The Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE) is undergoing a time of transition. Dean Faustino (Tito) Cruz, who is on leave this academic year, has announced that he will remain in the Philippines and not return to Fordham. The University is grateful for Dean Cruz’s five years of service as dean of GRE and professor of practical theology, and the Fordham community wishes him well in his retirement. Francis McAloon, S.J., has been generously serving as acting dean of GRE during Dean Cruz’s leave of absence, and he has agreed to continue in the role through Dec. 31, 2023.
In addition to Fordham’s world-class Department of Theology (in Arts and Sciences), GRE provides religious education to people of diverse religious traditions to put their faith into action. GRE programs prepare students to integrate knowledge with personal wisdom and to serve society as committed and compassionate leaders of faith. It is crucial to Fordham’s Jesuit mission to provide and sustain the kind of degree programs that will matter to students and their shifting needs.
This week, the University has begun an exploratory process regarding the future of GRE and its constituent programs. It is the University’s smallest school—this past fall, it enrolled 33 new students. At the forefront of this process is the University’s commitment to currently enrolled students, and to ensuring that they will be able to complete their degrees at Fordham.
It is important to recognize the valiant efforts that GRE faculty and administrators have undertaken over the past several years to strengthen the school, innovate program offerings, and adapt to seismic shifts from in-person to online instruction. Those efforts notwithstanding, the school’s high reliance on tuition revenue combined with declining student enrollments is unsustainable: GRE’s direct operating expenses in FY2023 amount to three times the revenue that the school is able to generate.
The present circumstances require that Fordham looks creatively and critically at how it might best sustain the most promising academic programs within GRE through collaborative partnerships in an alternative organizational structure; and decide which GRE programs do not have sufficient student demand to sustain the resources needed for their success and vitality.
Dennis Jacobs, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, has asked the faculty and administration of GRE to explore constructive and practical paths forward over the coming months, in conversation with one another and with faculty and administrators in other academic units at Fordham. A viable plan for the future must include:
- A firm commitment to support every current GRE student in their continued studies and, subject to their satisfactory academic progress, completion of their degree;
- An objective assessment of GRE’s current degree and certificate programs to identify which ones are most viable, academically distinctive, and can sustain critical enrollment levels;
- Options to house the most viable GRE programs in academic units (departments, schools, etc.) capable of supporting affiliated faculty, student recruitment, and program logistics. The ideal structure will bring mutual benefit to the degree program, the hosting unit, the participating faculty, and the students enrolled in the program.
- Individual discernment by each GRE faculty member about the academic department or school in which they could make their greatest contribution.
The Office of the Provost will engage in individual or group discussions with GRE faculty members around any aspect of the above planning effort, will consider all resulting proposals, evaluate what would be required for implementation, and identify the pros and cons for each viable proposal.
Early in the fall 2023 semester, the provost will meet with the GRE Faculty Council, present a specific proposed reorganization emerging from the exploratory process, and solicit the council’s recommendation. In accord with the University Statutes, he will then consult with the Faculty Senate about the same proposal. President Tetlow will share the recommendations of the GRE Faculty Council and Faculty Senate with the Board of Trustees before making her own recommendation to the board. The Board of Trustees has final decision-making authority regarding any reorganization.