Each month, on Tuesdays, I hope to write about someone in my life, in history, or otherwise who has influenced me, inspired me, or challenged me in some way (maybe all three!). This week, with all of the emails and facebook messages zipping around about Trayce Peterson's contract not being renewed, how can I not write about how Trayce has influenced my life and the lives of so many others? I met Trayce while she was the head of Campus Ministry at Earlham College. Trayce encouraged me to take on leadership responsibilities in the global Quaker community and encouraged me to find support with other student religious leaders on campus. My years at Earlham are mark tragically by two deaths that affected the Earlham Community. Billy Palinsky was a friend of my brother's and an fellow Earlham student who died very unexpectedly at the end of my freshman year. Tom Fox, my youth leader from high school, and the youth leader of many Earlham students (there was quite the BYM contingent then) was killed in 2006, during my junior year at Earlham. Trayce was more than a college minister at those times, she was a dear friend and trusted confidant who supported all of us through our grief. I know those times were hard on her too.
Trayce was also one of the leaders of the Pastoral Care Team for the World Gathering of Friends in 2005. There she led a team of pastoral care-givers that supported the gathering of Quakers from all around the world--aged 18-35; a once in every 20 year event. It was in this capacity that Trayce met my now fiance, Ben who was also on the pastoral care team, and Trayce's care, love, and guidance reached out though the wider Quaker community.
I know there have been many other communities that Trayce has touched. As I write this I have started reflecting on all the other times that Trayce has influenced my life: she supported clearness committees, mentored me through my senior meeting for worship, opened so many doors for me.... the list goes on and on.
I've included the article that a student from the Earlham Word wrote about Trayce. Over the past week as I have seen many people reach out to Trayce, as each of us has heard more and more about what has happened since we have graduated, Trayce has extended her grace and love even in the face of frustration and injustice. Trayce wrote on her Facebook wall "For the next 4-5 months I will grieve the loss of working w/students, rest, travel and discern what's next. I am reminded of something Lynn Bandy said, "life after Earlham is always so much better for people." Btw, through this process I have been held by the Holy. Praise be!"
I send my love out to you Trayce and grieve the changes that Earlham is making. While Earlham did support the formation of who I am today, "Earlham" was the people who cared, loved me, and showed me the path that God had for me. For that I am deeply thankful.
Blessings to the newness before you my dear friend!
Trayce Peterson, previous Director of Multicultural Affairs, attended the student Social Justice Carnival in 2013. The event was organized by REInvestment, SPJP, BDS, Real Food Challenge, and BLUE, all student groups on Earlham’s campus, but each dealing with different conflicts or advocacies.
Reprinted from the Earlham Word
By Genesis Galo
The office of Multicultural Affairs is now vacant after Trayce Peterson’s contract was not renewed and after fulfilling her six month probation. Trayce Peterson is one of many faculty across Earlham’s campus to be let go as the College is cleaning house, changing job descriptions, and reorganizing staff.
Peterson was a faculty member of the Earlham community from 1998 until her departure this semester. Peterson had a critical role within the Earlham community, working as both a professor of history and the Director of Multicultural Affairs. Peterson’s position aimed to create an environment on campus for Earlham students to appreciate our human differences.
However, her influence within the Earlham community went beyond her job title. According to Tiqi Brown, a sophomore chemistry major, Peterson became an almost motherly figure – a symbol of togetherness for the student body through her attempt to have students embrace cultural diversity.
This sentiment of unity that Peterson brought to the student body at Earlham is reflected in the newly created “ECStudentCoalition” founded in part by Robert Awkward, a senior HDSR and Spanish major, and former Co-President of the student body. He stated that Peterson was the figure who essentially supported the various student organizations.
However, the Earlham administration had been contemplating the decision to dismiss Peterson as recently as last school year. Peterson was put onto a temporary probation by administration regarding her contract, but the Word was not able to yet confirm the official dates for which probation was set, the length of term, or the situation regarding the relationship between the probation and the possibility of renewing her contract.
Brown stated that in his first year at Earlham, the issue of Peterson’s potential departure was known among the students. When asked what he thought was the reason, Brown said that this information was never disclosed to the Earlham students.
When asked the question of whether Peterson was a center of controversy while she was director of the Multicultural Affairs, Awkward answered that, “As a student representative or a faculty member, I don’t think anybody can say there was controversy around her actions.” Brown personally stated that Peterson was far more committed to the school than what was officially required in her job description, going above and beyond what was expected of her by those administrators in charge.
Within the faculty members of Earlham College, there is a lack of information in regards to the reasons that Peterson is to be let go. When asked why students were not allowed to know the reasons behind the decision not to renew Peterson’s contract, faculty member Tracy Dubs, the new Director of Student Leadership and Runyan Center, responded that information surrounding the decision is a personal disclosure that Earlham does not share with faculty members. Only specific individuals are allowed to know the details of her contract not being renewed.
The Word did reach out to Peterson in regards to writing a story about her contract renewal, and she was very cooperative in regards to helping us find information or images for our story, but she chose not to comment on the matter.
The idea that only a few members of administration can make these decisions created much unrest within the student body. This lead the student coalition to argue that the decision not to renew Peterson’s contract reflects one of the many issues at Earlham, such as a growing lack of information and transparency between administrative decisions and the student body at large.
On Wednesday, the Earlham Student Government hosted an all student dialogue in the Orchard Room which provided students the chance to discuss frustrations, including student dissatisfaction around letting Peterson go.