Divinity School students and faculty expressed surprise at President Bok's convocation speech Wednesday, some saying they interpreted his remarks as an attack on the Divinity School faculty and curriculum.
Bok told the gathering the school should set clear objectives based on an awareness of the role its graduates would play in the world at large.
Bok said yesterday he considers it necessary for the school to focus on training professionals because there is no longer a demand for academically-oriented theologians.
His speech was not an attack on the school, he said, but an effort to bring an outside perspective to bear on some of the identity problems the school faces in defining its long-term goals.
Helmut H. Koester, Morrison Professor of New Testament Studies, said yesterday that while he was not surprised by the content of Bok's speech, he was taken aback by its length.
When Nathan M. Pusey '28 opened the Divinity School convocation before his retirement as president, he used to merely greet students and read portions of the Old Testament. This week's convocation was the first Bok has addressed.
Bok said yesterday he believes the students deserved something "more thoughtful" than a simple greeting, and added that he planned the length of the speech after consulting with Krister Stendahl, dean of the Divinity School.
Bok's speech this week was the first time he has publicly expressed concern with Divinity School goals. Throughout his five-year tenure as president, Bok has examined graduate schools individually, looking at their long-term goals in relation to what their graduates end up doing.
Stendahl said yesterday Bok took part last spring in a number of discussions among Divinity School faculty about the role of the school's graduates will play in the general community.
In a speech Wednesday night responding to the president's questions about the future, Stendahl discussed the content of those meetings, saying he believes the school should build up its professional program and focus increasingly on training ministers and teachers as well as religious scholars.
He compared the school to a law school, suggesting it could no longer afford to treat the religious community at large as incidental to its purpose than legal educators could ignore the judicial system.
Paul D. Hanson, professor in the Old Testament Department, said yesterday he believes the dean's statement reflects students' past questioning of the Divinity School's position in relation to the rest of the world.
Hanson added, "As a faculty, we can establish whatever goals we choose and organize the curriculum to meet those goals, but the president addressed the question from the perspective of the entire University."
Stendahl said the faculty of the Divinity School plans to go on a retreat this January to consider how to change the curriculum to meet the school's newly-defined goals