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Mission, Principles and Practices

The mission of Earlham College, an independent, residential college, is to provide the highest quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

To provide education of the highest quality with these emphases, Earlham’s mission requires selection of an outstanding and caring faculty committed to creating an open, cooperative learning environment. The College provides for the continuous support and development of this faculty.

The teaching-learning process at Earlham is shaped by a view of education as a process of awakening the “teacher within,” so that our students will become lifelong learners. Students at Earlham are encouraged to be active, involved learners. The College provides extensive opportunities for students and faculty to interact with each other as persons and to learn from each other in a cooperative community, an important aspect of which is collaborative student/faculty research.

At Earlham College, this education is carried on with a concern for the world in which we live and for improving human society. The College strives to educate morally sensitive leaders for future generations. Therefore, Earlham stresses global education, peaceful resolution of conflict, equality of persons, and high moral standards of personal conduct.

Teaching and learning in pursuit of truth

A basic faith of Friends is that all truth is God’s truth; thus, Earlham emphasizes:

  • pursuit of truth, wherever that pursuit leads;
  • lack of coercion—letting the evidence lead that search;
  • respect for the consciences of others;
  • openness to new truth and therefore the willingness to search;
  • veracity and rigorous integrity in dealing with the facts; and
  • the application of what is known to improving our world.

“Principles and Practices create a space where you know what to expect as far as how you will be treated and you know what others expect from you. It creates a community that can stand together when tested. The values gained through understanding and practicing them are important here and something people carry out wherever they go.”

Eric Nicholson ’17

The power of our purpose: Quaker values

Earlham was founded by Quakers, and their purpose-driven heritage remains with us to this day through our Principles and Practices.

Earlham’s Principles and Practices are the set of values that guide those of us who live, work, teach and learn in this community. They also provide the foundation for campus policies that apply to all members of the community, as well as our governance structure. Today, Earlham’s Principles and Practices include:

It is a foundational Quaker belief that all persons have available to them an inner spirit of Truth, often known as the “Inner Light” or “God’s Voice Within.”

From this belief follows an assumption of equality of all persons and grounds for respecting all persons. We aspire to be a community whose members act with regard for the intellectual, physical, and emotional well-being of everyone. We seek to find mutual respect, trust, and happiness in our relationships with persons of every race, ethnicity, class, religious preference, gender identity, physical ability, sexual orientation, or age, even seeking to respect persons removed by time and place.


Practicing Respect for Persons

We strive to be respectful of others in our daily interactions. A small but meaningful mark of our attempt to meet one another as equals is our practice of addressing one another by first names rather than by titles and honorifics.

In all of our activities, we seek to affirm and reinforce mutual respect, responsibility, and caring. In all interpersonal relationships we seek to be helpful, trustworthy, and considerate. As a community, we reject all coercive and destructive behavior in interpersonal relationships.



  • Do I examine myself for evidence of prejudice, and then work to overcome it?
  • Am I careful of the reputation and feelings of others by avoiding gossip and checking the truthfulness of rumors?
  • When I express my disagreement, do I do so explicitly and respectfully?
  • Do I contribute to creating a trusting community that fosters the intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual good of everyone?
  • Am I physically and emotionally responsible in all my sexual and other interpersonal relationships?
  • Do I find loving and considerate ways to encourage others to engage with Earlham’s principles?

The Quaker testimony of Integrity asks us to aspire to personal wholeness, honesty and truthful living. Integrity means completeness or one-ness, and implies a commitment to truth-telling. Integrity nourishes our trust in one another, allowing us to rely on one another and others to rely on us. It means engaging with each other openly and honestly.

Academic integrity is particularly important in educational communities. These communities rely on all of their members pursuing truth honestly, scrupulously crediting the work of others, and taking credit only for one’s own work and discoveries.


Practicing Integrity

Integrity calls us to be truthful, honest, and fair and to take responsibility for our actions and decisions. We strive to be respectful and honest in our evaluations of each other’s work and behavior. We strive to undertake all our commitments and responsibilities in good faith. We aim to hold each other mutually responsible for living in accordance with our principles and policies.



  • Do I seek ways to be open to others’ opinions without weakening my commitment to critical thinking, intellectual rigor, and truth-seeking?
  • Do I seek the truth, and speak it even when it is difficult?
  • Am I careful to credit others, rather than taking credit for works and ideas not my own?
  • Do I conduct College business in a way that guards and cares for the College’s dedication to integrity?
  • Do I work to minimize the gap between my actions and my convictions?
  • How do I confront lapses in integrity in myself and others?
  • Do I hold myself and others accountable?

The Quaker peace testimony holds that violence, whether physical, emotional, or verbal, is an injustice that harms all parties involved, and is never the means to achieving a just and lasting peace. The peace testimony extends beyond personal interactions to institutional and social structures that, while sometimes invisible or taken for granted, may do violence.

