Proof that Lisa Howe's sketchy departure from Belmont isn't an isolated incident in the university's hiring and firing practices is the story of Rebecca Chapman. Chapman is a Shakespeare scholar who applied at Belmont, disclosed her gay status, inquired about domestic partner benefits and was even encouraged to advise the GLBT student group Bridge Builders. She was offered a job and accepted it, only to have it rescinded and restructured from a tenure-track job to a one-year contract. From reporter Jordan Caress in this week's Scene:
After a second and third interview, with other job offers pending, Chapman asked that Belmont make a decision. They returned with an offer of a tenure-track position that she happily accepted, after seeing it in writing. Belmont signed off, and all seemed well — that is, until a month later, when she received an email asking that she meet with Dean Bryce Sullivan the next day. The email explained that Belmont President Robert Fisher had been away, and all contracts were subject to his approval. The purpose of the meeting, Chapman discovered, was to inform her that her contract was being changed from tenure-track to a one-year contract ending in inevitable termination at the school year's end. In a prepared statement to the Scene, Sullivan said Belmont's provost, "a tenured English department faculty member with a scholarly emphasis in Shakespeare," had decided to "step down from her administrative position and return full-time to the classroom following a year-long sabbatical leave."
The piece is a terrific analysis of not just the disconnect between Belmont's faculty, students and administration, its policies and practices, but also the unintended consequence of the university's small-town prejudice on its grab at a national spotlight. Plus, Pith contributor Betsy Phillips retraces Chapman's story in great detail through Chapman's words and analyzes Belmont's policies over at Tiny Cat Pants as well.
Oh, how the plot thickens.