A Nashville art college is in turmoil after news broke earlier this week of a merger with Belmont University—a Christian institution that's known to crack down on staffers who go against its faith, Artnet reports. "There is rage and there is fear," said Quinn Dukes, an alumna of Watkins College of Art. "Students and faculty are losing both a history and a school." Dukes is behind an online petition opposing the merger, but it's already been approved by both institutions. Facing the inevitable, some Watkins students openly wept, while one woman passed out and another needed helped walking. Their concern is focused on freedom of expression as well as the future of faculty and LGBTQ students, per the New York Times.
"We do not hire people who are not Christian, so the ones who are not Christian would not be eligible to work at Belmont," Belmont provost Thomas Burns said in a meeting with Watkins students (it's on YouTube). "But that's just part of who we are." Watkins' president, J. Kline, then sent an email to staff saying they might be allowed to stay "regardless of their position of faith." One issue is Belmont's history: The Nashville institution has reportedly pressured a lesbian soccer coach to resign, and later cut ties with a theater program that wouldn't omit curse words from a play. But Watkins, a small college with 171 students, is in financial trouble and needs the merger. "Critical changes [are] needed ... for Watkins' mission and legacy to endure," says Kline. (Read more Christian school stories.)