Many thoughtful and moral people disagree with the strong form of Quaker pacifism that deplores all forms of violence, but the Quaker peace testimony challenges us to seek non-violent responses to conflict and to look for just solutions.


Practicing Peace and Justice

We work actively for the just and peaceful transformation of conflict, and for the removal of causes of violence and injustice. We recognize and accept conflict as a necessary part of life with others, and work from conflict towards more just, nonviolent, and sustainable communities.



  • When conflicts arise, do I make earnest efforts to resolve them thoughtfully and without delay?
  • Am I careful to address violence and coercion in my relations with others?
  • Do I take seriously and, according to my gifts and leadings, act on opportunities to further peace and justice?
  • Do I think carefully about the ways Earlham as an institution can act as a local and global force for peace and justice?
  • Do I think about power: who has it, and how it should be used? Am I careful to use my own power for just and constructive ends?

The Quaker testimony of Simplicity invites us to recognize what is central in our lives by listening to inward leadings and learning from others. That listening can give us clarity as we make choices about the responsible use of our time and resources. A life guided by the testimony of simplicity can lead us to recognize what makes us genuinely happy and to be good stewards of personal, community, and global resources. It replaces distraction, stress, and excess with clarity, focus, and a sustainable life.

Simplicity enables us to discern what is really necessary for the well-being of ourselves, others, and the world. Living simply “cannot be reduced to lists of what is permitted or proscribed.2 ” Simplicity leads to joy, not guilt or judgment, for ourselves and others.


Practicing Simplicity

There are limits to one’s own time and energy, others’ time and energy, and the resources so unequally distributed throughout the world. We each aspire to make only just and reasonable demands on the time and resources of others, to model a balanced life for those around us, and to work toward a more just distribution of resources.



  • How do I discern what constitutes simplicity for me?
  • What truly brings joy to my life? How can I organize my life to be in touch with that joy?
  • How do I work to keep my commitments in a healthy balance? Am I aware of what draws me toward over-commitment?
  • In what ways do I contribute to the community’s work for an environmentally responsible and sustainable future?
  • How do I show my commitment to simplicity as an individual and as a part of a community?

2 Paul A. Lacey. Growing into Goodness:  Essays on Quaker Education. Pendle Hill, 1998. p. 75

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.


Practicing Community

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- convener), teaching and administrative faculty (Gary DeCoker, Steve Heiny – co-convener, Kari Kalve, Cheryl Presley, and Wendy Tori), staff (Karen Addleman and Lyn Thomas) and Board of Trustee members (Lavona Bane and Bobbi Gottschalk).

A note on ordering:

The order of the principles is not meant to create a hierarchy or to give priority to any one principle. Each is important and they are interconnected.

A note on queries:

We borrow the use of queries from Quaker tradition. Queries are meant as a means of self-examination or group examination, and inward reflection. Queries remind us that our actions are principled not because they conform to abstract rules, but because they are done thoughtfully and conscientiously. Queries take the shape of questions, but they do not have simple, uniform, unambiguous answers.


Our Principles and Practices are not permanently fixed—we regularly review them as a community in order to ensure they reflect our evolving needs, especially as we relate to the world around us. Our Principles and Practices therefore grow out of two questions that our community continually seeks to answer:

  • What sort of community do we aspire to be?
  • What principles shape and sustain such a community?

What sort of community do we aspire to be?

Earlham is an educational community, informed by the distinctive perspectives and values of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and aimed at providing the highest quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences. We strive to be a community of mutual support, responsibility, and accountability.

Our educational values, shaped by Quaker perspectives, are as follows: truth-seeking, wherever the evidence may lead; rigorous intellectual integrity; the nurturing of an open, cooperative learning environment; the recognition of the “teacher within”; the merit of lifelong learning habits. These values are rooted in a commitment to caring for the world we inhabit, improving human society, promoting global education, seeking peaceful and just transformation of conflicts, affirming the equality of all persons, and maintaining high ethical standards of personal conduct.

This document speaks of the Earlham community in terms of “we”; however, we recognize that this is not a homogenous “we.” As an educational community, we are a changing group of diverse persons, bringing to this institution a variety of identities, as well as a great range of personal and cultural values, experiences, and perspectives. We are a community that deliberately welcomes persons of all religious faiths, all spiritual convictions, and those who have no religious affiliation or faith. We welcome this diversity, and the strength and transformations it makes possible.

What principles shape and sustain such a community?

Respect for persons, integrity, a commitment to peace and justice, simplicity, and community decision-making shape Earlham’s community. Together these principles reflect Earlham’s strong Quaker tradition. In acting according to these principles, we try to cultivate a community that values not only the development of broad knowledge and deep competencies, but an active, successful, and joyful engagement in human society and the world around us.

These principles inform our community, yet there is variation within the community in the ways these principles are put into practice. We welcome this variety of insight and interpretation and seek to learn from our differences. We acknowledge that practice of these principles may evolve with reflection by individuals and the community as a whole. By our daily actions, each of us contributes to the health and vitality of our community.