Friday, November 18, 2005

email from young kim via janice scarbalis

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am addressing this message to the Shimer community, generally, in an
attempt to clear up some misconceptions that have developed with regard to
the current discussions about a possible move of some of the College’s
operations to IIT’s main campus in Chicago, to report to you on the status
of the discussions between the two institutions and to outline the process
by which members of our Shimer community will be able to consider and be
heard on the possible move and its various aspects.

First, I should mention that I am writing you, instead of having anyone else
involved in the IIT discussions write you, because I understand that I am
becoming or have become, the target of some disgruntlement about the
possible move, including comments challenging the efficacy of such a move,
as well as comments having to do with enfranchisement issues, and the power
of the Board of Trustees vis-à-vis that of the Assembly. I believe in a
direct approach to many matters in life, so I thought it best that I, as
supposedly a main culprit in this drama, address you directly.

For me personally, I have not come to any conclusions about the efficacy of
a possible move to IIT. I do not yet have enough information to do so. I can
tell you, however, as one working in the trenches on this matter, that so
far, the discussions with IIT have been promising and worthy of our
consideration. I understand the unfortunate tendency of some people to
personalize issues, and to vilify those who disagree with them or who they
perceive as doing them a wrong. I can only hope that we are better than
that, as we discuss these serious and dramatic issues. We, who have been
trained in a discussion methodology and in working with others to analyze,
consider and resolve issues, should treat each other with respect in those
discussions, understanding that our discussions about this matter are guided
by what each of us thinks is in the best interests of the College.
Additionally, I must report to you that some comments I have heard about the
possible move contain such crafted distortions and inaccuracies, that I am
obliged to believe that they are purposeful misstatements, made in order to
make a case. This is also unworthy of us.

Let me turn to the matter of “the best interests of the College”, and who
should decide what they are, at least in this context. The short answer is
that we, the whole Shimer community, should be involved in the decision
about a possible move to IIT. I say this not only because I believe that
this is the right thing to do, but also, in recognition of the democratic
and participatory culture of the College, not only in its Waukegan years,
but also to an extent in its Mt. Carroll years. The long answer is more
Shakespearean, in the sense that in life, we all have various roles that we
play, given the circumstances. In the matter of the deciding upon what is in
the best interests of the College, at least with regard to major decisions,
long range strategic matters and issues affecting the mission of the
College, that is particularly the Board of Trustees’ charge and
responsibility, their fiduciary responsibility.

That is not to say that the Board should not actively solicit and listen to
input from various segments of the Shimer community, including staff
(faculty and administration), students, alum and friends of the College.
And, that is what the Board has been trying to do this past month. We have
apprised the various segments of the Shimer community about the discussions
with IIT about a possible move, that a mix of Board members and staff are
working with colleagues at IIT to shape what the meaning and effect of such
a move would be in various areas (facilities, academic affairs, library, IT,
student life, admissions, development and financial), and once the effects
on those various areas are further analyzed, developed and synthesized into
a proposal, that proposal, as well as the underlying assumptions for the
proposal, will be further discussed within the Shimer community. To date,
many of you have contributed by raising questions and concerns, and for this
we are thankful. The Board’s desire in this process is not only to be sure
that we have covered all the bases, but also, to be inclusive as to how we
come to decisions about the matter. The Assembly’s role in this process, is
to consider the possible move and develop recommendations to the Board.

Now, with regard to the discussions between Shimer and IIT, as I mentioned,
a mix of Shimer Board members and staff are engaged in discussions with
their respective counterparts at IIT, with a view to developing the meaning
and effect of a possible move on their respective areas by the end of this
month. We should also receive by the end of this month, what IIT has termed
an economic/services proposal regarding the possible move. These materials
will be sent to the executive committee of the Board of Trustees, together
with our internal analysis, financial projections and modeling. The
executive committee will have comments, questions and instructions. Taking
those various comments in hand, we will also bring the proposal back to the
various segments of the Shimer community, for their further consideration
and views. I anticipate that as a result of these further internal
discussions including those at the Assembly, we will engage in further
refinement (negotiations) with IIT with regard to the proposal, culminating
in a consideration and decision by the full Board with regard to the final
proposal in mid-January.

There has been some pique expressed over the seeming abruptness in which the
IIT discussions have been brought to the attention of the Shimer community,
as well as the relatively short timeline for decision-making about a
possible move. The timeline is what it is, and not completely within our
control. To the extent that we decide not to make a decision within the time
frame, and we may do so if we choose, that may very well serve as a
decision. As to when this matter has been brought to the attention of
different segments of the Shimer community, let me say that the initial
inquiry from IIT arose last spring, and more people became involved as the
discussions gathered form and seriousness. The judgment call of when this
matter had matured sufficiently to be brought to the attention of different
people and segments of the Shimer community for their consideration, with
its inherently powerful disruptive effects, has largely been mine. Thank you
again, for the thoughtful questions and concerns that many of you have
raised, and I look forward to our further discussions about this matter.

