May Terms

Earlham College

For other places with the same name, see Earlham (disambiguation).

Earlham College is a liberal arts college in Richmond, Indiana. It was founded in 1847 by Quakers and has approximately 1,200 students. The current president is Douglas C. Bennett. In keeping with Friends' belief in equality, everyone addresses each other at Earlham by his or her first name, without the use of titles such as "doctor" or "professor."

While Earlham is primarily a residential undergraduate college, it does have two graduate programs — the master of arts in teaching and the master of education — which provide a route for teacher licensure to students with liberal arts undergraduate degrees. Additionally, there are two associated institutions located adjacent to the Earlham campus: Earlham School of Religion, a Christian graduate theological school in the Quaker tradition, and Bethany Theological Seminary, an independent Brethren institution offering graduate and non-degree programs.

Earlham College is listed in Loren Pope's book, Colleges That Change Lives.

Campus, curriculum, and community

The majority of Earlham College's campus is undeveloped forest and meadow, including the undeveloped "back campus" area, which serves as an outdoor classroom. Earlham is nationally recognized for its strong programs in biology, Japanese studies, peace and global studies and German (two students recently received Fulbright scholarships in German). The Earlham libraries are known for their course-integrated program of information literacy instruction. Notably, Earlham ranks 8th in the nation (out of 1,302 colleges and universities) in its percentage of graduates who go on to receive a Ph.D. in the biological sciences and 26th in the percentage of students going on to Ph.D. programs in all fields. Earlham is known for its "Super Languages" program where a full year of a language is taught intensively for one semester.

Almost two-thirds of Earlham students go on a semester-length off-campus program to such destinations as Mexico, the U.S./ Mexican border, Vienna, Martinique, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, New Zealand (formerly, the Southwestern U.S.), Japan and Tanzania. In addition, there are a number of shorter off-campus May terms, with destinations both within the U.S. and abroad (Galapagos, Senegal, Menorca, and Turkey, as recent examples). Earlham has a formal exchange program with Waseda University in Japan, which has existed informally for decades. Each year, about a dozen students from each school experience a year of student life at the other university. In addition, Earlham College works with the SICE program in Morioka, Japan, a program in which about twelve to fourteen students teach English in middle schools in Morioka.

Earlham has an entirely student-managed public radio station, WECI 91.5FM. The Joseph Moore Museum is a natural history museum located on campus and run by students and biology department faculty, focusing on Indiana's natural history. It is open to the public (free of charge) and tours are available upon request. There are a number of themed and friendship houses bordering the North and East faces of the campus.

Earlham College is a member of the Great Lakes Colleges Association.


Earlham has its roots in the Great Migration of Quakers from the eastern United States, especially from North Carolina, in the first half of the nineteenth century. A peculiarly Quaker combination of idealism and practicality drew them to the Northwest Territory. As Friends, those who came out of the South had found themselves increasingly uneasy living in a slave society. As small farmers, the abundance of cheap, fertile land made Ohio and Indiana magnets of migration.

This migration gave rise to the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends in 1821. By 1850, it was the largest meeting in the world. Its center was Richmond, where the yearly meetinghouse for the orthodox body was located. Thus when Indiana Friends decided in 1832 to open a boarding school "for the guarded religious education of the children of Friends," they placed it in Richmond. After fifteen years of laborious fund-raising, the school opened on June 6, 1847. In 1859, a collegiate department was added and the school became Earlham College, in honor of the home of the eminent English Quaker minister Joseph John Gurney, who had been an early supporter. Earlham was the second Quaker college in the world, and the first coeducational one.

Most Quakers changed in the late nineteenth century, and Earlham changed with them. Originally a "select" school, open only to Friends, by 1865 the school accepted non-Quaker students, and hired its first non-Quaker professor in 1886. Gradually Quaker plain dress and the plain language disappeared from campus. By 1890, art and music, originally forbidden by Quaker beliefs, had become part of the curriculum. In the 1890s, intercollegiate athletics became part of Earlham life.

Change did not come without controversy. Between 1895 and 1915, Professor of Bible Elbert Russell was the target of numerous protests for introducing modernist methods of Bible study to the college. In 1920-1921, the college was actually the target of a heresy investigation aimed at liberalism and evolution. In the 1930s and 1941, many Quakers fiercely protested the relaxation of rules banning dancing and smoking. During World War II, the enrollment of Japanese-American students outraged some local residents.

Earlham transformed itself after World War II, with building and financial growth and the advent of a new generation of faculty, many veterans of Civilian Public Service. The student body became national and international. In 1960, in order to meet a growing demand for leadership in the Society of Friends, the Earlham School of Religion opened as the only accredited Quaker theological seminary in the world. A few years later Earlham created Conner Prairie, the living history museum near Indianapolis that became independent in 2006. Although Quakers are now a minority of students and faculty, the college maintains its Quaker identity through its Community Code , its governance by consensus-seeking , its curriculum and its affiliation with Indiana and Western Yearly Meetings of Friends.


