As a college shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Earlham College’s governance processes are unusually open and participatory. The college encourages contributions from teaching and administrative faculty, from students and from hourly staff.
When an individual is responsible for making a decision, s/he is expected to consult broadly – to listen carefully and weigh what others say. When a committee or other group is responsible for making a decision or recommendation, we expect them to reach their conclusion via consensus. The practices of consultation and consensus make the college’s governance processes unlike those in use at most other colleges or universities.
Earlham College also values knowledge and expertise, and this leads us to place particular responsibility and authority on those with recognized capabilities with regard to various matters.
These two principles – of broad participation via consultation and consensus, and of expertise – inform our distinctive governance process. The college’s Governance Manual provides authoritative guidance on how we make various kinds of decisions, and on how members of the community can find significant and appropriate ways to participate in governance. Paper copies of the Governance Manual can be obtained from the Office of the President and the Office of the Dean of Student Development.
The Earlham Board of Trustees bears final and ultimate responsibility for the operations, activities and property of the college. The assignment of particular responsibilities to the Faculty and to the President, and through the Faculty and the President to others flows initially from the Earlham By-Laws, for which the Board of Trustees bears responsibility. The Governance Manual thus includes the following documents:
- The By-laws of Earlham College, which provide the foundation for governance;
- The Faculty Governance Document, which outlines how the faculty exercises its responsibilities, how it shapes regular channels for consultation, and how it invites students to participate in governance;
- The Administration of Earlham, by which the President lays out how administrative responsibilities are delegated to others and coordinated one with another;
- The Student Constitution, which describes how students organize themselves to participate in governance; and
- The Employee Council document, which establishes a mechanism for communication with hourly staff and provides an avenue for hourly staff participation in governance.
Accompanying the governance manual are a series of essays that provide advice and guidance for understanding our governance processes and participating in them.