Monday, November 28, 2005

Notes from the Alum Meeting

Since Mike and others have requested a write up of what was discussed at Sunday’s alum meeting, I will do my best to oblige. To be honest, we were all over the place, and no one issue got discussed in any great depth. Far more questions were posed than were answered and we seemed to bounce back and forth between things. It was difficult to keep up while I was taking notes, and even more difficult to make sense out of it once I got home. This will not have the larger narrative that my other summation did. Here are some of the informational points that came out of the meeting, in no particular order.

  1. No Shimer Trustees will sit on the Board of IIT. No IIT Trustees will sit on the Board of Shimer.
  2. It appears to be primarily Mount Carroll Alums who are in favor, and Waukegan Alums who are opposed to the move (not that there aren’t exceptions).
  3. In 1989-90, Shimer started exploring joining, merging, etc with other colleges. We had a 14-hour assembly, with more than 70 points on which there was discussion and a forced yes/no vote. At the end of fourteen hours, the assembly had agreed to merge with Roosevelt University. However, Roosevelt hadn’t consulted their own faculty, who objected to Shimer professors receiving tenure. So, the merger never happened. Who has this document with the 70+ points on which the assembly voted? Dave Shiner? This could be an invaluable document for considering the issues at stake here. If Shimer has already been through this process successfully once before…
  4. Our staff salaries are 60% of what they would be at comparable institutions.
  5. The North Central Commission was about receiving financial accreditation. It was pointed out that we had academic accreditation the entire time.
  6. Weekend enrollment has been decreasing. Weekday enrollment has been low for the past two years, after having 2 boom years. This means that we are about to graduate 2 unusually large classes. Unless there is some kind of recruitment miracle, our enrollment will be well below 100 next year, and possibly below 80 the year after that.
  7. Weekend college will also be moving to the IIT campus, should the move be approved.
  8. A particular point of discussion was Glorious isolation and peace and quiet vs. integration into the world. Mount Carroll campus was very isolated. Waukegan, while located in a city, has some of the same qualities of quiet isolation. Some pointed out that while the IIT campus is really in the middle of things, the campus is not without some green space, but that it is a very manicured kind of green space.
  9. Security concerns. The “L” stop on the IIT campus has the highest crime rate in the entire area (mostly students getting mugged for their laptops). Albert Fernandez looked into the overall crime rates between University of Chicago, IIT and Shimer. All of them share the characteristic of being islands of relative calm, with below average crime rates, while the space around them has above average crime rates. His analysis was posted on the Shimer intranet, which unfortunately is not available to alums. Albert, would you post your information here?
  10. Which scenario is more likely to ensure the survival of the college? Some thought there was more life and culture in Chicago. Is there a greater opportunity to market in an urban area?
  11. Many of the Mount Carroll alums have been unwilling to re-engage with the college. These are the people who are excited by the prospect of the move to IIT.
  12. There would be a kind of Institutional Relations Committee created to discuss any issues that arise between Shimer and IIT, such as student discipline, etc.
  13. Our Bond would be paid off by the sale of the Waukegan campus.
    It would take 2 ½ million dollars to bring the Waukegan campus up to spec.
  14. The Alum Donor base is going to shrink in future, if only because the number of alums graduated from the college in the past 27 years has radically decreased. Right now, the last round of Mount Carroll alums are at the height of their giving power.
  15. It will cost approx 60 thousand dollars to move the college.
  16. Shimer’s library would be integrated into IIT’s.
  17. Bill Rice will be meeting with officials from the city of Waukegan. They do not want Shimer to move out of Waukegan.
  18. Notable quotes: There is no harsher landlord than poverty. Albert Fernandez
    We’re betting the school. Barry Carroll On this issue, many people were struck by the risk we would be taking in moving the school.
  19. Albert reports that after a recent faculty meeting, most of the faculty are provisionally in favor of the move.
  20. In our financial projections for the move, we’re only betting that 6 IIT students will be taking Shimer classes.
  21. A Provisional Satellite arrangement? Bill Rice says it’s unfeasible. However, Albert, Mike Weinman and Erik Badger are putting together a proposal for a provisional arrangement, lasting perhaps 5 years.
  22. The Assembly will be on December 18th, at 4pm.
  23. Why is enrollment declining? According to the school’s present research:
    Complete lack of visibility
    Lack of Scholarship money

I hope this was helpful.

Sarah Kimmel
Class of ‘96


Noah Kippley-Ogman said...

I have the twenty pages of Assembly minutes from that meeting and from the contents of a folder that had those minutes.

They can be found at

I haven't read them.


Albert said...


Tried posting the security info you request ~2 hours ago, but it's not showing up. Will try again later. Feel free to delete this comment if my original post shows up.


Snorey said...

Thanks for keeping us all in the loop, Sarah. This definitely helps to draw the lines a little more clearly.

Question: Would Shimer faculty salaries change as a (direct) result of this move? If so, how would that be funded?

