NEW YORK - On Wednesday, December 14, alumni/ae of the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) attended a meeting at the NYC Extension Center of UTS, which is located at 4 W43 Street in New York City, to dialogue with Dr. Hugh Spurgin, President of UTS, and two members of the UTS Board of Trustees, Dr. Michael Balcomb and Dr. Michael Jenkins, about the future of UTS and the Barrytown campus in upstate New York.
The primary purpose for the meeting was to report to the alumni and friends of UTS the present financial situation of UTS, the educational institution, and of the Barrytown property, in particular.
Recent rumors and speculation, some of which have appeared across the internet, as to whether or not the property is in the process of being sold, have led to uncertainty in the minds of some alumni about the future of the property and the continuation of UTS as an institution of higher learning.
While the Board members reassured the audience that currently the Barrytown property is not listed on the market, they did acknowledge two vital points: 1) there have been several offers made for the property, and 2) the yearly maintenance and operating expenses, which at present are a little over $700,000 for the 2015-16 fiscal year, is not sustainable without new sources of revenue.
Dr. Spurgin also pointed out several “positive” aspects of UTS’s current situation: the reaccreditation that UTS received this year from Middle States Association; enrollment is up at the 4 W43 Extension Center this semester and should continue to rise in the future; the Maryland Instructional Site is doing very well and expects enrollment to rise; and, finally, plans for the development of Online/ Distance Programs are also moving forward.
Following Dr. Spurgin’s PowerPoint presentation, which took approximately 30 minutes, members of the audience, which included several faculty members and alumni, were invited to come up and either ask questions or to offer suggestions as to what should be done with the Barrytown property, which also includes the Massena House.
Over a dozen professors and alumni took the opportunity to participate in the Q & A session, offering a variety of opinions as to what could be done to make the property profitable.
Anthony Ferrantello, an architect for more than 30 years and a 1983 UTS graduate, gave a somewhat surprising - but nonetheless enlightening - assessment of the structural quality and integrity of the building by pointing out that people who tour the main building are always impressed with how well built it is and how well it has stood up for the past 85 years. His conclusion being that instead of viewing the building as a liability because of its high maintenance costs, it should be viewed as an asset.
Although the majority of people, including the Board members and alumni, expressed a desire to keep the property and find a way to make it profitable, two current members of the UTS faculty - Dr. Keisuke Noda and Dr. Andrew Wilson – were opposed. Both expressed their belief that the property should be sold and the funds invested in improving and expanding the facilities in NYC, whether at the seminary’s current home or in a new building, and to also improve the quality of education by investing in the educational mission and in the students.
The next alumni/ae meeting will be held at 4 W43 in Manhattan, on Saturday, January 7, 2017 at 3 PM on the first floor.