The Claremont School of Theology will bid farewell to its home for 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 United Methodist Church’s 13 theological schools — has been in Claremont since 1957.
The school is awaiting final approval for its move to its new site, at Westwood United Methodist Church, 10497 Wilshire Blvd., in Los Angeles. Before moving to Claremont, it had been on the campus at the then Methodist-affiliated University of Southern California.
There is expected to be no changes to its current degree programs at its new location, located within walking distance from UCLA and a short distance from USC, according to a news release.
The name will remain the Claremont School of Theology despite its new location.
The school’s move is in a final review and affirmation process with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission, CST said.
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“We see Westwood as a strategic move that allows us to begin to retire debt, expand our online digital offerings, and continue to reach toward our 150th year.” President and interim Bishop Grant Hagiya wrote in a statement Wednesday, March 15.
The announcement comes after a nearly 10-year legal battle with The Claremont Colleges, a consortium made up 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 the consortium would have the right of first offer if CST ever decided to sell the property. In the deed, it gives the consortium the first chance at buying back the property either through fair market value or by using a formula to calculate the value of the land.
CST believed the original agreement was no longer applicable due to California law that says the provision expired. The disagreement on the interpretation and validity of the 1957 agreement and formula is what ignited the legal battle.
CST first approached the consortium in August 2015 about selling 10.5 acres of campus property as the school decided to switch to offering more online classes. With fewer in-class lectures, its board of trustees determined it only needed 5.85 acres of its 16.4-acre campus.
CST had the land appraised for nearly $40 million, while The Claremont Colleges responded with an offer of $14 million for the property, but the school said that wasn’t sufficient.
A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of the consortium in January 2022, affirming the original agreement between the institutions.
The amount The Claremont Colleges is required to pay CST for the campus is at the heart of the litigation, and now both parties have entered mediation to resolve the dispute. A decision on the final sale amount is expected to be completed later this year, according to a news release from CST.
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Since, CST attempted to restructure its finances and explored a merger with Willamette University in Salem, Oregon in 2016. But those plans were halted because of the ongoing litigation.
“There has been a sea change in theological education the last two decades, and the COVID pandemic has confirmed for us that we do not need a 16-acre campus to teach and train our future leaders,” CST President Jeffrey Kuan said in a statement. “Yes, leaving our large Claremont campus will be difficult, but it has become a burden for our future success.”
CST officials are working with property managers and landlords surrounding Westwood to identify affordable-housing options the school will subsidize for students currently living on campus. CST will also pay moving costs, according to the news release.