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.
This week the University has begun an exploratory process regarding the future of GRE and its constituent programs. The process was initiated by the Office of the Provost in response to steeply declining enrollments: from 203 students in fall 2012 to just 128 students in fall 2022. This past fall, GRE enrolled 33 new students from the smallest applicant pool the school has seen in the past eight years. At the forefront of this process is the University’s commitment to currently enrolled students 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.
GRE cannot continue along its current path. The present circumstances require that we look creatively and critically at how we might best sustain the most promising academic programs within GRE through collaborative partnerships in an alternative organizational structure; and 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. (Tenured or tenure-track faculty must hold a faculty appointment within an Arts and Sciences Department or in a Professional School.)
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 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 the reorganization.