Alan Price resigns as Earlham College President
On June 27, Alan C. Price announced he will be resigning as the president of Earlham College after serving for one year. Avis Stewart, an administrator at Earlham over the last 38 years, will serve as interim president until a new president is selected.
“After careful deliberation, I have decided that this is the best way forward at this time,” said Price. “I would like to express my profound gratitude to the entire community for supporting me and generating an atmosphere of positive collaboration over this last year. Earlham will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Earlham College—a Quaker liberal arts college in Richmond, Ind., that includes the Earlham School of Religion—has faced recent enrollment and budget concerns. Deborah Miller Hull, as chair of the Earlham Board of Trustees in a June memo addressed to the Earlham College community, wrote, “We are calling for the College to develop an operating expense budget for the 2019-20 academic year of $42 million, effectively reducing expenses by $8 million. This action is intended to improve the net cash flow of the College, which at present is not sustainable. The College has been running substantial operating deficits since the financial crisis of 2007-08.”
Interim president Stewart notes that Earlham’s “challenges are the same as what is out there for higher education in general and specifically for liberal arts colleges. We need to refocus and use our resources carefully in order to meet the challenges of a shrinking demographic and the rising costs of quality higher education.” Stewart is not seeking the presidency of the college beyond his interim role.
Some Earlham alumni have expressed concern with Price’s resignation. Five alumni—Stefan Einarson (Earlham class of 1985), Stephen Gasteyer (1987), Ian Jipp (1987), Catherine Kemp (1987), and Loran Lybarger (1986)—developed a Facebook group called “Concerned Earlham Community” and delivered a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the Board of Trustees “calling for a return to shared governance, improved communication and transparency with regard to Earlham’s budget and endowment, and reconsideration of the resignation of Alan Price by the full Board of Trustees.”
Robert Bresler, a 1959 Earlham graduate and head of Alumni Council and board member 2006–2010, noted that “for Quakers, the survival of this college is essential. There aren’t other colleges that have Earlham’s vision and commitment to the world of Friends.”
Price, a 1988 Earlham graduate was the first person of color to head the college. Before heading Earlham, he earned a law degree from Harvard University and served as associate director of management for the Peace Corps.
Baltimore Yearly Meeting approves minute on transgender rights
Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) approved a minute on “the Civil and Human Rights of Transgender People” at its June 9 interim meeting in Frederick, Md. It represents the first minute on transgender rights approved by a yearly meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. BYM consists of approximately 50 local meetings and 4,500 members in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and West Virginia.
The minute reads in part, “Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) rejoices in the presence of transgender people in our midst. . . . We commit ourselves to support the civil and human rights of our transgender members and all transgender people.”
The full text of the minute is available at BYM’s website, bym-rsf.org.
Marcy Baker Seitel, clerk of interim meeting for the yearly meeting, clerked the discussion of the minute at the June meeting. “I went into the meeting with the expectation that Friends would not be ready to pass this minute,” she said. “I realized that the topic of transgender issues had not come up in our business process before. But this expectation of the minute being difficult was wrong. In a time of worship following the discussion of the minute, I felt deeply how much those gathered felt a leading, a desire, to approve this minute.”
The minute grew out of a concern brought forward by some Adelphi Friends. The monthly meeting in Adelphi, Md., had supported a member and her family as she transitioned and had approved a “Minute Welcoming Transgender Persons” in 2013. But in July 2017 when “Trump tweeted out that he was going to ban transgender people from the military, a bunch of people at Adelphi were concerned and wanted to do something more,” said Diane McHale, the Adelphi attender who presented the minute for the yearly meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee.
Friends from Adelphi brought the concern to the yearly meeting Peace and Social Concerns Committee, and they were encouraged to address broader concerns than just the military. Eventually the background to the minute presented at the June interim meeting read, “The Trump administration has taken numerous steps weakening protection for transgender people in such areas as military service, prison assignment, healthcare, employment, schooling, and policing.”
The minute is to be distributed to other yearly meetings. McHale hopes this minute will lead “Quakers to stand up for the civil and human rights of people . . . lobbying, making contributions and doing volunteer work.” But she also hopes it will lead to “Quakers talking and learning about the issue.”