Claremont School of Theology (courtesy of Google Street View)
The Claremont School of Theology will bid farewell to its home of the past 66 years and move to Los Angeles this summer, the school announced this week.
CST – a graduate school of religion and philosophy and one of the 13 theological schools of the United Methodist Church – has been in Claremont since 1957.
The school is awaiting final approval to move to its new location at Westwood United Methodist Church, 10497 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Before moving to Claremont, it was on the campus of the then Methodist-affiliated University of Southern California.
According to a press release, there are not expected to be any changes to the current degree programs at the new location, which is within walking distance of UCLA and not far from USC.
The name will remain the Claremont School of Theology despite the new location.
The school’s move is in a final review and approval process with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission, CST said.
“We view Westwood as a strategic move that will allow us to begin paying off debt, expand our digital online offerings, and continue to achieve our 150th anniversary,” President and Interim Bishop Grant Hagiya wrote on Wednesday, April 20th March 15, in a statement.
The announcement comes after a nearly 10-year legal battle involving Claremont Colleges, a consortium of five undergraduate liberal arts colleges, Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd and Pitzer Colleges – and two graduate schools – Claremont Graduate University and Keck Graduate Institute.
The two institutions debated a decades-old agreement that stipulated that the consortium would have the right of first refusal if CST ever decided to sell the property. The deed gives the syndicate the first chance to repurchase the property either at market value or using a formula to calculate the property value.
CST believed that the original agreement was no longer applicable due to California law stating that the provision had expired. Disagreement over the interpretation and validity of the 1957 agreement and formula sparked litigation.
CST first approached the consortium to sell 10.5 hectares of campus property in August 2015 when the school decided to offer more online instruction. With fewer lectures in class, the board of trustees found it only needed 5.85 acres of its 16.4-acre campus.
CST valued the property at nearly $40 million, while Claremont Colleges responded with an offer of $14 million for the property, but the school said that was not enough.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the consortium in January 2022, upholding the original agreement between the institutions.
The amount Claremont Colleges are asking to pay for campus CST is at the center of the litigation and now both parties have initiated arbitration to resolve the dispute. A decision on the final sale amount is expected to be made later this year, according to a CST press release.
Since then, CST has attempted to restructure its finances, and in 2016 considered a merger with Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. However, these plans were halted due to the ongoing legal battle.
“Over the past two decades, theological education has undergone fundamental changes, and the COVID pandemic has reassured us that we do not need a 40-acre campus to teach and train our future leaders,” CST President Jeffrey Kuan said in one Explanation . “Yes, leaving our large Claremont campus will be difficult, but it has become a drain on our future success.”
CST officials are working with property managers and landlords in the Westwood area to identify affordable housing options that the school will subsidize for students currently living on campus. According to the press release, CST will also cover the relocation costs.