The Board of Trustees of the Episcopal Divinity School met for the first time with Interim President Bill Nelsen at the end of October. Yesterday, they released a report of their meeting.
As we said in July, the timing of the board’s decision to pursue a new direction for EDS was based in part on having adequate resources for student, faculty, and staff transitions. In September, we approved a generous severance plan that will cost approximately $2.5 million if all benefits are claimed. At our meeting in Cambridge, we also committed to adapting the plan as appropriate to meet the needs of individual employees.
Student transitions are a high priority, and at this meeting, we heard a report from Academic Dean Angela Bauer-Levesque about arrangements for “teaching out” the approximately 23 EDS students who will not have completed their degrees by next May. Based on that report, we have asked President Nelsen to develop memoranda of understanding with the Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation, which is housed at Chicago Theological Seminary, to complete the degrees of distributive learning students and with Boston University School of Theology to do the same for residential students. These arrangements will ensure that students receive full credit for coursework completed and incur no additional costs. A number of the students included in the teach-out are international students, and EDS has retained an immigration lawyer to ensure that their visas are maintained in the transition. Just seven of the teach-out students are Episcopalians in an ordination process; they come from three dioceses. We have asked President Nelsen to be particularly attentive to ensuring that these students receive the education and formation necessary to prepare them for the General Ordination Exams and ordained ministry in our church.
Both the New Directions Committee and the Transitions Committee of the board, whose creation we announced in our August 9 letter, met during our time in Cambridge. In addition to overseeing the terms of the teach-out and adjustments to the severance plan, the Transitions Committee reviewed the restrictions on the endowment and heard from EDS’s legal counsel, Jeffrey Swope, about the process for making adjustments that may be necessary under Massachusetts law as EDS prepares for its future. The committee also began making arrangements to protect and preserve EDS’s student and donor records, the library, artwork, technology, and other physical property.
The Board went on to say that it had chosen a shortlist of three academic institutions with which to partner, “based on their ability to carry on the seminary’s historic mission, continue accredited degree-granting theological education, and provide financial strength and stability for EDS’s future.” They hope to make a decision on this proposed partnership in February.