Administrators from the Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School confirmed at a meeting Friday the suspicions of many students, announcing that the affiliation agreement between the two schools could undergo a major change this year.
Deans announced the boards of both schools are considering possible changes because the affiliation agreement is up for renewal this year.
“There are two options. The first is minor changes in the contract that would basically preserve the affiliation,” said David Bartlett, the Yale Divinity School’s associate dean of academic affairs. “The other would be a partnership that would make the two schools structurally independent.”
The Berkeley Divinity School has been affiliated with Yale’s school since 1971. While Berkeley retains an independent board of trustees and administration, its students are fully enrolled in the Yale Divinity School. At present, Berkeley students account for one-third of the Yale Divinity School’s student body. Berkeley is exclusively for Episcopal students, while the Yale Divinity School is interdenominational.
Friday’s meeting was the first time administrators had disclosed the possibility of a change in the schools’ relationship. But some students had been suspicious of pending change since early last week when they discovered the two schools had set up a task force.
“The task force was set up to discuss the contract status between the two schools,” Bartlett said. “But the task force does not have any decision making ability. Ultimately the Berkeley board is the main contingent in the decision.”
Students piled into Friday’s meeting, filling one of the main lecture halls at the Yale Divinity School. The meeting was held during a free period for the students, and as a result some students had to leave before their questions were answered.
“Even though not all the questions were answered, the Dean told us that they would plan another meeting as conversations between the two schools continued,” Jennifer DeBisschop DIV ’03 said.
Currently, many students enroll in classes at both schools to fulfill their degree requirements. Before the meeting ended, however, administrators took time to assure students that, in the event of a split, all students would have access to the necessary classes for their degrees.
DeBisschop said students are not sure how to react to the new information.
“The faculty doesn’t really know what is going to happen,” she said. “As a result, students don’t really know how to react. But we will get a better idea of what is going on — as decisions are made.”