News, June-July 2019

The March 23 outdoor worship at the Berks County Residential Center in Leesport, Pa. © Eric Gjertsen/Shut Down Berks Coalition.

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Quakers meet for worship to protest local migrant detention center

On Saturday morning, March 23, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) Quakers held an outdoor, semi-programmed meeting for worship across the street from the Berks County Residential Center in Leesport, Pa. The “worshipful resistance” drew attention to the wide efforts being made to close the migrant detention facility. PYM Quakers from adult to middle school age and members of the Shut Down Berks Coalition and Interfaith Witness participated in the worship.

According to the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC), one of the organizations working to close the facility, the Berks County center is “one of three detention centers for immigrant families [in Pennsylvania], where children as young as two-weeks-old have been incarcerated, and families have been held for more than a year at a time.” This year marks fives years in operation as an immigrant family prison, as stated on PICC’s website (

That is five years of human rights abuses, due process violations, disregard of Pennsylvania and Federal law and the immoral and unjust treatment of immigrant families. The Shut Down Berks Coalition will continue to fight until this inhumane prison is shut down and family detention is put to an end in Pennsylvania.

The meeting for worship grew out of a leading from PYM Young Adult Friends. “We knew that [the incarceration of migrant children and families] was happening at the border,” said Mary Tierney, one of the young adult Quaker organizers. “When we learned that it was happening just a stone’s throw away from where we live, we thought there should be a real push from Quakers to end this atrocious work.”

The action was held the morning of PYM’s Continuing Sessions. At the afternoon sessions in Reading, Pa., PYM Young Adult Friends shared from a reflection report they wrote about the action, calling for greater involvement from PYM members:

For a groundedness, a hope, a healing . . . for this we joined together at Berks Detention Center this morning. We ask this body to act with us—to show up for the families at Berks County Detention Center through calls to the governor’s office, lobby visits, and financial support for organizations long involved in this work. We ask you to bring these ways to act back to your meetings and spiritual spaces.

The Shut Down Berks Coalition and Interfaith Witness groups continue to organize regular vigils, advocacy, and educational events in an effort to support the migrant families, raise awareness, close the detention center, and end the practice of imprisoning immigrant families in the United States.


Anne Houtman named Earlham President

On February 13, Earlham College announced Anne M. Houtman will be its next president. She will also head the Earlham School of Religion. Earlham has been without a president since Alan Price resigned in June 2018 after one year in the post. Houtman will replace interim president Avis Stewart when her term begins July 1.

Houtman was serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind. She holds a doctorate from the University of Oxford in zoology and a master’s degree in anthropology from University of California, Los Angeles. She earned her bachelor of arts degree from Pomona College. Houtman is a Quaker and will be the first woman to serve as president of Earlham.

Before coming to Rose-Hulman in 2016, Houtman served as dean of the School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering at California State University, Bakersfield, and as head of and professor at the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology. Earlier in her career she held faculty positions at California State University, Fullerton; Soka University of America; and Knox College. She has authored numerous textbooks and articles on scientific and pedagogical topics.

Houtman spoke favorable of the appointment:

I am honored and delighted to have the opportunity to serve as president of Earlham College and the Earlham School of Religion. As a liberally educated scientist and as a Quaker, I consider this position a once-in-a-lifetime match for my skills, experience, and values. I have for many years been impressed with Earlham’s clear commitment to educate contributory citizens and lifelong learners in a collegial and inclusive environment. I look forward to working with faculty, staff, students, and alumni to help the college and ESR meet their challenges and fulfill that inspiring mission.

David Stump, chair of the Earlham Board of Trustees, commented on the selection process:

Earlham was very fortunate to have attracted a large number of well-qualified candidates to be its next leader. Anne stood out because so much of her experience and beliefs match well with the values and mission of our college and will encourage contributions to Earlham’s future success from all its constituencies. As a leader in higher education, she is well qualified to guide the college in these especially challenging times for liberal arts colleges. Her emphasis on collaboration and transparency in planning and decision-making will be important to the effectiveness of Earlham’s shared governance.

Houtman’s hiring comes at a critical time for the school, reported the Richmond Palladium-Item. Earlham has operated at a budget deficit for the past several years, but the cumulative net loss jumped from about $5.5 million in the 2013 fiscal year to more than $47 million earlier in 2019.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.