As the Berkeley Divinity School community gathered for Eucharist Wednesday night, they prayed their Episcopal seminary would be able to remain affiliated with Yale despite the alleged financial mismanagement that led to the recent resignation of the school’s dean.
On Thursday afternoon, their prayers were apparently answered. After meeting with the Berkeley Board of Trustees, Yale President Richard Levin said he was confident that Berkeley and Yale will reach a revised affiliation agreement.
“They accepted in principal the version of the agreement that we submitted to them after discussion, but they had a couple of discussions about minor changes,” Levin said. “And I am sure we will be able to work those out.”
Levin declined comment on the terms of the reaffiliation.
In a statement made through the public relations firm Robinson, Lerer & Montgomery, the Berkeley board agreed that the adoption of a new agreement was imminent.
“The Berkeley Divinity School has agreed unanimously to the principles of an affiliation agreement with Yale University, continuing a unique partnership in theological education between Berkeley and Yale Divinity Schools, subject to a final review by Yale’s general counsel,” the board said. “We expect that the adoption of the affiliation agreement will enable Yale and Berkeley Divinity Schools to strengthen their partnership.”
The status of Berkeley’s affiliation with Yale, which allows all of its students to receive degrees from the Yale Divinity School, has been in question since Dean R. William Franklin resigned in December. The Hartford Courant reported that a confidential Yale audit found Franklin had misspent thousands of dollars on personal items, including his daughter’s Harvard Medical School tuition. The audit also pointed to widespread financial mismanagement at Berkeley.
The ensuing controversy has strained relations between Berkeley and its larger partner, and Yale said it would no longer allow Berkeley to build a new chapel at the Yale Divinity School.
In her sermon Wednesday night, Marilyn Adams, a professor at the Yale and Berkeley Divinity schools, identified a root cause of Yale and Berkeley’s tensions.
“Both institutions have to maintain some measures of control and independence,” Adams said.
The Berkeley Divinity School chapel was packed to capacity, with about a hundred worshippers present — an audience that included several members of the Berkeley board.
As Adams spoke about Franklin, she indicated that the Berkeley community is standing firmly behind their former dean, questioning how Yale could “treat Berkeley, its future buildings and its dean in this way.” The approval of the worshippers showed their affection for Franklin was still strong.
“No, I didn’t think Bill Franklin was the one to redeem Israel,” Adams said. “Any dean would have had a hard time being Messiah.”
“But hadn’t we thought with his leadership Berkeley had been on a roll?” she asked.
Adams also condemned the media’s accounts of Berkeley’s troubles, accusing them of “yellow journalism.”
“The events that happened were bad enough, and then there was the distortion of the press,” she said.
Students willing to be interviewed all expressed a strong desire to for Berkeley to remain affiliated with Yale.
“I think everyone hopes [Berkeley and Yale will stay affiliated],” Carol Wade DIV ’03 said. “But we will carry on. There are rather minor points to be considered — one more look at what the issues are for the agreement.”
Berkeley held a festive going-away party for Franklin last week, and students remembered him fondly. W. Tay Moss DIV ’03 recalled Franklin as a dean who lived in the Berkeley House and helped foster a strong sense of community within the school.
“We all love Bill. Bill wasn’t a dean who sat in an ivory tower,” Moss said. “He was a dean who was very connected with the student body.”
But while Wade said Berkeley students are not in the dark, she admitted that not all of the details surrounding Berkeley’s recent events were out in the open.
“We don’t know all the issues at hand,” Wade said.