Merger? Meltdown?

OK, first, does anyone have any hard numbers or links to reports about what’s going on at Meadville/Lombard? This doesn’t sound at all good.

President’s State of School Address: A Period of Rebuilding (November 14, 2005)

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

16 thoughts on “Merger? Meltdown?”

  1. We were supposed to have more solid information by the end of last month once both schools’ boards had met. Different means of cooperation, up to and including merger, have been studied since early this year. The merger question was supposed to have been answered either way by now so that we wouldn’t have the spectre of possibility and rumor hanging over our heads for too long. This clear answer has failed to materialize. The link to the story gives as much information as anyone not the president of either school knows right now.

    This is basically the most opaque attempt at a transparent process I’ve ever seen.

  2. -Figures from Starr King seem much more dire. An acquaintance of mine who is a new student at SK let me know that SK has reduced its general operating budget by 20%, eliminated 2 faculty positions (pastoral care and church history), and students are anticipating an increase in 06/07 tuition that may be as high as 50% over current year.

    This is not, however, a uniquely UU problem. Small theological schools of many stripes are in bad positions because of ecnomies of small scale. The Swedenborg School of Religion ended its life as a degree granting school, and is now a divinity house at PSR. And Bangor Theological Seminary recently sold most of its real estate and moved to the campus of nearby Husson College.

  3. I don’t know a lot about Meadville/Lombard, but did hear Lee Barker speak at a church in the Twin Cities early last month. I’d like to know what he means by getting better at theology.

    John

  4. As a former Fightin’ Lombard all of this disturbs me quite a bit. I am wondering, however, if closer relations to the University of Chicago might be a better idea for them than merger with SK. Likewise, what is SK’s relationship with the Berkley schools? M/L already has a relationship with U of C, why couldn’t that become closer? I do not know where I am going with this so I will stop…

    Anyway, just one alum’s thoughts before a late-night preparing of Thanksgiving Sermon…

  5. U of C seems to be doing their damndest to diminish the nature of our relationship, unilaterally closing several avenues of negotiation without warning. This is probably what led to the discussions with SKSM in the first place.

  6. As a U of C alumn (BA – Geophysics, 1996), I’m going to SPECULATE about why U of C would close off its relationship with Meadville (M/L).

    (1) What is in it for the U of C? What does M/L have to offer the U of C in any partnership? I’m hard pressed to say what that would be. The University of Chicago has international name recognition, and a faculty of a caliber far beyond M/L. The benefit of such a partnership may be entirely one sided.

    (2) The U of C could be secretly coveting M/L real estate, and would prefer M/L to go away. Not unknown behavior among large, urban universities that often lust after their neighbor’s real estate.

    (3) Even when I was a U of C student (92-96) M/L seemed unfriendly to the U of C campus, and like a kookie counter-culture bubble all on its own in the Hyde Park Neighborhood. Have attitudes changed? Has M/L learned how to engage the U of C community constructively? I don’t know what it is like today. I haven’t been in Hyde Park since 1998.

  7. Unfortunately (for this discussion, anyway) I left M/L in ’98 as well so I cannot speak to the current relationship or to the culture of the school. I have to agree that, unless things have changed, M/L doesn’t have a whole lot to offer in the way of benefits to a place like UCDS except, possibly, a better ministry program. Actually, ministerial training does (at least anecdotally) seem to be a bit better in seminaries as opposed to the large research universities (feel free to object). Also, when I was there it was most certainly a bubble of some kind, although I have seen counter-culture done much better… That bubble prompted more than one transfer elsewhere.

    But, if things are going to change, why don’t we change them to become more relevant to the U of C’s needs? However, it does seem from what John is saying that the U of C isn’t interested…alas for us! It is prime real estate, too.

    Incidentally, I “transferred” to Bangor Theological Seminary and took my remaining classes there after two years at M/L. I still have some connections at Bangor (my mom is BTS class of ’04) so, really, am probably more concerned with their situation right now, which may color my post…

  8. The proposed SKSM tution increase is $1000 per year higher than when I started 3 years ago though the fee for people taking more than 3 years is going up quite a bit. I believe they were hoping todiscourage the practice anyway and would be incresaing continuing fees even if there were no money issues.
    Starr King seemed more dire last year or even at GA but it feels like they have turned the corner.

  9. Adam’s take on pastoral training for ministry, and the flavor of large research universities may be right on target. I remember a description of the U of C M.Div. program, which said that their view of public ministry was one of forming people to become public intellectuals. And friends, there is FAR more to ministry than being an intellectual in public.

    As I think further upon this, M/L does have a good heritage of RE training, and pastoral care training. But would the U of C even care about that?

    Another option to contemplate for those of us who have been in the neighborhood, what about some kind of partnership between M/L and Chicago Theological Seminary? They do have a history of sharing faculty appointments.

  10. I’m shocked. I spent four years in Meadville, PA (still home of fair Allegheny College, yonder on the hill) and never knew it had once been home to a Unitarian seminary. I’m not sure why they left-no place is better suited to spending you r time in studying than Meadville.

    I hope everything works out for them.

    -D*

  11. So John C., any clue why the U of C might close down a relationship with M/L?

    I know in one instance that M/L wanted U of C to open up its MDiv core to our students . . . U of C turned us down flat. Can’t really blame them, there.

    The other instance was about real estate, where U of C pulled out of a deal where M/L would obtain land south of the Midway for a new facility. I know U of C has new facility plans in that neck of the woods now, so I can understand that as well.

    what about some kind of partnership between M/L and Chicago Theological Seminary?

    M/L has better ties with all the ACTS cluster schools than with UCDS. M/L has seen an increase in outside students coming in for classes, and an attempt was made when I first started here to switch over to a semester system to match the rest of the seminaries, rather than the U of C’s quarter system. The plan was aborted at the last minute for unclear reasons. Many of us wish we’d continue exploring this route.

  12. I had no idea that ministry meant that I was supposed to be intellectual in public. I personally prefer being intellectual in the privacy of my own home, while sitting in a rocking chair with a bowl of salted nuts nearby.

  13. As a University of Chicago MA (Divinity) and PhD graduate with a familiarity with M/L’s syllabi I think people on this blog need to be more honest. Chicago is a premier university known throughout the world, whereas M/L is a small seminary that could never be in the same category. I have much respect for M/L graduates who actually think their MDiv is comparable to a Chicago degree, but the reality is that the school’s ever changing curriculum is a bit of a joke.

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