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The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

Bethel University’s San Diego Seminary to close

Bethel+University%E2%80%99s+San+Diego+Seminary+to+close

By Maddie DeBilzan

A Monday-morning email from Bethel University President Jay Barnes announced the discontinuation of Bethel University Seminary in San Diego, effective after this year. The move was recommended by several working groups tasked with making decisions to make up for this year’s budget shortfall.

The decision was made based on the preference students have shown towards online Seminary classes as opposed to face-to-face degrees.

Last year, the email said, Bethel Seminary launched five fully online programs. 96 new students chose the online programs, while 87 new students chose the programs’ face-to-face counterparts.  

According to Suzanne McInroy, Bethel’s Director of Communications, there are four full-time faculty members, about 10 staff members and 165 degree-seeking students at the Seminary in San Diego.

All of the staff positions at the San Diego locations will be eliminated after this year, according to the email. Full-time faculty and some adjunct faculty members will be invited to teach online Seminary programs. Students currently enrolled in a face-to-face degree at the San Diego location will be able to finish their degrees through a teach-out program.

“The decision to close the BSSD campus has been one of the hardest decisions I have made during my time as president of Bethel University,” Barnes’ email said. “The vision and plan we have for the future of Bethel Seminary provide some comfort, but it grieves me to close the campus in San Diego.”

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  • K

    KOct 31, 2018 at 3:36 am

    Wow, I’m really glad I found out about this before I completed a real estate trust to include proceeds to Bethel West. Blessings….

    Reply
  • M

    Michael GrishamOct 24, 2018 at 9:12 am

    I am new to San Diego bringing a Christian Ministry, primarily educational. If the BSSD property becomes available I would be honored to carry on with the cause of Christ at that location. Lord willing.

    Reply
  • G

    George DemetrionOct 23, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    I have audited courses at BSSD for several years and have been profoundly edified. Since leaving San Diego I have continued auditing online courses at the seminary, but found the on-site courses very worthwhile. The teachers and student colleagues have played an important role in my ongoing faith formation to which I am profoundly grateful. If BSSD does close its onsite courses it will be nothing less than a profound loss for many people as well as the faith community in the San Diego area.

    Reply
  • M

    Michael GrishamOct 16, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Sorry to see any Christian institution close. Is the property for sale ?

    Reply
  • D

    David SOct 12, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Mark Pearsey and the donors who made the amazing new addition possible must be heartbroken. What is the asking price? I hope that some other Christian institution of higher learning will purchase the property and continue using it for the intentions of the donors.

    Reply
  • D

    David WilliamsOct 9, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    so, my comment wasn’t approved or something?

    Reply
  • K

    kaliina kwokOct 9, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Last Friday, we received an email out of the blue that the Board of Trustees voted to close our San Diego campus bc of funding issues. It was like a kick in the chest bc it was so abrupt. There was no invitation to us – students, alumni or donors – help resolve any issues and work together to build a long-term plan of preventing this issue from happening again. And their decision and rollout felt like something I would expect from a corporation versus a Christian university. When I asked whether Dr. Barnes and Associate Provost Randy whether they could consider other funding alternatives such as a 10% cut across the board for all programs, reallocating some of the IT funding investments towards Bethel SD seminary, refinancing some of the buildings they own, etc., Randy just mentioned refinancing their bonds.

    I never would have guessed in a million years that a university that first started as a seminary would so easily write us off part of the seminary, so that it can make invest in other areas like nursing, business, and high tech classrooms for main campus. Here in Bethel San Diego Seminary, we only have 1 printer to share in our library and desktops that run in slow motion bc they have to connect to St. Paul servers to boot up. And our classrooms just have a projector and one white board, not plug in play stations with multiple whiteboards. With that said, for Dr. Barnes and provosts to say they want to follow the trends of offering online programs sounds comical bc we haven’t seen them follow the trends of offering faster technology or higher quality computers here at Bethel Seminary San Diego library or classrooms.

