Quakers believe that the ideals that guide us are best encountered in a community of openness and mutual respect. Educational communities exist as an opportunity to discover and test truth. Because each person brings different knowledge and perspectives, truth-seeking is best fostered in community. As a result, the individual at Earlham has a great many rights and responsibilities, but it is in the act of participation in a community that we come to know our interdependence with one another and to develop such individual virtues as openness and restraint and such communal virtues as justice and equality.
Quakers strive towards a community of caring which seeks the intellectual, physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing of its members. Therefore, an important dimension of learning to which Quakers aspire is discerning the needs of others. As members of a community, we consider the wellbeing of others in all our choices.
People in consultation with one another have the potential to make better decisions than will individuals alone or majorities unaided by minority views. Differences can be sources for growth and new insight. Quakers' belief in "the inner spirit of truth" means that all people have the potential to discover truth. Accordingly, we consult broadly, value the opinions of others, and often incorporate consensus in decision-making.
In governance of the educational institution around which our community exists, most groups and committees use a consensus process. At times an individual is charged with making a decision. In either case, those responsible should invite input, consult broadly, and listen carefully especially to those who have deep understanding of the situation or who will be affected by the decision. Consensus seeking assumes that all who participate are eager and open to finding a basis for right action whether that is an endorsement, recommendation, or decision. Those participating should have greater devotion to shared deliberation and insight than to their own opinions.
Because our governance system designates various responsibilities to individuals, committees, small groups, and the community as a whole, consensus does not require that every person participate in every decision. Respect for Persons and Integrity ask that community members trust the process and the faithful participation of others, even when they have not directly participated themselves. At the same time, these principles ask us to discern when to raise concerns, and when not to. These practices, as a reflection of our principles, will strengthen our community.
- How clearly do I discern the ideals of the community and their meaning for my life?
- Do I participate in the activities of the College and assume my share of responsibility for the shared life of the community?
- Do I strive to promote a community life that will foster the intellectual, physical, moral, and emotional wellbeing of all members?
- Do I remain faithful to my own understanding of the truth, even if it means being the sole person to speak for it? Do I have the wisdom to discern when to stand aside, allowing a consensus to emerge?
- Do I foster an atmosphere conducive to open dialogue, listening carefully to others and opening myself to opinions different from my own?
- Am I careful to consult, even if it may mean taking greater time in the process?
This document was revised by committee during the 2009-2010 academic year in accordance with the policy's four-year review cycle. The committee was made up of students (Kristen Georgia, Kento Ichikawa, and Jay Zevin — co- convenor), teaching and administrative faculty (Gary DeCoker, Steve Heiny – co-convenor, Kari Kalve, Cheryl Presley, and Wendy Tori), staff (Karen Addleman and Lyn Thomas) and Board of Trustee members (Lavona Bane and Bobbi Gottschalk).