PSR announces staff reduction and organizational changes

March 29, 2011

Pacific School of Religion has announced staff layoffs, restructuring, and other actions to address serious financial challenges faced by the school, as a result of years of deficit spending as well as the changing landscape of graduate theological education.

Last month the PSR Board of Trustees granted the president the authority to cut a million dollars from the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget to work towards financial equilibrium after seven years of draws on the school’s endowment. This week President Riess Potterveld announced a series of actions taken to achieve that goal.

PSR will continue to look to its partners within the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) for more shared services. PSR began consolidating services with the GTU and neighboring Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) two years ago, and now the three institutions share such services as human resources and business and finance. With this week’s announcement, PSR plans to consolidate institutional advancement offices with three other institutions: GTU, CDSP, and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS).

Collaborative sharing of faculty is also under discussion, and towards this end PSR has suspended all faculty searches.

Six staff members were given layoff notices last week, effective May 31 or June 30 depending on position. Departments and programs running significant deficits will continue to be scrutinized, and more layoffs may be made as necessary to right the budget.

Employee benefits will also be reduced: retirement contributions will be cut to 7 percent from the current 10 percent; a temporary increase in employee share of health care costs will remain in place; and there will be no cost-of-living salary increase this coming year. The four senior administrative staff members have taken voluntary reductions in salary for the next year.

The Ecumenical Center of Berkeley, purchased two years ago by PSR and the Disciples Seminary Foundation, has not proved to be a financially viable undertaking, and PSR is looking to sell this property. Among other moves, some educational programs will be moved online over the next two years, and the Earl Lectures and Leadership Conference will change from an annual to a bi-annual event.

“The work is not done, but these are examples of the kinds of modifications that will be necessary to create a sustainable model for progressive theological education as PSR continues in its long ‘tradition of boldness,’” said President Potterveld, who was installed as the 11th president of PSR in January 2011.