    And for female M.Div students like me, I don’t have many options for seminaries bc many do not recognize women in leadership. I actually moved from DC to San Diego just so I could I could attend classes in person bc I had horrible experiences w other seminaries’ online programs. And I’m not the only one. Many of classmates last night conveyed how horrible their experiences have already been taking online classes and that they wouldn’t be their first choice, if given the option. Moreover, some of my classmates have disabilities and are not tech savvy, so providing an online only option automatically excludes them, which is the anti-thesis of who Christ is and what the Gospel stands for. Moreover, online classes are a very poor way to learn from faculty, communicate clearly, build community, and practice having difficult conversations bc we will be ministering face to face with congregations not online. Thus, forcing us to transition to an online only curriculum bc of trends versus asking us in San Diego what we needed. ***What would it take for the Board of Trustees to see us as part of the Bethel family and not as a means to make extra income?***

    Praying the Lord continues to consecrate Bethel Seminary San Diego for His purposes and glory alone, in Jesus’ Name.

    Reply
    • K

      kaliina kwokOct 9, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      *…what we needed is not a commitment to excellence and covenant community in Christ. ***What would it take for the Board of Trustees to see us as part of the Bethel family and not as a means to make extra income?***

      Praying the Lord continues to consecrate Bethel Seminary San Diego for His purposes and glory alone, in Jesus’ Name.

      Reply
  • K

    kae kwokOct 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Last Friday, we (students) received an email out of the blue that the Board of Trustees voted to close our San Diego campus bc of funding issues. There was no invitation to students, alumni or donors whenever these issues started to arise in advance, nor was there time to help resolve any issues and work together to build a long-term plan of preventing this issue from happening again. I asked whether the leadership could consider other funding alternatives such as a 10% cut across the board for all programs, reallocating some of the IT funding investments towards Bethel SD seminary, refinancing some of the bldgs they own, etc. But the provost just mentioned refinancing their bonds.

    And I never would have guessed in a million years that a university that first started as a seminary would so easily write us off part of the seminary, so that it can make invest in other areas like high tech classrooms for main campus in St. Paul. We only have 1 printer to share in our library and desktops that run in slow motion bc they have to ping to St. Paul servers to boot up. And our classrooms just have a projector and one white board, not plug in play stations. With that said, for the leadership to say they want to follow the trends of offering online programs sounds comical bc we haven’t seen them follow the trends of offering faster technology or higher quality computers at San Diego library or classrooms here.

    I actually moved from DC to San Diego just so I could I could attend classes in person bc I had horrible experiences w other seminaries’ online programs. And I’m not the only one. Many of classmates last night conveyed how bad their experiences have already been taking online classes and that they wouldn’t be their first choice if given the option. Moroever, some of my classmates have disabilities and are not tech saavy, so providing an online only option automatically excludes them, which is the anti-thesis of who Christ is and what the gospel stands for. And for female M.Div students like me, I don’t have many options for seminaries that recognize women in leadership. Moreover, online classes are a very poor way to learn from faculty, communicate clearly, build community, and practice having diffcult conversations bc we will be ministering face to face with congregations not online. Thus, forcing us to transition to an online only curriculum bc of trends versus asking us in San Diego what we needed. What would it take for the Board of Trustees to see us as part of the Bethel family and see our building as not extra income to make money from?

    Reply
  • K

    Kenny LilesOct 9, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    As a current student at BSSD, we are deeply saddened to hear of the Bethel University Board’s decision. I am heartened to see President Barnes’ comment above that acknowledges the difficulty of the decision. However I must ask why no one from San Diego was part of this decision-making process? No BSSD faculty, no BSSD donors, no San Diego church leaders, and no BSSD students were invited to participate in prayer or discerning for this momentous decision, or even alerted that the abrupt closure of our campus was a remote possibility. Bethel University aims to develop leaders, but I have to question if this is the type of leadership BU aims to develop– decisions in which those who will be most affected are not even invited to the table of discussion. The face-to-face enrollment at BSSD has stayed steady over the past ten years, while I understand it has dropped dramatically in Minnesota. The call to shut down and sell off an entire campus, and thereby end Bethel’s welcome influence in the San Diego community, over the trend preference of 10 students, without warning, seems to have come out of left field. Here in San Diego, we respect and pray for President Barnes and our BU leaders. We also wish for more transparency, and honestly, openness toward involvement for those in San Diego who have given their time, energy, and money to BSSD for 40 years. As a community, we have invested 40 years into this seminary, and we were given ONE email, and ONE business-day’s notice when alerted of the closure, and of the meeting with BU leaders last night. This doesn’t make sense, and I believe the community should be asking questions about how we can move forward toward creative solutions. I only hope that BU will be open to listen, and not shut off from the concerns of their San Diego brothers and sisters.
    With respect and prayers,

