Protests at Guilford College for a safer campus
After many protests, escalating events, and death threats at the University of Missouri, almost 200 students, staff, and faculty at the Quaker-founded Guilford College gathered on November 12, 2015, to both stand in solidarity with student protesters at the University of Missouri as well as present a list of demands to Guilford’s leadership.
The protest came after four days of lectures and events related to the #BlackLivesMatter movement that was organized by students. Afterward, the college took credit in a controversial marketing video.
Another protest was held on November 20, 2015, after some action was taken on the part of the college’s administration, but protesters say it wasn’t enough.
A revised list of demands was made; included in the new list were demands to increase the number of faculty and staff of color in important roles on campus, for more organized and responsive treatment of any threats or anonymous hate crimes made toward students of color, for more funding for programs that help marginalized students, for an endowment to aid undocumented students, and that students of color not be featured in token marketing images by the college until a transparent plan for increased diversity is made clear.
The full list of demands can be found on the student-run news site Guilfordian.com.
Statement from New England Yearly Meeting on violence in Paris
In mid November, New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) released a public statement in the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and the reactions to them. In the statement, NEYM made commitments toward continued action to remove violence from communities in the United States, offering aid to refugees, countering Islamophobia, working toward shared security, and it urged leaders and other communities to do the same. The statement also contained Spirit-led words of sorrow and hope:
Facing the horrors of war, racism, and hatred, the One who is Love calls us to love. A naïve hope falls lifeless in the shallow soil of fear, anger, and chaos, but we can help each other unearth a different kind of hope—a deep and living hope beyond despair. We can choose to live in the recognition that the wholeness and peace God dreams for our world is already present with us, and is still on its way. Moment by moment, concrete acts done with patience set us free to live in courageous love. As we choose this path, we help release each other from the captivity of hopelessness and fear. This is how the Light is born anew among us; this is how Love triumphs.
You can find the full statement at neym.org.
Quakers resist natural gas pipeline in West Roxbury
A group of six Quakers worshiped where construction work was planned to take place on a natural gas pipeline through West Roxbury, Mass., in early November. They were arrested for acts of civil disobedience. The pipeline, which is being constructed by energy company Spectra, is controversial.
Opponents of the pipeline cite the dangers of a high pressure pipeline through a populated area, concerns about the bias of government, as well as concerns about clean energy. After many days of various groups risking arrest at the construction site, Spectra announced it would postpone construction until spring of 2016.
Students at Earlham College hold silent action for divestment
On November 4, 2015, students of the Quaker-founded Earlham College REInvestment Campaign organized silent worship in the office of the president of the college in hopes of sending a clear message to the college’s Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee (SRIAC).
The student group has been working with the college committee for several years, and in 2014 issued a proposal to the SRIAC asking for a divestment from corporations that use “extreme extraction” techniques like mountaintop removal coal mining, tar sands oil extraction, and fracking for natural gas. The meeting of the SRIAC took place on November 6, 2015, after the protest and issued a response to the proposal.
The response stated that the committee would not be taking a “zero tolerance” policy to those corporations that participate in extreme extraction like the proposal suggested and would not be making any immediate changes. They would, however, consider adding to their policies of socially responsible investing to include a concern for the environment and global climate change. The REInvestment Campaign responded by saying they will expand their conversations with SRIAC and escalate their actions.
Friends General Conference changes programs offered
This past October the Central Committee (the governing body) of Friends General Conference (FGC) came together in Maryland to decide about needed changes to the organization that serves Quakers in both the United States and Canada.
This process was the result of a feasibility study that reported it would not be wise for FGC to undergo a large fundraising campaign in the coming year. Instead, the organization made changes to programs to bring its 2016 budget in line with what was fiscally responsible.
The New Meetings Project will no longer be accepting new worship groups for mentoring, and will instead become an online-only resource. QuakerQuest (which provided meetings with a workshop on how to do outreach), the Traveling Ministries program (which supported Friends in ministry), and FGC’s self-publishing imprint QuakerBridge Media have been laid down.
All cuts, including staff layoffs, were effective at the end of November. The new Spiritual Deepening program will continue but will be less ambitious in its scope. The other programs of FGC, including the annual Gathering, QuakerPress, the Friends Meeting House Fund, the QuakerBooks store, and several more, will continue with little change.
New solar panels at State College Meeting
In September, State College (Pa.) Meeting had more than 60 solar panels installed on the meetinghouse roof. The meeting will be getting all the electricity it uses from the new addition.
“It has both a very symbolic effect that we are walking our talk when it comes to environmental stewardship and a very practical application that we don’t have to pay electricity bills any more,” noted Selden Smith, clerk of the meeting.
The project began almost two years ago when the meeting received an unexpected gift from Russell and Carol Tuttle, and that started the conversation about how best to use the funds.
After many meetings and much deliberation, the meeting reached unity on purchasing solar panels. In addition, the meeting’s Finance Committee suggested this project might be a better investment than creating an endowment fund for the meeting.