Last week, students at the Watkins College of Art in Nashville, Tennessee got some shocking news: Their school was going to merge with (the larger) Belmont University. Anyone who planned to get a music degree from Watkins would now get a music degree from Belmont.
The merge alone wasn’t a huge deal. That sort of thing happens often, especially as smaller schools seek more stability and larger ones hope to add to their portfolio of offerings.
But in this case, the merger changed something vital: Watkins was a secular school. Belmont is a Christian college. So the new merged entity would be run under the umbrella of Christianity.
That naturally led to a lot of questions during a town hall with students and administrators last week. Then came this bombshell:
When asked whether non-Christian Watkins faculty will be hired, [provost Thomas] Burns says: “We do not hire people who are not Christian. So the ones who are not Christian will not be eligible to work at Belmont. That’s just part of who we are.”
They’re within their rights to do this as a private religious school — it’s no different from Liberty University saying they’d never hire a Muslim — but, in this case, several faculty members are going to be Bible-thumped out of a job.
Students are worried about the new culture, too. They attended Watkins because of the creative license they had there. And Christian schools are notorious for stifling ideas that might be controversial.
Students have been told by Watkins faculty and Belmont officials that their freedom of expression would be somewhat restricted at the Christian school where filmmakers must make PG movies and artists not permitted to draw from nude figures to study the human form. Concerns over potential censorship are compounded by recent Belmont controversies that have made national headlines.
This is the same school that reportedly fired its women’s soccer coach in 2011 because she said she was going to have a child with her same-sex partner. It’s not a decent place for anyone who doesn’t fit a conservative Christian profile of goodness.
Ultimately, Belmont will “save” Watkins by terminating its non-Christian faculty members and forcing students to assimilate or leave. Like so much of Christian culture, they found a way to ruin something nice.
Not all Watkins students will have the luxury of leaving to go to a better school. But the experience will undoubtedly teach everyone else an important life lesson: Christianity, with all its power, never fails to hurt people when given the chance.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Brian for the link)