Monday, November 28, 2005

From Noah: Shimer Survey

Dear fellow Shimerians,

In the process of deciding whether a move (or expansion) at the IIT campus on the South Side would be a good idea for the College, it is important to consider the effect it would have on recruitment and retention of students. I have seen little serious discussion of this nature and much unfounded conjecture. In order to replace this groundless guesswork with guesswork based on some little substance, I’d like to hear from as many current students, former students, graduates and students who left the answers to two sets of questions, and certainly wouldn’t mind hearing from staff, faculty of the present or past:

- What brought you to Shimer initially? What aspects of Shimer made the College appealing, and what aspects made is unappealing?

- What keeps you at Shimer (or made you leave)? What aspects of Shimer are those that draw you in as you live the Shimer life, and what aspects make you want to leave?

Please consider as many aspects of the college as you can, including but not limited to the community, the academics (both the curriculum and the format), the schedule, the location, the amenities and the physical plant.

If you’d forward this to people who you think should be included in this informal study, I’d appreciate it greatly.

Please return your responses with or without your name, but preferably including whether you’re a staff member, faculty member, weekday or weekend student and whether you’re still here or left by graduation, retirement or by your own volition.

If I could get these back in a week or two, that would be awesome. Let’s say the 4th of December, which is a Sunday of weekend college (and Assembly meeting!). I’ll have some sort of report and summary to the whole community when I can, hopefully with the information provided by David Shiner and the Self-Study group.

Please respond either by email ( or in my box in Prairie.

Thank you very much,



Noah Kippley-Ogman

PO Box 500

Waukegan IL 60079



Saradevil said...

I'll mention for those of you who are sending emails that are reaching out to others not checking the blog Noah asked that this be distributed far and wide. So please feel free to copy this and paste it into an email and send it on it's merry way.



Alan said...

What brought you to Shimer initially? What aspects of Shimer made the College appealing, and what aspects made is unappealing?

I knew of the history of Maynard Hutchens at the University of Chicago. I believed in the great books curriculum and thought it would serve me well. I also knew I could not get into the University of Chicago. When I found out there was another school with the same methodology that I could get into I jumped at the chance. It was additionally appealing to me that the school was close to Chicago. As it turned out it wasn’t close enough to Chicago for my tastes but that was ok. Sitting in on classes and touring the campus helped too. There was an immediate sense of community. I had been to a “normal” college before and it is a room full of individuals being lectured by a single person who is meant to reveal truth. Shimer had the whole shared enquiry thing. There was a mutual responsibility to the class and the feeling that we were all discovering together for ourselves. I love that feeling. To me it IS Shimer.

What keeps you at Shimer (or made you leave)? What aspects of Shimer are those that draw you in as you live the Shimer life, and what aspects make you want to leave?

I wanted the knowledge. That’s why I came and that’s why I stayed.
There were times when I was pissed off at every aspect of Shimer. But seeking the knowledge was a selfish act that kept me going at times when I could care less about some of the people involved. Towards the end of my era there I experienced a time of bad dynamics at Shimer. For me it felt like the opposite of what the ideal is supposed to be. The opposite of what I felt when I sat in on classes as described above. There were blocks of dominance that opposed differing opinions. There were frequent ad homonym attacks. Some faculty would grade based on personal biases of what they perceived as truth. Vanity reigned as the deadliest sin at Shimer. I thought of leaving lots of times when the poor state of dynamics got to me. It was a clash between the real world and the Maynard Hutchen’s ideal. Towards the end I was pretty angry and not much good for dynamics either. Cultivating a comfortable environment where people feel free to express themselves is central to the success of the Hutchen’s curriculum.
My last year at Shimer I took an elective on Dialogue. I chose to take the class because I was having so much trouble with dynamics. I had taken the class by choice but many had been assigned to the class for “not talking enough in class”. During the course of that class I found many of them facing the same bad dynamics I had been facing. They had responded differently than me. I’m not the type to shut up when told to shut up. I would rather defend my right to have my own opinion or remind others of dynamics until they figure it out or get tired of trying to suppress me. A lot of other students however clam up in the face of aggressive arguing or belittling. Then they are downgraded for not making enough of a contribution. We like to think it doesn’t go on but there was a general consensus among the students in the Dialogue class of similar experiences. The class was a cross section of several entering classes as well with students in various levels of the core. Ironically all of these students had a lot to say when placed in a comfortable accepting atmosphere.
Administrative problems were always frustrating. I was always forgiving of that though because the Administration and the faculty are the same people and I knew how overworked they were and are. The same reason it would be hard for me to complain about my reading load to someone who is teaching four classes. I have always thought that if the administrative duties and the faculty duties could be separated a lot of minor frustrations could be avoided. But I’ve also always been grateful that the faculty has done what needed to be done for the survival of the college. Financial stability could eventually help resolve this unnecessary problem though.
Personally I care less about where Shimer is than what it is.
Alan Perry

Behind Dish said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Behind Dish said...

Noah, I'm posting my comments to share with others. Please use as you see fit. I also had to delete my initial comment due to formatting issues.

I believe discussion classes and self-directed learning where my main reasons for attending Shimer. I’ll have to admit the location was rather unappealing as well as living space and lack of amenities. Lack of an arts program was also a pretty big issue.

I initially left Shimer to explore the world a bit more. I also realized that I no longer needed Shimer. I realized that I could learn on my own, which is part of what Shimer is teaching. I returned to Shimer after traveling and moving around a bit in order to finish my degree. I felt that I needed a degree and Shimer was one of the few places I could stomach getting one. During my final year or so I moved to Evanston and commuted. I also spent a semester at Weekend College. Living away from Shimer helped a lot. I found myself able to participate in Chicago’s artistic community and lead a life not so steeped in the small community. I could come back to it refreshed and ready to listen.

It looks like from the above statement I’d be for the move, but I don’t believe I am for it. I am definitely for some physical improvements of the existing college. I think if the College were to go to Chicago I’d rather see it not affiliated with another College. If it had to affiliate with another college to survive I’d like it to be an institution with similar values. I’d like to see Shimer in Chicago or Waukegan with a broadened curriculum, taking other approaches to education that fall in line with dialogue classes and self-directed learning techniques. I’d like to see music, art, performance art, gender studies, global studies, technology and classes concerning political activism added. I believe this would attract more students of differing backgrounds and abilities. Speaking as a bit of an anti-intellectual, I’d like to see less intellectual types attend Shimer. I’d like Shimer to broaden its scope a little whilst maintaining the great books core curriculum.

I see some talk on this blog of Shimer students being a certain ‘type’. And, that somehow ‘other’ types might ruin the experience. I’m more of a mind to share the love. To seek people out who may not be the exact ‘type’ and bring them in to see what they are able to do. I certainly didn’t feel like the typical Shimer student when I attended. I often felt frustrated with the attitudes and intellectual dogma of a great deal of the student body. However, I felt I contributed a lot by being different. Diversity is a beautiful thing.

- Chris Heinisch

Alan said...

Agreed, diversity is a wonderful thing.