Last updated December 7, 2020
Guilford College announced on November 6 that due to financial shortfalls it plans to cut nearly half of its academic majors as well as 30 percent of its faculty (27 positions) and 9.5 staff positions. This latest proposal for cuts comes after 47 staff employees and five visiting faculty were laid off in July due to financial challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is not a pretty process,” Carol Moore, Guilford’s interim president, was quoted in the Greensboro News & Record. “But it’s a process that is necessary to lay the foundation for growth in the future and to have the resources available for that kind of growth going forward.”
Guilford’s Board of Trustees still needs to give final approval for the cuts to take place and will meet to consider the decision sometime this winter.
The majors to be phased out include the following: chemistry; community and justice studies; geology and earth sciences; history; mathematics; peace and conflict studies; philosophy; physics; political science; religious studies; sociology/anthropology; and four modern languages. No changes have been proposed for the Quaker Leadership Scholars Program and the Quaker studies minor.
The cuts have drawn concern from the faculty and current students as well as from alumni and Quakers connected to the school.
On November 16, in a vote unprecedented in the school’s 183-year history, 94 percent of the Guilford faculty expressed no confidence in interim president Moore and 93 percent expressed no confidence in the Board of Trustees.
Alumni organized a “Save Guilford College” Facebook group with over 3,000 members and gathered over 1,000 signatures on a petition opposing the cuts.
On December 2, a website went live, saveguilfordcollege.com, that shares both short-term and long-term demands for the college and asks supporters to commit to financial pledges that will be collected “if, and only if, the Board of Trustees stops the proposed cuts and corrects the course of Guilford.” Lynne Walter, a member of Guilford’s class of 1998, stated that as of December 3 “over $1.4 million dollars in unrestricted pledges have been made.”
Current students organized a teach-in and protests in front of the college. Allison Andrade, a senior majoring in community and justice studies and minoring in Quaker studies, says she “participated in the organizing efforts . . . because I feel that the school is drifting farther and farther away from its Quaker roots. . . . I believe there should be a declaration of financial exigency and shared governance before these widespread cuts are made that have the biggest impact on student experiences at Guilford.”
In a letter to school leadership, Friends Association for Higher Education, citing its mission of “assisting Friends Colleges in their efforts to affirm their Quaker heritage and in clarifying and articulating the distinctively Quaker vision of higher education,” shared the query: “Are there alternative proposals for institutional changes that would prepare students to live lives of meaning while providing sufficient cost reductions and revenue increases?”
Max Carter, former director of Guilford’s Friends Center, worries about the development of future leaders in the Religious Society of Friends without the liberal arts and a robust Quaker presence at the college. “If you look at today’s innovative Quaker leaders—at Quaker Voluntary Service, QuakerSpeak, Quaker camps, yearly meeting youth programs, and other Friends organizations—many came through Guilford.”
Guilford College was founded by Quakers in Greensboro, N.C., in 1837. Enrollment peaked at the school in 2009 at a record 2,833 students and has fallen each year for 11 straight years. Most of the decline came in the college’s adult education program, which over the past decade has lost more than 90 percent of its enrollment.