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June 15, 2020 Listening Sessions First Update

Listening Sessions First Update

June 15, 2020

Students, Faculty and Staff,

We recently shared with​ the campus community our intent to schedule a series of virtual listening sessions – starting with the Executive Council of Belmont’s Black Student Association (BSA) – to allow members of the Belmont community to speak directly to us about what they are feeling in this moment, what they are experiencing out in the world and what they need from their University. Last week, this important work began.

On Monday, the two of us, along with President Fisher and Curb College Associate Dean Dr. Cheryl Slay Carr, spent 90 meaningful minutes with BSA leadership during which openness, honesty, vulnerability, empathy, urgency and mutual respect were on full display. The student leaders spoke thoughtfully and insightfully about the weightiness of what is transpiring in the world around matters of racism and oppression while also telling us of their commitment to lead in impacting change on campus. They shared great ideas along with the hope they have that Belmont will use this opportunity to create and incorporate diversity into the University culture. Some of the highlights include:

  • The need to be informed about the formal process for registering incidents of racism and hate and a system by which students would have confidence incidents are being addressed swiftly and justly.
  • The need for greater emphasis on training/educating our campus community members on how to live in a multi-cultural environment that is mindful and respectful of everyone.
  • A desire for access to more courses and extracurricular learning opportunities to help educate and inform on matters of race.
  • The opportunity to better recognize, celebrate and embrace the various cultures that are already represented on our campus, and allow them to make us collectively stronger and more well-rounded.
  • A suggestion to partner with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other institutions with more broadly diverse populations as a way to exchange ideas and create new levels of connection and understanding.

Those points represent only a high level summary of what the BSA brought forward, an overview of numerous specific and collaborative ideas they offered. To the Executive Council of BSA, we say “thank you” and “well done.”

More than 20 listening sessions are being planned over the course of the next few weeks with more students as well as with staff and faculty. When all of the sessions are complete, we will share the collective feedback that was heard. And then we will use it to craft strategies and plans to help us better combat the forces of racism, hatred and inequality. We intend for this moment in history to motivate and propel us further toward our goal of building a diverse and inclusive campus community where all members feel accepted, safe and valued.

And we are proud and honored to be associated with faculty who feel just as strongly—our Faculty Senate leadership has been meeting and will soon release a campus statement. They want to personally address our students and staff as well as fellow faculty on this topic.

Please know that addressing these issues is a matter of great priority for our entire campus. We see it as a moment to create meaningful change. You will hear from us again soon and more throughout the summer as we prepare for a return in August.


Dr. Susan West
Dr. Mary Clark