A coalition of Belmont University students and alumni called on the university to remove all ties with private prison company CoreCivic in a virtual town hall on Wednesday. The moderators and panelists cited the connection as proof of systemic racism and theological issues.
Be Better Belmont formed mid-July in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
In a “Letter of Demands,” the coalition asks the university for all information on their relationship to CoreCivic, the removal of CoreCivic CEO and President Damon Hininger from the Board of Trustees, and the refusal of all funding from CoreCivic. Other requested resignations include Andrea Overby, Joe Russell, Marty Dickens, and John Ferguson.
The coalition also asks for all information on the university’s “governance structures and investment patterns.” It claims that any alignment with prisons directly conflicts with the university’s dedication to Christianity.
In its following list of demands, Be Better Belmont also calls for “anti-racism” to become part of the university’s value and mission; increased diversity in staffing; elimination of “colonist exchanges” and “white savior tendencies” in service programs; a “hate and bias incident reporting system;” more social justice, racial justice, and gender studies curriculum; and reparations for slavery.
Be Better Belmont declined to give a comment on the matter. A spokesperson responded in an email:
“My apologies but I agreed [to an interview] without giving our team a chance to review your publication more closely. Upon further review, we realized we don’t align on the values of your publication. We will have to respectfully decline. If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit our website at BeBetterBelmont.com. Thanks for your interest.”
CoreCivic Public Affairs Manager Ryan Gustin stated that Be Better Belmont, along with other activists, have made a number of false claims about their company. They deny claims of lobbying for truth-in-sentencing and three strikes laws, having inferior prison qualities, and having twice as many homicides within their Tennessee facilities.
Spokespersons for Belmont University didn’t respond by press time.
Be Better Belmont will host their monthly open house meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. CDT.
– – –
Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger” by CoreCivic CEO. Photo “Belmont University” by deldevries. CC BY-SA 2.0.