Student Group Explores the State of Quaker Values on Campus

Linda Hou '13

Student Group Explores the State of
Quaker Values on Campus

by Linda Hou '13
12/16/11

Quakers On Campus
First-year students begin their Swarthmore experience with first collection, a tradition of bringing the community together which is informed by the College's Quaker founding.

Swarthmore's focus on community and social justice are just some of the values emphasized by the College community that have origins in the school's Quaker founding. A newly formed student group, Quakers on Campus, hopes to connect these values back to the College's Quaker founding and to make an awareness of Quakerism a greater part of the Swarthmore experience.

"Quakerism has a rich history and heritage that has really formed the campus," says Erik Heaney '14, a founding member of the group. "A lot of the buildings are named after abolitionists. Willets was an abolitionist, Whittier was an abolitionist, and the list goes on. That's not just some dead white guy, it's someone who sacrificed a whole lot to try and instate equality in this country."

The group meets weekly for Quaker meeting and also to plan events that raise awareness of Swarthmore's Quaker heritage on campus. The group has already organized a symposium on Swarthmore founder and women's rights activist Lucretia Mott, and a panel discussion that featured Quaker alums involved in social justice.

Quakers on Campus receives support from campus protestant adviser Joyce Tompkins. "We're intentionally organizing programs on campus to encourage Quaker values," says Tompkins. "I feel like there's a ripeness for this conversation and it's a time of real opportunity to mine this very rich treasure that is at our foundation, this treasure that we call our Quaker values, and that we have an opportunity to really find ways it can be made explicit and more visible in the community."

"I think that Swarthmore was originally founded as a place to educate students, but to educate them where values and world outlook were more important," says Ben Goosen '13, a founding member of Quakers on Campus who is not himself Quaker. "Quakerism could foster activism for the individual, but also it can provide an overarching sense of community. We could come together and celebrate Swarthmore as a place where we all have similar, invested goals and value."

Quakers on Campus have also worked closely with Dean Campbell and President Chopp during the strategic planning process to discuss ways to include the College's Quaker heritage in shaping the College's future. One idea is to bring back collection, a weekly event of gathering of the College community, another is to make the Friends Historic Library a more prominent part of campus.

While Swarthmore became nondenominational in 1908, many community members still identify Quaker ideals as shaping the campus culture and as a means of bringing the community together due to the community-oriented nature of Quaker practices.