Young Kim
Chair, Board of Trustees
Shimer College


Psyche Z. Ready said...

Dear Young,

I have read your open letter to the community. Thank you for opening
communication with alumni. It is very much appreciated. I have been deeply

saddened at being "left out of the conversation" heretofore, and I am
gladdened at your email.

You'll notice that I have indeed taken this personally. You remarked in
your letter that many of us were, and you have chosen to see an emotional
response as one that is rash, uninformed, illogical. I dispute this choice
on several levels. Firstly, am I not a person and a Shimerian with
feelings? Secondly, should I not throw my whole self into a cause that I
believe to be right?

Young, I have found your letter offensive, judgemental and angry. I can
tell from your neat prose that you were attempting to be fair and balanced,
and to a great extent, you were, and, Young, I deeply appreciate that.

It seems to me, however, that you are missing the point. You write:

"I understand the unfortunate tendency of some people to
>personalize issues, and to vilify those who disagree with them or who
>they perceive as doing them a wrong. I can only hope that we are better
>than that, as we discuss these serious and dramatic issues. We, who
>have been trained in a discussion methodology and in working with
>others to analyze, consider and resolve issues, should treat each other
>with respect in those discussions, understanding that our discussions
>about this matter are guided by what each of us thinks is in the best
>interests of the College"

And what of the unfortunate tendency of "some" people to de-personalize
issues? To pretend like they are machines, or managers (which is worse?)
rather than humans? What of those that address open letters to the
community, "vilify[ing] those who disagree with them or who they perceive as

doing them a wrong?" Have you not vilified a fictional "us" as
overemotional, disrespectful, and judgemental?

And what of the aggressively loud pro-move faction that rants and raves for
it? Why have you chosen to not address them, but only the loud anti-move
faction? Ought I not be defended from that attack, as you are attempting to

defend yourself?

As far as what's actually happening with the proposed move, I appreciate
your explanation of the timeline, the decisions that will need to be made,
and what sounded like an invitation to the community to partner with Shimer
in discussion about this matter. Genuinely, I appreciate this, Young, and
thank you.

I am against the move (as you've surely already guessed) in all cases except

desperation. If Shimer were desperate (and by desperate, I mean that the
school would close unless it did something drastic) I could understand the
move, certainly. But from the (albeit very limited) information that I've
been given regarding our circumstances and our reasons for the move, I see
NO POSITIVE REASON for moving the college. I cannot imagine any benefit
whatsoever from a relocation, handing over of autonomy, and shift from owned

to rented property, that would outweigh the negative results. The promise
of expanded curriculum seems a negligible benefit. Couldn't we do that from

CLC? A cafeteria doesn't seem promising- our students can't afford the meal

plan! While I would love to open Shimer classes to IIT students (I'd like
to open Shimer classes to everyone), I fear that the Shimer classes will be
essentially affected by the addition of non-Shimerians. One person in a
classroom who has not made a strong and well-reflected commitment to
face-to-face dialogue, co-inqury and the life of the mind (as all Shimerians

necessarily do when they enroll) can, quite honestly, set the entire class

These are just a few of my thoughts and I promise that although I am taking
these matters deeply personally, I send them to you with the utmost respect.


Psyche Ready

dansbooks said...

Hi Psyche--I'm also a Board member, an alum, and one who deeply loves Shimer (there are many other things I could spend my time and money on, but none so worthwhile). I very much liked your post. Without getting too distracted in a Shimer way, it again brought home that problem that has dogged humanity for at least the past 500 years, the Cartesian duality, the rational/emotional split. I sure haven't been able to synthesize a workable solution; like most, I veer from one side to the other. I was one of the people who helped move the College 26 years ago (and I'm not going to repeat posts I've made other places, where I talk about this), and I know what it is like to truly have your back up against the wall. Shimer's not in that position now, thank God. We have two viable options. The question is, which is the better one? I certainly don't know. But I do know this: I will continue to read every blog posting I can find, and the decision of the Assembly will weigh heavily on my decision when the time comes for the Board to vote. Because ultimately, it is the students and faculty who make up Shimer; that is where our first loyaly must be. If we can improve the situation of both constituencies, we would be derelict not to do so. If we act in a manner that harms students and/or faculty, we have committed an unpardonable sin. (And by "students and faculty," I refer to the present AND future ones). At any rate--I appreciate your post, your thoughtfulness, and your honesty. Take care.