Duke Divinity School’s First Female Dean, Elaine Heath, Steps Down After 2 Years Amid Student Protests and Diversity Struggle

Elaine Heath (duke.edu)
Elaine Heath (duke.edu)

Duke Divinity School’s first woman dean, Elaine Heath, has stepped down after a brief and rocky two-year tenure marked by student protests and struggles to build diversity on campus.

The school announced Thursday (Aug. 2) that Heath would be replaced by L. Gregory Jones, who served as dean of the school from 1997 to 2010.

Elaine Heath was hired in 2016 and oversaw the United Methodist-affiliated seminary with some 600 students and six degree programs during a turbulent time in which both African-American and LGBTQ students protested a lack of inclusion and diversity among faculty.

No official reason was given for the change, but Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, told the Duke Chronicle, the university newspaper: “The leadership of the University and the Divinity School agreed it was important to make transition now so they could begin the academic year by working in close collaboration with faculty, staff and students on the School’s current challenges and future opportunities.”

Heath will remain at the school as professor of missional and pastoral theology but will be on sabbatical until January 2019.

Seminary education has been under strain in the past few years as fewer admissions and shrinking budgets have led to consolidations and mergers. As a divinity school embedded in a larger university, Duke has been shielded from some of those strains, but it has faced pressures to diversify its faculty, as have other schools.

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SOURCE: Yonat Shimron
Religion News Service