Friends speak their mind during Day of Testimonies

Note: names have been omitted from this article to protect anonymity. 

In true Quaker spirit, groups of students, faculty, staff, alums and trustees gathered virtually on Feb. 24 for a “Day of Testimonies.” This event presented a platform for members of the Guilford community to reflect on Guilford’s current issues and envision ways forward. This event was conceived just days before in a faculty forum while brainstorming what the Guilford community can do to aid its path to healing. 

Guilford sociology and anthropology professor Julie Winterich stated in an email that the purpose of the event was to “rally campus spirit around shared loves of the College and to envision Guilford’s future, (demonstrate) ethical leadership and problem-solving through a ground-up (and) inclusive naming of truths, concerns and wishes for the future.”

The day was divided into hour-long sessions, commencing at 9 a.m. with the staff session. Each session began with a welcome and introduction before opening up to a structured discussion, concluding with a “synthesis” of the session by a designated recorder.

The moderators for each session posed the same four questions for each group of the Guilford community: what made them choose Guilford, what are the struggles they currently have with the College, what Guilford does and must continue to do well and what they would say to the Board of Trustees if they were present?

Across all sessions, there was a resounding dissatisfaction with the administration’s recent handling of Guilford and a call for a more ethical, Quaker-based leadership. 

“We are drowning in work,” said a staff member. “I don’t feel that the board is hearing us… staff have been left out consistently, and I don’t feel that the board has a grasp of what we’re all going through.” 

There was also a general consensus that the board has become disconnected from day-to-day happenings at Guilford, morphing into an entity which serves finances and not the spirit of the institution.

“I would ask the board to really listen to the people on the ground: the faculty, staff and the students,” said a faculty member. “Over these last few years, really, I’ve lost count of the number of ‘listening sessions’ we’ve had… oftentimes it’s just a performance. They listen to us, but nothing has (changed) from that.”

Several voiced hesitancy to speak during the event because of the threat of retaliation from the board in the form of pay cuts or firings. Many cited the past rounds of mass staff cuts and expressed uncertainty about the future of their positions. 

“There is no accountability to those who don’t uphold (the seven core) values. There’s been so many transitions, and I wish I had known that going in,” said one student.

Nevertheless, the meetings marked immense community mobilization, and many participants offered messages of hope for Guilford’s future. 

“At risk of… stating the obvious, I feel like one thing we’re doing well is what we’re doing right now, that is using our Quaker Heritage as inspiration for having inclusive community conversations,” said a faculty member. 

“When we are drawn to our core values, I can’t think of a better place to be,” said a student. 

The Day of Testimonies came just a day after the announcement that Carol Moore would be stepping down from her position as interim president, and succeeded by Charles A. Dana Professor of English Jim Hood. This transition of power came three months after college faculty voted no confidence against Moore and the Board of Trustees. Moore’s resignation follows a turbulent period in Guilford’s history headlined by the now-paused program prioritization announced last semester.

For many, Hood’s promotion marks a change in Guilford’s ethos which reflects its Quaker values. Guilford community members expressed hope for the future and urged others to continue the work needed to support the transition.

“(Jim’s) appointment is the best thing we could have hoped for,” said a staff member. “But he’s just one person. We all must continue doing all the work we can to support him.”