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Amid the financial storm, Dean Attridge offers word of hope

AttridgeYale Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge is confident YDS will weather the financial storm currently battering the world and believes the school may even emerge with greater ability to educate students for service in church and society. 

Attridge offered that assessment in a Dec. 17 end-of-the-year letter to members of the Yale Divinity School community. 

The letter from Attridge concludes, “Our own situation at the University in general and at the Divinity School in particular will require our careful attention, patience, and imagination, but together we can weather this storm and even enhance our ability to prepare men and women to serve church and society.” Click here to read Dean Attridge’s entire letter.

The dean held up recruitment and retention of excellent faculty as top priorities that will be protected during this time of economic uncertainty.  The searches are in theology, ethics, history, Asian Christianity, spirituality and ministerial leadership, and religion and the arts.
Attridge also said student financial aid will not suffer substantially as a result of the recession, predicting that the gross amount of financial aid provided through scholarships will continue to grow, although at perhaps a slower pace than previously hoped.

“This continued progress is due in large measure to the generosity of our alumni and friends whose gifts and pledges to our capital campaign will add to our resources for meeting student need,” said Attridge.  “Only time will tell if we can sustain that growth over the longer term.”

John Lindner, director of the YDS Department of External Relations, said, “At the Divinity School our primary concern during these hard times is for our students.  We realize that the current economic uncertainty is producing some anxiety in all of us.  Be this is even more the case for current and incoming students who are trying to finance a rigorous yet spirit-filled theological education.  We cannot let our support for these students falter.”

The dean also confirmed that renovation of the “Back Buildings”— the old ISM space and the Common Room and Refectory—begun this year will continue with targeted occupancy by summer 2009.  However, the other major project, which is early in the planning stages, replacement of the Canner Street apartments, will be delayed until conditions are more favorable, according to Dean Attridge.

He noted that members of the YDS administrative team have already suggested ways in which non-salary expenses for administrative staff can be reduced, suggestions that will be systematically explored, according to the dean, along with other possible ways of reducing operating costs.  “I believe that we can achieve the required savings with minimal disruption to our academic functions,” Attridge observed.

Dean Attridge’s letter comes on the heels of a letter from Yale President Richard C. Levin announcing a 25 percent decline in the University’s endowment and calling on faculty and staff to identify opportunities for savings that will not impair the University’s most important missions.  Click here to read President Levin’s entire letter.

Levin enumerated a series of belt-tightening adjustments in response to the economic downtown but concluded, “Yale University today is an institution of which we can all be justifiably proud. We will manage through this downturn in a way that will preserve our great strengths and seize the most important opportunities for the future, so that Yale can continue to serve the nation and the world by advancing the frontiers of knowledge and educating the most talented and promising students for leadership and service.”

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