Presidents Reaffirm Commitment, Support of Chaplaincy After Review

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The Claremont University Consortium (CUC) announced this past week that the Claremont chaplaincy's current co-equal structure will remain, after a three-month review last semester conducted by the 7C Presidents’ Council with input from a faculty and student review committee. The council came to this conclusion after spending the review period considering possible alternatives to the current model, such as employing an unaffiliated director of religious life.

The announcement, made via email and signed by the Coucil, also states that the CUC will continue to supervise the chaplaincy, with the chaplains reporting to Denise Hayes, CUC’s vice president of student affairs.

According to Kenneth Wolf, a professor of history and classics at Pomona College and the former chair of the chaplaincy review comittee, the members of the committee considered the possibility of reconceiving “the chaplaincy as something that wasn’t a student service per se, but was something that was more of a service to the community as a whole.”

Wolf said that the academic deans of the colleges met last month to discuss the possibility of taking on administrative responsibility for the chaplaincy, but they could not find a compelling reason to do so.

“It is logical that the office continue to reside with the other student services, which fall under the direction of [the] vice president of student affairs at the CUC,” wrote Stig Lanesskog, CUC's CEO, in an email to TSL.

The email also states that the Council will reevaluate the chaplaincy's budget for the 2016-17 school year. Lanesskog explained that budgetary matters will be reviewed over the course of the next fiscal year, along with all other student services.

In order to maintain true co-equality of the chaplains, Wolf emphasized that the presidents should consider increasing the budget to hire four full-time chaplains. The chaplaincy currently employs two full-time chaplains and two interim part-time chaplains. This fall, the CUC hired the latter two: an interim part-time Protestant chaplain and an interim part-time Muslim life coordinator, responding to the Claremont Colleges Muslim Student Association's demand for representation.

The chaplaincy is not immune to change. In 2001, it became an administrative student service, a result of the creation of a new position within CUC. From then on, the chaplains no longer reported to the head of CUC, but rather to the new position of Vice President of Student Affairs.

Ten years later in 2011, the consortium's longest-serving chaplain retired, causing a dynamic riff within the chaplaincy. CUC hired a replacement chaplain to whom they alotted supervisorial oversight over the other chaplains and a larger salary. This was done without consultation, according to Wolf. This time around, Wolf relayed that the Council's recent memo has received a mixed reception from those associated with the chaplaincy.

“It's a very conservative document where the things that we thought needed protecting got protected; that is the co-equal chaplaincy,” he said. “But the things that we were suggesting to resolve—the interpersonal issues and structural issues—those were not resolved.”

Wolf ultimately feels the announcement lacks clarity.

“It’s a little chilling for this document to say that the ‘goals and expectations of the chaplains will be set in collaboration with the student deans of each college,” he said. “I’m not quite sure what that means since there are goals and expectations already established for the chaplaincy.”

At this point, early after the decision, it is difficult to predict what changes to the “goals and expectations of the chaplains” will look like, wrote Lanesskog.

“This letter is a cold letter,” Wolf observed. “It does not acknowledge the incredible amount of work that the chaplains put into their job. They work overtime constantly to make stuff happen on limited resources. It would be great at some point in time for the chaplains to get the respect and recognition that they deserve.”

The two full-time chaplains, Rabbi Daveen Litwin and Father Joe Fenton, could not be reached for comment, citing lack of time.

Lauren Ison PO '18 contributed reporting.

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