    Reply
  • K

    KKOct 9, 2018 at 8:03 am

    I’m one of many classmates here at Bethel SD, who have tried online classes and abhor the flat, one-dimensional learning format because there’s an increased risk of miscommunication or lack there of because what people will say or ask in written communication is so different than in person. Moreover, as we are being trained to serve in church leadership position, we want to learn from and dialogue in person with experienced faculty and peers, so that we are best equipped to minister to congregations face-to-face with Christ’s love and humilty. I’m open to options like some blended learning, intensives, or experiential learning opportunies like trips to Israel, but forcing us to transition to online programs without the option to take face-to-face courses after this Spring semester doesn’t support my learning preferences or growth. Moreover, as a female M.Div. student, I don’t have as many choices to pursue face-to-face studies here in SD. So, in Jesus’ Name, I pray that the Board of Trustees and leadership reconsider this decision and see financial investments for keeping our 40 year old campus open as Kingdom investments in how God wants to build global relationship for service through Bethel SD.

    Reply
  • E

    ElizabethOct 9, 2018 at 6:32 am

    I’m appalled by the fact it took a board in St Paul 4 months to decide to close a school that been around 40+ years. If given the chance, we can raise the money to contribute to our share of the deficit. Dr. Arnell Motz did that for us for years. The money is out there, you just have to ask and know how to ask.

    Reply
  • A

    Art BenjaminOct 9, 2018 at 1:30 am

    I am a BSSD former student and I attended the meeting tonight. I was very concerned that Bethel Seminary San Diego started out as a partnership between San Diego community and Bethel University and has grown and thrived for over 40 years. That was a trust that the San Diego community had as it has funded to build the building that Bethel University now wants to sell out from under the community.

    The school was built by San Diego donors who believed in the mission and vision of Bethel University. Donors have given millions and millions of dollars into the seminary equipping men and women. Now, this decision has created a lack of trust between the seminary student body and Administration.

    Reply
  • D

    David WilliamsOct 8, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    This is a fiasco that didn’t include any input by BSSD, it’s students, faculty or donors to San Diego campus, it’s projects or student body. The portrayal of “how difficult this was” is a sham; this is about the money and greed and shows an absolute lack of leadership and communication. The complete disregard for SD all for pet projects in another state is disgusting. People should be ashamed of themselves…absolutely abhorrent.

    Reply
  • R

    Rev. Bryan SchaferOct 8, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    Maddie,
    Perhaps you should do a little more research before you make the claim that this decision was based on the preference students have shown towards online Seminary classes as opposed to face-to-face degrees. this is quite misleading. The reason pure and simple that Bethel San Diego is on the chopping block is because the university in Minnesota is losing money and selling off the property in San Diego will help make up the short fall. Bethel San Diego has one of the best MFT programs in the world and the closure of this seminary will be a huge irreplaceable loss. You cant teach the MFT program at any where near the same level of excellence as you can face to face.
    The money for the building (which is nearly paid for) was provided almost exclusively by San Diego donors and alumni who expected their gifts to be used for theological education in San Diego. To sell this property in order to support the Seminary in St. Paul (and online) is reprehensible and contrary to the wishes of the majority of Bethel donors.
    While i agree that some of an M.Div and MFT can be taught online, nothing can even come close to the fellowship and synergy that occurs in a brick and mortar classroom.
    As an alumni of Bethel, we believe that spinning the truth is contrary to the gospel, so if the truth really matters at the Clarion (and Bethel) perhaps you can be a little more forthcoming with the facts.

    Reply
  • J

    Janice RaymondOct 8, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    What makes it difficult here in San Diego is that this decision was made without any input from faculty, staff, donors, students, local church leaders or Christian leadership. We did not hear about it until the decision was made. To add insult to injury, Bethel will sell our building which we raised the money for and take it back to St. Paul. We have spent 40 years building relationships with southern California churches, not just in San Diego. Yes we can continue with fully online courses, but without a physical presence it is unlikely that Bethel will get many future seminary students from our area. The way this process was handled has angered the San Diego community and will tarnish the name of Bethel as an entity that cannot be trusted.

