Monday, November 21, 2005

More from David Shiner

I guess David Shiner is the only one who speaks the language of the people:

Thanks again, Michael. I hope this isn't only a private conversation in a public venue, like two sportscasters who address wach other on the air, but rather that others feel free to chime in.Your main point concerns the ability of the Assembly to make an informed and relevant decision on IIT by the time the bell rings. I don't know whether that will happen, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm trying hard to help see that it does.On your other points: I didn't intend to give the impression that I see recent Assembly meetings as "irrelevant." I think they fulfill a somewhat different function than in the 80s and 90s - not all that different, but somewhat so. In thinking this over, it occurs to me that the rise in Weekend student attendance and the decline in decisions on substantive issues might be related to each other. The Weekend students, on the whole, seem to appreciate hearing committee reports and the like more than Weekday students and staff; it helps them feel more informed about what's going on at Shimer. They don't seem at all frustrated by the lack of substantive items, although they do speak up when we have discussions. I'll think more about it, but in any case I surely wouldn't characterize the Assembly as "irrelevant." I would say that Shimer is somewhat less democratic than it was a decade ago, and much less so than 25-30 years ago. I don't think that's a bad thing, but I do think it could become a bad thing if it goes much further. Since I'm obviously committed to the Assembly, I'll continue to try to figure out how to make it as functional and relevant as possible.As far as the statement that "even non-serious discussions about something like moving the College" would have been communicated widely in the past, I simply don't agree. Examples to the contrary abound. Back in 2002 Don was approached by a proprietary school that was interested in affiliating with Shimer. He told me about it some time after his initial conversations, and eventually he told the rest of the faculty. The talks disintegrated before the students and administrative staff (not to mention alumni) were brought in. Those dicussions never got to the point that the IIT proposal has, but they were certainly at least somewhat serious. If they had gone further, I assume the Assembly would have been brought in, although months after the initial contact. We'll never know. What I do know is that Bill, like Don, regularly gets calls about this sort of thing, which could loosely be termed "non-serious discussions to move the college" or to subtantially affect the college in other ways. I don't think it makes sense to have them all disseminated widely, or in most cases at all. What I think is probably in this case is not that issue, but the rather clunky way this particular situation has been handled. I hope that everyone involved, myself included, will learn to handle such matters better in the future.

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