I wanted to post this as a main header instead of as a comment, but I don't want to wait for a to-join invitation, so here it is. Just pretend this is a new topic entitled "this is what propaganda looks like."
It's so weird getting letters from Shimer. I will admit, however, that I prefer it to getting strange phone calls from sorority-sounding telemarketers who are obviously reading a script off of a page as they ask me to donate money to Shimer and inform me that Shimer does not have the staff to make these phone calls themselves. It's a strange, impersonal approach and one which I don't think many alums would respond to well, me included. I wonder if it has anything to do with the low level donations.
In any case, I was disappointed to receive the "information of interest" letter in the mail because it read like propoganda. I'll be up front about the fact that I never liked Waukegan and took Metra to Chicago every chance I could get during my time at Shimer. However, I never went to the South Side of Chicago for safety reasons. I also know how hard it is to get from one part of Chicago to the next even in the better parts of the city. It's not like it's a hop, skip and a throw from all of the art museum. But I digress. My point is that this letter didn't even cover SAFETY in the "number of objections" list. And I think it's a huge issue. I know that the letter stated that neither the pros nor cons are exhaustive, but I still don't think leaving out this very vital point was just an oversight.
Also, if you look at the wording of the "pros" versus the "cons," it is totally inconsistent. Every word under the list of "various rationales" is not just a verb, but a strong verb that reads like a resume: providing, strengthening, creating, enhancing, giving, promoting, positioning. The language used for the "number of objections" is extremely wishy washy. Like for example, "the loyalty that SOME alums feel to the Waukegan campus" (emphasis mine), the POTENTIAL loss of a distinctive Shimer identity, the lingering unfavorable reputation of the south side of Chicago DESPITE RECENT IMPROVEMENTS." This language makes the objections seem weak. Imagine if the rationales were written in that language. "The possibility that some people think Shimer college might grow that some but not all alum believe would exist" or "overall nervousness about Shimer's fundraising base weakening, despite the possibility that it could strengthen."
Is it just me, or does anybody else feel that a decision has already been made and this letter is just propaganda?
I feel like the most important thing is Shimer's survival, it is more important than this particular decision, finding ways we can all get together to support one another and support the college which has done so much for us. I felt this strange nostalgia I didn't expect just reading this blog and seeing how passionate everyone is, how they've taken the Shimer experience and applied it to different goals... even the way people have reached different conclusions in a way that is so thought-out and balanced and Shimerian. But when I get letters like this, I feel like it totally insults not just my intelligence but that of everyone who's ever stepped into a Shimer classroom and stepped out a different person. Despite what it says, to me it seems obvious that this letter obviously is not intended to provide a balanced perspective and to seek feedback, but to sell an idea. I'm disappointed. When my alma mater claims to send a document to "share an account of the issues at hand" I'd prefer to receive an account that is less one-sided.
Whether or not Shimer moves is obviously not my decision. The fact that my parents would have never let me attend a college on the South Side of Chicago (and that I would be very hesitant to visit for the same reason) probably doesn't matter at this point. I just find it disengenious for this letter to say that moving to that area would "provide an opportunity for Shimer alums to reengage with the college." Just a bit off kilter, don't you think?
I think everyone here has brilliantly hashed the rest of the rationale bullet points quite well, but I just wanted to add something about the whole "providing basic, traditional student services" and "overcoming isolation by giving students contact with greater cultural diversity, larger communities and more academic opportunities" thing. In my three years in Waukegan, I took two yoga classes in Lake Forest, a class at the Carl Jung Center in Evanston, went to the gym in Waukegan regularly, was involved with two pagan groups, was heavily involved with different types of activism in Chicago, and basically had a lot of contact with a large, culturally diverse community. This is a choice. It is possible to live in South Chicago and stay in one's Ivory Tower (and in fact that's probably a choice I would make were I at ITT, under the watchful eye of campus security.) It is possible to take falling-apart dormitory rooms and make them beautiful (as Kathleen demonstrated when she moved into the room I was in...what was it, 18? It took her two days to make it beautiful). It is possible to go to the gym, go to the library, take the train to a bookstore, learn how to cook, hang out in the computer lab, stay engaged with the college, have contact with a culturally diverse community, have access to the cultural assets of Chicago, and all the numerous rationales listed in these bullets in this letter--while still residing in Waukegan. It is much more difficult to maintain a tight-knit community amongst a much bigger one, to experience a city one has to worry about physical safety to get to.
I still have a feeling this decision has already been made, but just wanted to add my voice to the record, to the long list of objections to this move, and the inherent uncertainty of the positive projections listed in favor of this idea.
Yael Grauer, class of '02
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3 weeks ago