    Reply
  • M

    Matthew AmargoOct 8, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Current Bethel Seminary San Diego MDIV student here. Having this news come out of left field, via email, just underscores a history of disconnectedness between the BSSD community and Bethel University. I pray that our St. Paul brothers and sisters would know just how pricelessly impactful Bethel Seminary has been for the church in San Diego for decades, providing a venue for theological training in community and building up the framework of whole and holy ministers that have provided leadership for hundreds of churches in the region. Killing BSSD would be a devastating loss for the church. There is simply no place that provides the level of training, community and excellence in an irenic environment in the region like BSSD. The complexity of these times call for institutions like Bethel to help pour into and lead the church in timeless truths in ever-changing contexts.

    When it comes down to it, if killing BSSD was a financial decision, then I would have thought that St. Paul could have communicated this to us well in advance, and even engaged with us and mobilized us to work towards solutions together. I wish we would have been trusted that much to take ownership of our situation – that is, if BSSD wasn’t truly carrying its own load (and that’s a food for thought that the facts can validate). If, on the other hand, this decision is based on an idealogical shift in education, then that’s another story. I disagree at a fundamental level that a fully online Seminary education can produce the “whole and holy” ministers that Bethel purportedly desires for the church. I want a Seminary that will not be reactive to culture or conditions, but rather stand on principle. Where there is vision, there is always a way.

    Reply
  • D

    DanielOct 8, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    I can say with certainty that I would not have gone to seminary without this campus. I can understand that online degrees work for some seminarians who are not near a “brick and mortar” campus, but for those who can in person relationships built in the interdenominational Christian classroom setting are getting an education that is unique and valuable in its own right. If this was really about budget shortfalls then the working groups and board of directors would have allowed the Bethel Seminary San Diego: staff, faculty, alumni, students and donors a chance to make up a budget shortfall or find creative solutions for this 40 year institution or give meaningful input before the decision was made. Instead this decision came without any input from the San Diego stakeholders. Because of the swiftness, short notice, and immediate nature of this decision one cannot help but question the motive. I hope the decisions makers will reconsider or be open minded to reasonable alternatives.

    Reply
  • M

    mario romeroOct 8, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    “96 new students”- Do we know where these students are located? Are they SD based? President Barnes says this is a preference, but a preference means they are given equal choice. Not all students are within driving distance to Bethel SD. I’m sure some of those students are local, but again, how many are not?

    Reply
  • M

    mario p romeroOct 8, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    “96 new students”- Do we know where these students are located? Are they SD based? President Barnes says this is a preference, but a preference means they are given equal choice. Not all students are within driving distance to Bethel SD. I’m sure some of those students are local, but again, how many are not?

    Reply
  • H

    Heather KleinOct 8, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    This will greatly impact women ministers of San Diego to a devastating level.
    In our county’s current season, the value of women and their role in leadership is finally being recognized and accepted. The church too is also moving away from a patriarchal leadership mentality. Closing a physical campus, greatly hinders this progression. Here’s why:
    We all know that vocational ministry is impacted by who you know and how well you know them. In order for women to move forward in what is a heavily male dominated field, men and women need to be able to get together without the negative stigma of opposite sex interaction. A classroom setting, with multiple people, creates space for professional relationships between men and women to form. Enabling deeper and wider growth, and impact in their future ministry roles.

    Reply
  • H

    Heather KleinOct 8, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    This negatively impacts women ministers in San Diego at a devastating level. In our county’s current season, the value of women and their role in leadership is finally being recognized and accepted. The church too is also moving away from a patriarchal leadership mentality. Closing a physical campus, greatly hinders this progression. Here’s why:
    We all know that vocational ministry is impacted by who you know and how well you know them. In order for women to move forward in what is a heavily male dominated field, men and women need to be able to get together without the negative stigma of opposite sex interaction. A classroom setting, with multiple people, creates space for professional relationships between men and women to form. Enabling deeper and wider growth, and impact in their future ministry roles.

    Reply
    • J

      John DarrowOct 9, 2018 at 8:34 am

      Was it you who shared your story last night about the impact BSSD had on you, and women overall? If so, it was excellent! Thanks for standing up to share, it encouraged me, and I’m sure it encouraged many more.

      Reply