Open Letter to the President of Watkins College of Art and Board of Directors

Open Letter to the President of Watkins College of Art and Board of Directors

January 29, 2020
Signatures: 6,001Next Goal: 7,500
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Started by Quinn Dukes

An Open Letter to the President of Watkins College of Art and Board of Directors

To the attention of:

J. Kline, Ph.D., President, Watkins College of Art; Board of Trustees: Officers: Steve Sirls (Chair), Taylor H. Henry (Treasurer); Commissioners/Trustees: Susan A. Basham, James H. Clayton III, Walter Knestrick; Trustees: Beth Scott Clayton Amos, Joan Cheek, Stephanie Conner, Tory Fitzgibbon, Brooke Porter Hawkins, Mary J. Hawkins, James R. Kelley, Kristin Laine, Laurence M. (Larry) Papel, Samantha Saturn, Santi Tefel, Laura Turner, William (Bill) Warfield, Waddell H. Wright

As of Tuesday, January 28th 2020, it has come to my attention through your social media posts and email, that you have opted to merge my alma mater, Watkins College of Art, an institution with a 130-year history of educating artists with Belmont University. The spirit of Watkins is vastly different from that of  Belmont University. Students like myself choose Watkins because of its promotion of the individual by immensely thoughtful and skilled faculty. Watkins was a safe and inclusive space for creatives from all backgrounds, preferences, and identities. 

The minimal communication of the merger has left alumni, like myself, concerned for the future welfare of Watkins College of Art at Belmont students, faculty and staff. The sale of 2298 Rosa Parks Blvd is fraught with suspicion. 

On behalf of the Watkins Community, I am writing to request consideration and answers to the following inquiries:

Your currently enrolled students are:

  • Offered a new deadline to withdraw from the Spring 2020 semester without financial penalty. 
  • Provided an opportunity for individual meetings with an academic advisor prior to the end of the Spring 2020 semester to outline their future coursework and overall academic plan. This meeting should include specific detail to any additional coursework mandated by Belmont University’s BELL CORE (ie, specific humanities, religion or physical education courses).
  • Does Belmont University’s current Religion BELL CORE requirement impact Watkins College of Art transfers? 
    Though religion courses transferred in from accredited institutions will typically count toward the requirement, all Belmont students are required to have an academic encounter with the whole biblical text. Therefore, for example, a student transferring in a World Religions course would have to take Understanding the Bible (REL 1010) to complete the BELL Core requirement.

Students that choose to maintain enrollment at Watkins College of Art at Belmont are: 

  • Provided an orientation at Belmont University prior to the start of Fall 2020 courses. Appointments with Financial Aid Counselors, Health and Counseling, Campus Housing and Student Life, Disability Resources, and Academic Advisement shall be made available.
  • Offered courses, equipment and studio access that are parallel to that of Watkins College of Art. 
  • Courses, studio equipment lists, and studio facility details should be made available to the Watkins at Belmont student body before the end of Spring 2020.
  • Will art majors continue drawing, painting and sculpture figure model instruction with nude models?
  • Provided a Watkins at Belmont Student Handbook before the end of Spring 2020, detailing policies on:
    • Censorship or Freedom of Expression 
    • Diversity and Inclusion 
    • Living on Campus 
  • Students that are currently on a Work-Study Program at Watkins shall be offered Work-Study opportunities at Watkins at Belmont. 

Merger financial transparency:

  • What are the details of the merger with Belmont University? The signed agreement between Belmont University and Watkins College of Art should be made a public document.
  • Are current members of the Board and/or current President of Watkins College of Art financially profiting from the merger?
  • What will the Rosa Parks property be sold for and how are the earnings being distributed? 
  • Are current members of the Board and/or current President of Watkins College of Art financially profiting from the sale of 2298 Rosa Parks Blvd?

Faculty and Staff severance:

  • All current faculty at Watkins College of Art shall be offered a severance package for the summer 2020 and fall 2020 semesters. 
  • This pay shall be consistent with the current earnings of these individuals on a semester basis.
    A health care plan shall also be made available within the severance package. 
  • All current faculty at Watkins College of Art are interviewed for positions at Watkins College of Art at Belmont, provided the faculty submits their resume for consideration.

Watkins Community Education Program

  • Will the cornerstone of Watkins, our Continuing Education Program, continue operation?
  • If the Watkins CE program is slated to continue, who will teach within the program? Will current Watkins CE faculty be offered their positions at Belmont?
  • If the Watkins CE program is not slated to continue, all currently registered CE students and CE alumni shall be notified of the program’s discontinuation before the end of Spring 2020.

Accreditation and Affiliations

  • Will WCA at Belmont maintain its current accreditations?
    • SACS, AICAD, and NASAD

WCA applicants to Fall 2020

  • Are immediately communicated information regarding the merger with specific information on the course curriculum. 
  • Offered an application fee refund should they choose to withdraw their application based on the merger.

Thank you for your consideration of these very important topics and inquiries. Your community is upset and concerned. If you wish to reinstate trust with your community, you can do so by choosing to respond to the points previously outlined. 

This is the first step towards creating an open dialog with the Watkins College of Art students, faculty, staff and alumni. 

In concern and sincerity,

Quinn Dukes

2007, BFA Fine Art, Watkins College of Art |

Supporters: Please donate to support our legal fund at Donations via do not go to Save Watkins.

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