Sunday, November 13, 2005

From John McGough

First, thanks to Sarah for acting on this helping us get together.

I'm not sure if we should be making the argument that Shimer has 'a marketing problem'. Enrollment and attendance at Shimer has been and is consistently low.
It seems to me that this is largely a result of the nature and position of the College, as it is, in
today's academic world, and not largely not the result of mistakes or errors by individuals. Numerous strategies have been employed to tackle this throughout the years, with varied and modest-to-no effect.

However, this year's graduating class is projected to be something like 30 students, the highest in recent memory and perhaps since the move to Waukegan. What went well here? Something was different this year, and this deserves serious attention.

It also seems obvious to me that the solutions - bureacratic at their core, suspicious on every side - discussed by the current President and his cohorts amongst the faculty and Board, would not simply move the College, but effectively end it as the institution - faults included, and these are many - that it currenty is. Plus, there is NO way imaginable that a move to IIT in and of itself would 'improve marketing' or enhance enrollment.

The President and upper-level administration salaries (no longer on level with the rest of College employees) have added an extra $250,000 to the current budget. And despite this, still no effecive strategy or action in the way of building the College. I suggest we make the argument that any and all discussion of the College's future (always largely grounded in its finances, no?) has to start here, along with a serious look at the rest of the budget.

There are definite material interests, in my opinion, for the proposed move. In the last few years, Shimer has hired 'outsiders' and broken with its egalitarian pay structure to benefit from the supposed expertise. The old guard is getting older, and over 20 years in Waukegan have probably stretched their ideological and material committment to the struggling College and its
mission to the breaking point. They want to retire, ideally with a secure-enough pension. IIT, a corporatized and thus 'legitimate' university, is seen as securing this.

I would also not be surprised to discover other more nefarious connections between those plotting the move and those who stand to benefit on the Board or IIT. The bureaucratic nature of the 'discussions' on it to date, and the carefulness of the arranged, exclusivist meetings, certainly raise suspicions.

Anyhow, just trying to point out that the solutions offered refer only in the most fantastic and idealist manner to the identified problems facing the College. We - the opposition - should draw up our own balance sheet to oppose this, including a comprehensive evaluation of finances, and the Colleges tradition and the accumulated intellectual and manual labor that has gone into building the Waukegan institution and which now stands to be stupidly and quietly 'sold'.

In militant opposition to bureaucracy everywhere and the Proposed Move to IIT,

John McGough
Class of '98


Snorey said...

Hi John,

Your points on the finances of the school are excellent. Where did you get the numbers?

On the other hand, I can't bring myself to agree with the assertion that Shimer's low enrollment is "largely a result of the nature and position of the College in today's academic world." I mean, I'll readily admit that Shimer will never have a large student body. But the difference between 100 students and 300 (or 500) students is ridiculously small, on the scale of higher education. I can't believe that there are not at least a hundred students per year, in the Chicago area alone, who would be very interested in attending Shimer (and perfect candidates for admission).

I think that Shimer's marketing problems stem from various deep-seated institutional-cultural-physical problems. Those problems in turn stem from the many painful compromises the College has had to make since 1974. Three decades of destitution will have an unhealthy effect on any institution.

I don't know how we go about addressing these problems, but it is increasingly apparent that the current administration doesn't know either.

Alan said...

Where do we get these images of the people who have kept shimer alive thus far as being, "Nefarious", "Cronies", and "suspicious"? Without these people the college would have died in Mt. Carrol.

D. R. Koukal said...

I'm confused. I was under the impression that IIT would be Shimer's landlord, and nothing else. So how is it that they'd be underwriting the retirement of our senior faculty?

Did I miss something?