark for itself. The result was, as everyone is now seeing, a university which presents itself in one manner yet acts in another, without transparency. They do have a legal right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but if they're going to do so on the grounds that they believe it's the Christian thing to do, then they need to say so - to their faculty and staff, to their students, to their donors, to the city and companies they do business with.

Belmont has even played down (and completely omitted) their nature as a religious school to perspective students, so one might infer from that that they've likely tried to play that aspect down at any other time it might benefit them to do so. They've gotten freshmen to come in not even knowing they're attending a Christian school. When I attended, I didn't know that a prohibition on homosexuality was buried in the student handbook (the same sentence prohibited the possession or consumption of alcohol, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality) until a friend happened across that line and pointed it out to me, shocked that Belmont would do such a thing. And, at least in the last couple of years I attended, the student handbook was no longer given out to students - it was simply available online. The Belmont community is being bound to rules without being told what those rules are, and frequently without those rules being explicitly stated (like what the university itself referred to as its "unspoken Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy). That's what isolates gay students by closeting them, straight students by leaving them unaware that their peers are being discriminated against and there are things they're not being told about their own education, the entire Belmont community from having a truly open discussion or even being allowed to broach certain topics, and everyone who does business with Belmont (donors, any business who draws interns from Belmont or uses its facilities, the city of Nashville, etc.) from knowing the policies of the organization they're in business with.

Like David said, a written policy would be discriminatory, but at least everyone would know where Belmont stands and what they're getting into by being involved in any way with the university. When you're presenting yourself as a premiere music business and music school and liberal arts university, everyone expects you to act ethically. They're building a law school - what kind of lawyers will an unethical institution produce? Even as someone who attended Belmont and knows that the administration does not accurately represent the student body and faculty (many of whom are wonderful people), as a business owner, I wouldn't want any aspect of my business linked with Belmont. Ironically, they taught me to run my company with more transparent ethicality than that.

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