The president of Watkins College of Art came under fire Wednesday by a room full of students and faculty disheartened by the news that Belmont University will be absorbing the small arts school.
A nearly two-hour town hall led by Belmont Provost Thomas Burns answered students’ questions about the culture shift for LGBT students entering a Christian campus, what religion courses would be required and if Watkins scholarships will be honored (they will be, Belmont officials said).
Halfway through, a former Belmont student spoke about how they didn’t want to return to the school, then turned to Watkins President J. Kline and asked — to a soundtrack of deafening applause — why students weren’t told sooner about the school’s financial woes and the lack of an endowment, which is what, Kline says, led them to a merger.
Kline took the mic from Belmont’s representative and spoke for half an hour, eventually telling the crowd he was to blame.
“Solving the financial problem was not something that I got done,” Kline said. “I didn’t solve it. I wish I had. This is not the outcome I desired. I took on a job that was too tough for me to complete.”
Kline is expected to be retained in a new position at the upcoming Watkins College of the Arts at Belmont. But students raised concerns about the rest of the faculty and staff at Watkins, who would be required to sign a statement of faith, proclaiming them to be believers in Jesus Christ.
Belmont says students of all backgrounds and faiths are welcome.
No students had to be removed from the town hall, which they were warned beforehand was a possibility, as well as expulsion, if the “student conduct issues” continued. Members of the faculty said the conduct in question was related to the anonymous posters that sprang up around campus this week with sayings like, “That was how dishonesty and betrayal started, not in big lies but in small secrets.”