Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Response to Noah's Survey

After posting and deleting this several times. I believe now I have it posted on the first page. I felt the need to be a star and be at the top of the page. It is amazing that I actually looked at the posting instructions to finally get it right. Noah, use this how you will, I just wanted everyone to see it. Your survey helped greatly to formulate an opinion.

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


Owen Brugh said...

If we had the money for the physical improvements, I don't think we'd be having this discussion. We'd just fix the campus we're on and deal with the rest. The problem is that so much maintenance has been deferred for so long that we're talking about millions of dollars just to get the place up to code.

Also, I actually think that if Shimer were to enter into an alliance with a school (something I'm not convinced of yet), it would actually be best to do it with a school that has a completely opposite focus.

Why would a U of C, UIC, DePaul or Loyola want us around anyway? They *think* they do what we do, just without all the "weird" original sources and trust in students' logical abilities. If they saw the value in what we do, they would do it.

On the other hand, with IIT you have a group of engineers and architects who have no idea about the humanities and philosophy. They focus on numbers, rules and laws. We focus on the entirety of human knowledge (as much as we can). They are very different focuses. IIT concentrates on training for a specific field; we concentrate on training the mind for a full life.

I think, if this should be done at all, IIT is the right kind of school to do it with. They don't want to do what we do but (I think) see the value in it.

Behind Dish said...


I was simply answering Noah's survey questions. Additionally, I was expressing what I felt Shimer lacked and what would have made it a better experience for me.

I also don't understand fully the money issues and why enrollment is down. It doesn't seem like anyone has a handle on this or there would be some approach to the problem other than moving to IIT. Is it someone's job to make sure the college is making money? I'm not being silly here, I'd really like to know. Is there anyone out there with marketing expertise to offer a plan of some kind? I remember there was some marketing guy hired at one point. He disappeared after one year.

Owen Brugh said...

It's not a silly question at all, especially with the way things sometimes work (or not) at Shimer.

The college currently has a director of development who is, among other things, in charge of raising money from alumni. Bill Rice also has been making progress on the grant front in the last few years.

As far as enrollment, we have a new enrollment director who has professionalized the office. I understand some people find her brusque, but she seems to be making great progress with getting Shimer's name out to HS guidance counselors. We have already received inquiries about 2007-08.

The problem is that, because there is no endowment to provide a buffer, the college is supported through tuition and donations. Donations have been down because many money-giving alumni believe the college has not done enough with what has been given. They don't see progress, so they're giving less.

As far as marketing, we have taken some of the plans developed in the past, and a committee of the BOT made up of marketing people (myself included - 8 years in the newspaper business) are updating them and trying to turn it into something implemental.

I wasn't trying to be difficult or anything. Sorry if I came off that way. It just seemed that your comments spoke a lot to some things that were bouncing around my head.

Bill said...

Dear Behind Dish, I think you hit a really important point. The division between those who wish to stay and those who wish to go can be viewed as the division between the pure intellectuals and those those who aspire to it. As Shimerians we don't like to discuss our intellectual snobbery but it there. Sometimes we come off as impatient with the illiterate and the proliteriat. This is shocking and painful because politically we support primarally liberal views and the underdog. Intellectually we really come off as thinking we are better than other people because of our intellects. When the school moved to Waukegan it was almost like a great humbling. No offense meant.