Earlham College is also a member of the North Coast Athletic Conference. Earlham has won championships in men's cross country . The athletics teams are known as the Quakers. They originally had been the Fightin' Quakers; although the name was meant tongue-in-cheek, it was changed in the 1980s to the Hustlin' Quakers after the college's board of regents decided that it was inappropriate for Quakers to fight. In the 1990s, the name was changed again to simply Quakers. Among the student body, the chant sometimes sung publicly is

Fight, Fight, Inner Light!
Kill, Quakers, Kill!
Knock 'em Down, Beat 'em Senseless!
Do It 'til We Reach Consensus!


Fight, Fight, Inner Light!
Kill, Quakers, Kill!
Beat 'em, Beat 'em, Knock 'em Senseless!
Tell Me, Do We Have Consensus?

A popular cheer that was emoted by the Earlham College Fightin' Quakers football cheerleaders (circa 1979), when the opposing team had possession of the ball, was:

Fight exuberantly!
Fight exuberantly!
Compel them to relinquish the ball!


Earlham college has many Club teams, some of the more successful ones are Ultimate Frisbee and Women's rugby. Other club teams include Men's rugby and equestrian team among others.

Wilderness programs

Earlham was one of the first colleges in the country to initiate student and faculty led wilderness programs, back in 1970 . These programs were designed for incoming first-year and transfer students who received credit for them. The program is divided into the Water August Wilderness and the Mountain August Wilderness and lasts for approximately three weeks; the former canoes in Wabakimi Provincial park in Ontario and the latter hikes in the Uinta Mountains in Utah. Students in the past have taken ice climbing, white water kayaking, rock climbing and canoeing for credit. The program leads backpacking and canoeing trips to places like Big Bend National Park in southwestern Texas and runs a May Term (a condensed three-week term after the spring semester) course which trains students to lead its August Wilderness program.

Earlham College remains the only American institution of tertiary education that allows students to study aardvarks extensively in their native habitat in the Kakamega Forest.

Student life

Earlham's "dry campus" policy is controversial among members of the student body and some faculty members. Drinking is fairly commonplace; some students refer to the campus as "pleasantly moist." In August 2007, as part of New Student Orientation for the incoming class of 2011, the Earlham faculty revealed their new approach to dealing with alcohol issues. Although the official alcohol policy remains the same, the primary focus is now on education and personal responsibility, as opposed to enforcement.

Tension sometimes arises between students and the Quaker Indiana and Western Yearly Meetings over issues of sexuality. Western and, to an even greater degree, Indiana Yearly Meeting tend to be more conservative on issues such as condom distribution, pregnancy, and homosexuality. This tension has been a recurrent feature of Earlham life for decades.

In 2005, the Committee on Campus Life approved a new pregnancy policy, stating that pregnant women may reside in on-campus housing, but are also offered a housing exemption if they so desire.

Most students stay on-campus during the weekends. The Student Activities Board, Earlham Film Series, student bands, theater productions, etc. offer a variety of activities on the weekends.

In March 2005, William Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard, was hit in the face with an ice cream pie by a student during a lecture he gave on campus This event made national and international news and was carried by many leading news outlets. Many students and faculty at the lecture showed strong disapproval of the act, and applauded when Kristol resumed his talk. The event sharply divided students and, to a lesser extent, faculty, with some showing support for the act of pieing and most showing strong disapproval. Many, however, felt that the act was unjustly punished by the President (who was also indirectly hit by the pie). The student was subsequently suspended for the rest of the semester and dropped out the following year. Additionally, President Doug Bennett overturned a College Judiciary Council ruling that found the students who knew about the pieing ahead of time not guilty; this act further divided the campus. Shortly after the pieing, pundits Pat Buchanan and David Horowitz were 'attacked' (with salad dressing and a pie, respectively) and a 'teach-in' at Earlham was conducted which featured three faculty members sharing their views. Nearly three years ex post facto, the pieing, the punishment, and whether William Kristol should have even been invited to speak at Earlham all continue to be issues of contention amongst the faculty and student body.

The Hash

Earlham has the only student-run Hash House Harriers running group, founded in 1989 and still continuing at present (2008). While only loosely connected with national organizations, the student group maintains weekly runs and has been described by visitors as the "Galapagos of Hashes" for the creativity and development of hashing practices. The Hash run takes place on the "back campus," which may include the back property of the neighboring cemetery, during all seasons. In 2004, a student died as a result of his spleen bursting while he attended the hash while he had mononucleosis. The Campus Safety and Security office and Student Development office share concern about the event and do not condone its happening. The Campus Safety and Security team has recently requested that the event be brought to an end via an article in the student-run newspaper, The Earlham Word.

Notable Earlhamites

Notable alumni

Notable faculty

Not a faculty member, but a former Earlham trustee is Wayne Townsend, a member of both houses of the Indiana legislature and the Democratic candidate for governor in 1984.


External links

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