I don't know if we in the outer circle of Shimer can really do much for the college, but I have started a thread to discuss what we might be able to contribute in non-monetary ways. My initial ideas aren't very good, but I wanted to get the discussion rolling.

And wow, thanks for that PDF, Noah... any chance that other historical materials might find their way online?

David Shiner said...

As one who didn't attend Sunday's meeting, I'd like to thank Sarah for all her work. I'd also like to add a couple of notes, in some cases corrections, to the statements made at the meeting as Sarah recorded them.

1) The 1990 Roosevelt decision did not involve a 14-hour Assembly meeting and more than 70 voting points. The meeting was 8 hours long and there were 26 voting points. This is clearly stated in the minutes and other materials that Noah has posted elsewhere (thanks, Noah), and which are well worth reading. (This also says something about the power of myth and its enhancement over time, the finer points of which I'll spare everyone.)

2) It's more or less correct to state that Shimer salaries are about 60% of what they would be at comparable institutions, although that's a very rough guide. For lower-level staff members (not that we have all that many) it's probably more like 90%. For new faculty members, I'd say 75-80%. For everyone else, 60% is probably as good a conjecture as there is.
Regarding Sam's question, there is no expectation that relocating will directly benefit staff salaries, although those who support the plan expect (or at least hope) that it would do that over time.

3) The North Central Association makes no distinction between "financial accreditation" and "academic accreditation." At the time of the Roosevelt decision in October of 1990, Shimer had been a canddiate for accreditation for ten years. Candidates for accreditation are eligible for funding (such as Pell Grants), but are not considered to be accredited and are not listed in the commission's ledger of accredited institutions. We have been accredited since the summer of 1991.

4) It's not my understanding that Shimer’s library would be integrated into IIT’s. As I have heard it, our collection would mostly be stored in a separate area of their library. I'm not sure how "final" that is, especially after reading Sarah's notes.

5) Erik Badger (Class of '97) and Michael Weinman ('98) have been working on a proposal for a provisional satellite arrangement, but it is for one year or two at most. I wonder if Albert said something about "up to 5 years" at the meeting. I hadn't heard that before. I don't agree with Bill Rice that such a plan is financially unfeasable (although I'm not sure I'm right about that), but I do think that it would be problematic in a number of ways, as I've told Erik. But I'll reserve final judgment until I know more about it and our other options.

Thanks again to Sarah for all her work.

mikeyd723 said...

First, thanks Sarah for once again going through the laborious and more or less thankless task of being scribe so that those not present physically can be present otherwise--what would deliberative democracy be without "secretaries" (a fact Shimer is aware of, given the payment to the Secretary of the Asssembly--and no one else!).

Just to clarify a bit on my small role in all this, it is definitely true that what Erik and I were proposing was really a one semester "pilot program" which we could (in principle at least) set up at IIT and 1-2 other institutions **over the next 1-2 years.** The idea being that you run something vaguely similar to the Oxford program, but only for a semester, at the potential partner, and then have an opportunity to assess it. At no point we were thinking of 5 years then--though that is not to say I think that is a good or bad idea, just that I at least had never considered it.

Edward McEneely said...

Here are a few of my own recollections from the meeting, my notes are elsewhere, but those present will recall I asked a number of questions, many of them quite pointless:

I don't have my notepad with me; I asked a number of questions and wrote them all down, but of course, I'm at work right now.

1. IIT has sororities, fraternities, ROTC, etc. Shimer students would not be allowed to join these (for obvious reasons), but IIT students in these organizations would be able to participate in Shimer courses.

2. Shimer students would live in IIT housing on campus; they would be subject to IIT rules and policies, and their RAs would be Shimerians trained by IIT. How much, if any, influence the assembly would have is unclear; Bill Rice mentioned a joint committee of IIToids and Shimerians who would have some sort of ability to affect things and possibly carry out assembly policies, but he was pretty vague on the subject.

3. Shimer anticipates no more than six IIT students expressing an interest in its courses, at least at first. Shimer also has no plan or blueprint as yet for increasing enrollment at IIT, and Bill Rice did not care to speculate on how soon the declining (or plateauing, depending on who you listen to) enrollment trend could be reversed.

4. The weekend program would relocate to IIT; the only operation currently anticipated to remain in Waukegan would be the homeschool science labs. Initially Bill indicated our lab equipment would go with us, but later he said that IIT would provide facilities and additionally that we had a sufficient surplus of equipment to maintain two labs, one for the program in Waukegan, and one for the program at IIT.

5. Bill Rice doesn't know as much about World War II as I do.

Noah Kippley-Ogman said...

Most of the Assembly minutes from the past fifteen years are available on the Intranet (thanks to my labor and Marc's good ideas). I'd be happy to send/post any of those that I have digitalized if you're interested.

At some point I may very well get around to digitalizing other things that I can find - any suggestions are welcome.