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Statements and speeches

President Houtman, Board of Trustees Chair denounce decision by U.S. immigration officials

July 09, 2020

The following is a statement by Earlham President Anne Houtman and Board Chair Ray Ontko regarding the July 6, 2020 decision by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to restrict access to online coursework for international students already legally in the United States.

Earlham’s international students — from over 60 countries — are important and valued members of our community. They contribute an enormous amount — intellectually, culturally and financially — to Earlham, to Richmond and Wayne County, to Indiana and to our country. Our classrooms, labs, studios, athletics fields and residence life are more vibrant and engaging because of them. Many of our international students remain in the United States and become scientists, teachers and health professionals, and regardless of their career are contributory citizens in the United States or in their home country. We know this because our international alumni remain a part of Earlham forever, staying connected and committed to our community.

The recent decision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), via the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), means nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The decision has created more stress for international students at an already stressful time. This is exactly the wrong thing to do at a time that colleges and universities are struggling to identify the best way to continue educating our students while providing for student and staff safety in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Shifting to online-only instruction may be unavoidable and it is important to preserve this option for institutions without jeopardizing the visa status for international students. Earlham unequivocally opposes this decision, and calls for it to be revoked immediately.

Earlham’s teaching faculty are working with our Center for Global and Career Education and international student advisors to ensure that our international students will be able to stay compliant with their immigration requirements under a variety of scenarios for the academic year. One of the advantages of being a smaller institution is that we have the ability to work with individual students and address their particular circumstances. We are confident that all of our international students who are able to return to campus will be able to remain at Earlham and in the United States, in spite of this ill-advised policy. We are also actively seeking to help international students at other institutions whose education is threatened, as we have the capacity to provide academic support to these students in these trying times.

Earlham remains committed to our Principles and Practices, based on the Quaker values of respect for all persons, peace and justice. These values do not allow us to stand aside as vulnerable groups of people unfairly bear the burden of challenges brought about by this global pandemic. We call on all institutions of higher education to stand united in support of the international students in our care.

Earlham Board of Trustees Statement against Racism

Date: Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Earlham Board of Trustees unequivocally condemns racism in all places and in all its forms. Recent events involving the brutal murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, and so many other persons of color in the long history of our country cannot be tolerated. Nor can we tolerate the many other forms of implicit and systemic racism that are embedded deep within our society, its customs, and institutions. It violates our deeply held beliefs about equality and respect for persons and interferes with the full realization of each person's worth and contribution to society.

As an institution, Earlham is not perfect, but we, as a board, are absolutely committed to partnering with people of good faith to combat racism in every form and wherever it presents, whether within or outside of Earlham. In further commitment to this principle, we have created a new standing committee, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the Board, to work in partnership with our campus community to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning community.

Earlham Board of Trustees

Black Lives Matter at Earlham College

Date: Monday, June 1, 2020

The last few months have been so hard on all of us – having to leave campus suddenly, having to teach and learn online with little preparation, trying to plan for a future that remains unclear, and more recently, budget cuts and painful position eliminations. But our challenges as a community pale in comparison to what was demonstrated last week in the murder of George Floyd by someone sworn to protect him. And this is not an aberration. It is clear that toxic and violent racism is an inherent part of our society and our institutions for over 400 years. Our black students, faculty and staff face this every day as they try to survive and thrive in a country that judges them, abuses them, and kills them solely because of the color of their skin.

I am sorry that it has been a couple of days since my first email and initial Twitter postings about this. As I was trying to process the situation (along with everything else happening on campus), I read several presidents’ statements on the week’s events. They were all thoughtful and reasoned and hopeful. But I felt – and feel – angry and hopeless and helpless. And guilty. Guilty for the benefits I have received from structural racism in our society, and also guilty for the many ways I have inadvertently treated people of color in racist ways. The videos of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery’s murders were terrible and inexcusable, as was the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in her home, but so too was the video of a middle-aged white woman like me, Amy Cooper, making abundantly clear that she was willing and able to put an innocent black man’s life at risk just because he was interfering with her walk in the park.

What do those events, in big cities far from Richmond, Indiana, have to do with Earlham College? Unfortunately, here at Earlham our black students feel judged and disrespected and not valued, again simply because of the color of their skin (as many of them so eloquently shared in their message to our community today), rather than feeling how much we care for and support them. That cannot continue. Our Principles and Practices, the values we live by every day, do not allow it. We need to be better than that.

The foundation of those values, of our Principles and Practices, is the belief in the inherent worth of every person, the belief that there is “that of God” in each one of us. This belief calls us to our commitment to Respect for all Persons. If each person has the divine within them, how can you lie to them (Integrity), or behave violently toward them (Peace and Justice), or not treat them like the brother or sister they are (Community), or keep for yourself their share of the earth’s resources (Simplicity and Sustainability)? Earlham’s founders left North Carolina in the early 19th century to start new lives in Indiana because they would not be a part of a society that felt it could enslave people just because they were black. Are we living their values today? Are we sharing these values with the wider world?

I am meeting over the next two weeks with members of our Diversity Progress Committee and the Board of Trustees Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and I hope our Black Student Union. They will help me plan how we can make this the year Earlham truly lives its belief that each one of us is uniquely precious and must be given every opportunity to be the fullest version of ourself.

I welcome your partnership.

Anne M. Houtman

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

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