Magazine article The Christian Century

YDS Opts to Fight Laxity

Magazine article The Christian Century

YDS Opts to Fight Laxity

Article excerpt

LONG CRITICIZED for its lax admission standards and financial woes, Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, has agreed to trim its faculty and become more selective in admitting students. A recent committee report recommending that the school would be better off turning away some students has won the endorsement of Yale University officials.

The divinity school has been criticized by university authorities for admitting as many as 80 percent of its applicants--far more than Yale's other graduate schools. The committee suggested reducing the student body from its present average of 370 students to 270 within eight years. It also recommended that the faculty be pared from 34 to 28.

Cutting faculty was "deeply troubling," the committee acknowledged in its report. Women faculty members in particular will be at a disadvantage because they make up a high percentage of the junior faculty and will have little chance for promotion to the senior level.

Questions about the divinity school's future were raised last year when Yale President Richard C. Levin ordered a top-to-bottom review of the school. Not only was it criticized for not being selective enough, but the school's buildings are in a grim state of disrepair. However, the main question facing the committee was whether the school, founded in 1701 by Congregational ministers, was fulfilling a useful mission as part of a major secular university. The question raised concern among the faculty and students. The school's student council issued its own report last spring, saying students were "thoroughly demoralized" that the university "did not value the divinity school or its students."

The committee, however, allayed those fears in its report, which was endorsed by senior university officers. It said the school's traditional mission was sound. Commented Alison F. Richard, the university's chief academic and financial officer: "The report articulates with cogence and eloquence the mission of the school, which spans the preparation of individuals for ordination, the academic study of religion, and theological education as a basis for leadership in many walks of life.... I am pleased to endorse its strong reaffirmation within the report."

However, Richard turned aside recommendations that the divinity school establish innovative new programs, such as the Center for the Study of World Christianity and Its Relations with Other Faiths. …

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