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Princeton Theological Seminary Lays Off 21 Employees

Alexander Hall, Princeton Theological Seminary.
Alexander Hall, Princeton Theological Seminary.

Princeton Theological Seminary, the largest seminary associated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the second-oldest seminary in the United States, laid off 21 employees this week.

Asked whether the layoffs were due to economic reasons, Barbara Chaapel,  the school’s director of communications, cited the school’s strategic plan, which was developed in 2012.

“The Seminary adopted a new strategic plan last year and it is reallocating both human and other resources in order to implement the plan,” Chaapel wrote in an email. “While the number of employees was reduced this week, we expect to fill new positions that are necessary to help achieve our vision for our future.”

The strategic plan calls for the school to “right-­‐size the employee base in line with the mission of the seminary, using activity-­‐based analysis, taking seasonal demands into account, and re-­‐engineering programs, departments and workforce where necessary.”

The school, enrolls more than 500 students. Prior to the layoffs, the school had 42 faculty members, 12 adjunct faculty and about 160 other full and part-time staff and administrative positions, according to the seminary website.

Sources at the school said most of the layoffs were in the areas of information technology, library staff, and continuing education. Some of the employees who lost their jobs were reportedly escorted off campus after being told their positions no longer existed.

The seminary, which has the second largest theological library collection in the world, recently rebuilt the Speer Library on Mercer Street and tore down and rebuilt new student housing facilities behind MarketFair in West Windsor.

According to financial statements posted online, the school’s net assets dropped by more than $50 million between the fiscal year ending in June of 2011 and 2012. The school’s net assets were valued at $951,985,683 at the end of fiscal year 2011, and were $894,733,608 at the end of fiscal year 2012.

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the school’s bond rating from Aaa to Aa1 in May of last year because of the school’s outstanding debt and  line of credit, which combined totaled $167..8 million at the time, up four times the amount in fiscal year 2009, according to Moody’s. The capital campaign to fund the new library was not able to fully fund the library construction as of late 2011. In December of 2011, the seminary established a $60 million bank line of credit, against which the school had drawn $18.7 million as of May of 2012, according to Moody’s.

The library project was developed and carried out under former seminar president Iain Torrance. M. Craig Barnes was installed as the school’s seventh president last month.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • AlaskaFreddy

    But she is “certified.” She has the God paperwork right there on the wall. When is America going to go to fellowships where the pastor is the pastor solely because he/she is walking day by day with the Lord? After all, “Behold, and the Fig Tree bore no fruit.”

  • AlaskaFreddy

    Dry, this goes way back with this. I volunteered at the tail end of the Vietnam War and served as a chaplain’s assistant for paratroopers. During that time, I sent money to my Presbyterian Youth Group Leader for seminary when I got out, if I lived. He was center to the local church and a real estate guy. When I got out I was ready for college. But he said, “Sorry, all that ‘fell though.’ ” When I went to my church about that, paratrooper beret in hand, they said, “This is not our concern.” Even though I never would have met that man had I not walked through the doors of that church. No, I never went to grad school.

  • Mark Medown

    Plato Theological Seminary… In general this is probably not an accurate reality as to the “real story”, imo. Just can’t trust those guys, they make lying an art remember.

  • Kristobel

    There are many, many more people served by PTS than the M.Div student body. Continuing education for pastors, continuing education for community and national visitors, administrative training for executives and other offerings create the need for staff and administration. You can’t slice this to make it right – – and the decision to lay-off was made three weeks before Christmas. Classy. Real classy.

  • Kristobel

    I graduated in 1979. In those days, “humanity” was a rare commodity from administration. Looks like not much has changed at ol’ PTS. . .

  • WWindsorMom

    Rumor has it that the number of employees includes faculty, both full-time & adjuncts. If that is true, they should provide that breakdown, although that wouldn’t help their case.

  • Dennis Maher

    Presbyterians don’t assign employees or clergy. It’s a “free market” system.

  • RetiredLady

    New PTS prez and wife just spent 2 million dollars redecorating their home on campus…this is what they define as God’s work? The new furniture alone could have supported 23 employees for another couple of years!

  • Mike Rightford

    People look at the ratio before even saying anything. It’s hurtful they lost their jobs but over 500 student too 212 employees thats crazy. That’s a road for disaster. I’m surprised they only laid off 21 people. Any other institution in this place would have done the same or even worse than 21 layoffs. The ones that lost their jobs are in my prayers so is the school.

  • Miguel DeLeon

    I, too, was struck by Ms. Chaapel’s corporate double-talk. I’m sure there’s more to the story than what we got here, but my hope is that the axed employees were relocated to other positions in the Presbyterian system.

  • mmp629

    Merry Christmas….yeah right

  • Jack Richards

    Gawd, what a load of corporate talk that woman spouts! If that’s the future of education and student debt servitude, don’t bother with this school. You’re better off learning to do something with your hands.

  • jc

    It’s a disgrace!!! Where are all the so-called pastors, professors, directors, and leaders employed by PTS who preach and teach the biblical narrative of justice and liberation??? As usual, I am disturbed and horrified by their silence!!! Hypocrites!!!

  • Julia Edwards Dickey

    What a lot of double talk. They built a new library and then let a bunch of information specialists and librarians go? Escorted people off the campus? I could go on a rant (a verbal one) Don’t call in the police.

  • Formerptsphd

    They are shameful people at pts.

  • ReneeinCA

    Add to the that they tell folks to get a lawyer in order to sign a confidentiality agreement for their severance packages.

  • Dryheaves Daily

    Escorted off the campus?… From a seminary? Are you sure? Sounds more like a freaking bank. Good work seminary. Whats your mission or did you forget it. Seems like having 900 million in your bank account is more important than the people who worked for you. I can puke but then again its Princeton.. A place form where the elite are taught how to grab what they can from us mortals.

  • Antonia

    reallocating. that’s one way of putting it.

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