Dear CTS Community,
Greetings from CTS! As many of you are aware, over the last 18 months, CTS and Butler University have been involved in explorations about how the two schools can collaborate in mutually beneficial ways for the sake of our respective missions. In 1958, when CTS was established (we were formerly the Butler School of Religion), the founding agreement included extensive collaboration between CTS and Butler, and for decades we offered joint degrees and cooperated in a variety of ways on services and programs. In a sense, the recent dialogue between the two schools is in the spirit of this history, in effect asking the question, "What would a twenty-first-century version of collaboration between CTS and Butler look like?"
Last year, the two faculties explored possibilities together, and we also asked for input and advice from CTS staff, students, and alumni. Over 150 different ideas were submitted, virtually all very positive and program-oriented. As explorations of these ideas have unfolded, we have periodically held student forums and been in touch with the alumni board and student council. This fall, senior staff from both schools entered into more formal explorations, in close consultation with faculty. The CTS Board of Trustees has discussed this topic before, and will do so again this Friday, November 4.
This email is to update you on where we are today with this process.
What the Trustees will decide on November 4 is whether or not to authorize me, as CTS president, to move into a conclusive phase of negotiations with Butler over the next few months. This phase would conclude the negotiations one way or the other by early 2017. If the Board does authorize me to enter this stage of negotiations, that would also empower us to do two things: (1) share with you some further details about the potential agreement (that is, details that are confidential until the board discusses them, as you'd guess); and (2) solicit your input and perspective on aspects of the collaboration that relate to our common life at CTS, so we can work toward negotiating any definitive agreement accordingly. Confidentiality will continue to play a role, of course, and so will input from students and other constituencies.
I have already consulted with CTS students that currently live in CTS housing, in order to get their guidance and insight regarding CTS housing in particular. Part of what we are discussing with Butler is the possibility that they would purchase this housing. We have already made clear that any agreement in this regard must include a provision that all CTS students currently in CTS housing who want to remain there would be able to do so (at their current rent) until graduation. But I also wanted to get students' perspectives on how CTS, looking ahead, should think about housing generally. The two other general topics under discussion with Butler are: (1) Butler renting some of the unutilized space in the CTS main building (the Butler College of Education is interested in renting space) and (2) an agreement regarding non-development of CTS land to the west of the CTS main building (that is, CTS agreeing *not* to develop it).
We will know more details about the range of possibilities after the board meeting on November 4. I will send you an update on Monday, November 7, so you can be aware as to whether or not the Board decides to authorize me to move into the next and final phase of negotiations. And, if the board elects to authorize me to enter a next phase, we will schedule student forums this November and December, so you can hear more details and offer your perspective and advice.
As we all know, in situations like this one, rumors are inevitable. With that in mind, let me offer three thoughts in closing:
(1) I have heard the rumor that CTS and Butler are merging. This is not the case.
(2) I have also heard the rumor that there is already an agreement. This is not the case. What is happening now is an ongoing, evolving negotiation about the potential for mutually beneficial collaboration. We will know more about the range of possibilities after the CTS Board meets on November 4. The earliest we would have an agreement (if we have one) is early 2017. And that means that, if in fact the Board votes to authorize a next step, there is plenty of time to discuss and shape the outcomes over the months ahead.
(3) If you hear something about this matter and you have a question or concern, please reach out to me or other CTS leadership directly. That is always the quickest, most accurate way to get your question answered or your concern addressed. As long as the negotiations are open, we will continue to welcome input, so please don’t hesitate to engage constructively. If we all can avoid speculation, and instead ask questions and connect, everyone will benefit.
(4) And finally, please know that the whole idea of these explorations is to discern ways to benefit both schools -- including CTS! It is not in CTS' best interests, for example, to have significant unutilized space in our main building (nor is it in God's creation's best interests, since we heat and cool even empty rooms). Or, to put it more positively, it is in CTS' best interests to be able to apply future rental value to our mission: student scholarships, faculty salaries, program costs, HVAC efficiencies, etc.
Thank you for your attention to this update, and stay tuned for more on the other side of November 4. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to be in touch.
Grace and peace,
Matthew Myer Boulton
President and Professor of Theology