The nondenominational Belmont University in Tennessee will absorb a nearby private art college suffering from low enrollment, creating questions about whether non-Christian faculty can keep their jobs once the merger is completed in the fall.
The Nashville-based Belmont University, an institution of 8,400 students with a “rich Baptist heritage,” announced it will merge with the Watkins College of Art, a four-year art and design institution founded in 1885 that has less than 200 undergraduate students.
According to a statement released by Belmont last week, the governing boards of both institutions approved a merger agreement that is now pending approval by the accrediting agency for both schools, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The transition for Watkins’ students, programs and staff to their new home on the Belmont campus will take place by the fall 2020 semester. The two campuses are about 6.5 miles apart.
“For well over a century, Watkins has fostered the talents and honed the crafts of thousands of phenomenal artists,” Belmont President Bob Fisher said in a statement. “Partnering this legacy with Belmont’s thriving creative community in the arts, music, film and design represents a natural fit and brings incredible synergy to benefit all students.”
Watkins and Belmont are already engaged in an academic partnership in which students at both institutions are eligible to take select classes at the other institution.
But now under the agreement, Belmont will house Watkins’ undergraduate programs.
Watkins students majoring in fine arts, graphic design, illustration and photography will now join Belmont’s fine arts programs under the newly created Watkins College of Art.
Watkins students majoring in interior design will now become part of Belmont’s O’More College of Architecture and Design. Watkins’ film students will join Belmont’s Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business.
The agreement calls for the 13-acre campus where Watkins College of Art is located to be sold. The proceeds from the sale will be used to create an endowment to support scholarships for Watkins students, according to the press release.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith