Over at the Call and Response Blog, Jason Byassee writes about an article he recently read in Inside Higher Ed (which is one of the best online sources of news about higher education). The article is called "Using Quaker Principles to Budget in Tough Times."
The article is by Kent John Chabotar, a Catholic who is president of Guilford College, a historically Quaker school in Greensboro, North Carolina. In it, Chabotar outlines seven principles he's learned since becoming president of the school -- principles derived directly from Quaker traditions. He's found them to be helpful when creating a budget in hard times, but I think they might be useful in any meeting.
- Sense of the meeting. A form of decision-making, this allows the group to move forward without a formal vote.
- Decisions by consensus. Without voting, the group looks to "substantial unity" (but not unanimity) to make decisions. Objectors are allowed to hold up the process or to "stand aside" and allow the majority to move ahead without explicitly agreeing or being outvoted.
- Moment of silence. Most meetings begin and end with silence as participants focus on moving into the tasks ahead.
- Queries. These are questions without simple answers. They allow people to continue to focus on "big picture" issues in the midst of details.
- Influence of testimonies. This is really a continuing focus on the institution's core values. In the Quaker tradition, this includes simplicity and peace.
- Eldering. One of the most fascinating principles, this refers to an older member of the group taking aside another member who is disrupting the group through inapprpriate behavior or an unwillingness to "stand aside" -- which can shut down the meeting.
- Friend speaks my mind. This is what a participant says if he wants to agree with someone else without making a new speech about the topic at hand. It's a synonym for "I agree."
Following these principles would be a radical change for almost all of us. Frankly, I don't know if a non-Quaker institution could even do it. But it does open my eyes to see how a strongly held religious conviction can inform and influence the day-to-day life or a board, an administration, or a faculty.
Read Chabotar's whole essay here. Read Jason Byassee's blog posting on it here.