Watkins College of Art is removing its president from overseeing the school’s transition into Belmont University, following weeks of controversy surrounding the merger.
The Watkins Board of Commissioners confirmed the decision Thursday morning. The board said it still needs President J. Kline’s assistance “on certain administrative matters” but those “will not require him to return to campus” under most circumstances.
Instead, Vice President for Academic Affairs Cary Beth Miller will be taking over the transition, a spokesperson for the board told WPLN News.
Kline quickly came under fire from students and faculty who were disheartened by the news that Belmont would be absorbing the school. After much criticism at a town hall meeting last month, Kline told students that he was to blame.
“Solving the financial problem was not something that I got done. I didn’t solve it. I wish I had,” he said. “This is not the outcome I desired. I took on a job that was too tough for me to complete.”
Multiple students and others within the school say Kline has not been on campus since the tense town hall with students and faculty in late January. A spokesman says Kline could return if his duties require him to do so.
Belmont University President Bob Fisher told WPLN News last week that Kline would have a position at the university when the merger was complete.
“I don’t agree that he didn’t do a good job,” Fisher said. “I don’t think it’s his fault. But when people are angry and hurt, they need somebody to blame.”