As they prepare for a Friday town meeting with administrators, many Divinity School students are upset because they have been left in the dark about a task force that is reviewing the relationship between the Divinity School and a nearby Episcopal divinity school.
The Berkeley Divinity School has been affiliated with Yale’s Divinity School since 1971. Students do not know if the task force is considering ending that affiliation. Yale Divinity School Dean Rebecca Chopp called the review routine, but administrators have not yet disclosed any information to students.
“There are many rumors going around because there seems to be an atmosphere of secrecy surrounding the discussions,” Kimberly Miller DIV ’03 said. “At the Divinity School, it is every student’s desire to foster a feeling of community, but nothing can be built if the faculty is keeping important and relevant information from the students.”
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.
“At the academic level, there is very little distinction between the two schools,” Elizabeth Pipes DIV ’02 said. “Berkeley students have a core set of requirements apart from Yale University students, but apart from that, students take classes from both schools.”
Students speculated that Berkeley will either be assimilated into or separated from Yale’s Divinity School.
Chopp said discussions between the two schools occur every 10 years when the affiliation agreement is up for renewal, as it is now. She said the task force had not reached a decision and she did not know how the relationship between the two schools might be altered.
“I do know that there has been a task force looking into how the two schools relate,” Chopp said. “And I also know, for certain, that is the process of these discussions both schools will always retain their commitment to having the finest education possible.”
Chopp said the discussions will include University President Richard Levin and Provost Alison Richard.
Levin declined to comment, saying the matter was pending.
Berkeley Divinity School Dean R. William Franklin also would not comment on the status of the review.
Some students are concerned that discussions are even taking place.
“People want to know what the problem is, why there are discussions if everything is okay in the first place. Some people wonder whether the initiative is coming from the University or from the divinity schools,” Miller said.
Many students fear the consequences of a split between the two schools. Some fear the Berkeley Divinity School cannot exist without its Yale affiliation.
“Berkeley Divinity School might not receive enough funding alone to still function. Also, Episcopal students might not have the right classes from Berkeley school alone to be ordained,” Pipes said. “And there might be consequences for students enrolled at the Yale University Divinity School. Some faculty members are at the Yale University Divinity School because of the strong Episcopalian presence. Their presence will certainly be lowered if Yale drops its affiliation with Berkeley Divinity School.”