Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Shimer College to Relocate in Chicago

Dear alums and friends of Shimer,

Last night (January 17) the Shimer College Board of Trustees resolved to move most of the College's operations to the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Today we learned that IIT's Board of Trustees has accepted the proposal to host Shimer on its Chicago campus.

As a faculty member of Shimer's Board, and as a reader of this blogsite who has previously posted here, I realize that this decision will disappoint some or many of you. I can assure you that the Board's decision was not easily reached and that the Trustees did not by any means regard it as a slam-dunk. It came after much dicussion over the past several months and after almost five hours of deliberation last night. During these deliberations concerns that have been posted on this site, including the effect of relocation on Shimer as a community, were discussed. Strong arguments were made against the IIT proposal and in favor of alternative proposals. All three of the student Trustees attended the meeting and contributed vigorously.
Before the vote was taken, all the members of the Board vowed to continue to support the College regardless of the outcome of the vote. I ask all alums and friends of Shimer College, who have lately demonstrated their devotion to Shimer on this blogsite and elsewhere, to take the same attitude.

I believe that the vote was essentially a response to mounting evidence that maintaining the status quo in Waukegan would amount to unacceptable jeopardy of the College's future. Although all of us on the Board are well aware that the planned relocation is also fraught with risk, the majority's judgment is that Chicago and IIT are the better option in terms of both risk and opportunity. As for the concerns about the future of Shimer as a community mentioned above, speaking for myself, I repeat one of the points I tried to make in my December 17 posting ("The Case for Moving to Chicago"). Shimer has all along resisted potent pressures, mostly financial, to compromise its mission and character. If we were to remain in Waukegan, it seems likely that in time presures to increase class size, offer more marketable courses, and become a more vertical and less communitarian sort of place, would be at least as strong as they might be in Chicago, and to be resisted only on pain of having to shut down.

In response to recent postings by Bill Brickee and others, yes, the City of Waukegan did offer to provide us with a renovated building, the former Karcher Hotel, or, as another option, very substantial help in sprucing up the current campus. Much could be said, and was said, for the City's offers. But the Karcher Hotel option would not have reduced our costs, the long-term effect on enrollment would have been minor, in my judgment and the judgment of others, and it might have compelled the College to go into the leasing business. Both options, dependent on future approval and funding by various organizations and city departments, might never have materialized at all.

More information on the Board's decision and future plans can be found in David Shiner's internal announcement--already posted on this site, I notice--and on the College's website (linked to this post). We also expect considerable press coverage of this news.

My personal appreciation to all those of you who have posted on this site and shown so much concern for the future of Shimer College.

Albert B. Fernandez
Shimer Faculty and Faculty Trustee

1 comment :

Edward McEneely said...

I wish I could say I was happy for the school and that I wish it the best, but I suppose I've always been a sore loser.

I remain, as ever, irrevocably opposed to the move and passionately convinced that this will worsen the school's position measureably.

Many of the concerns that myself and others have broght forward have been met with obfuscation. Even the assembly meeting on the subject felt railroaded and hasty, like some sort of sham play of democratic rule. It was implied that students and alums like myself were "afraid of black people", or just needed to "grow up", and those are direct quotes from speakers who received acclaim and who I and others who felt as I did were not permitted to respond to within the confines of the meeting. My concerns over the initial secrecy, chumminess, and general old-boy-network atmosphere surrounding the initial phases of the proposal have repeatedly been brushed aside. I have repeatedly been told it was not the time to ask questions regarding this.

I love Shimer, but these are symptoms of a Shimer that I do not know or care to be affiliated with. It is a shame that so much care was lavished on the feelings of current donors, and so little interest shown for the concerns of myself and others, who could have formed future donating classes.