Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The "Kemper" Letter

Here's the letter that I referenced earlier, and that Bill was asking about. Hope it's readable.

Friday, April 21, 2006

News from Shimer

What News from Shimer College

Thanks to Sara Davilla for the invitation to post some updates for those of you who follow this blog. I’ll try to be brief but informative – and certainly invite those with additional questions to ask away. The Faculty and Administrative Staff have made a commitment (to ourselves and to the greater Shimer community) to strive for transparency throughout the process. One would certainly be forgiven for thinking otherwise given the poor communications at the outset - but it was tough and we didn't handle if very well, partly because we had no experience in such matters. Aside from missteps at the original annoucement I think you’ll find we’ve been pretty successful.

As soon as the Board voted to expand Shimer’s Weekday Program to Chicago, our community began to create a carefully structured project plan. We collected granular concerns from students, faculty, staff, alums, and notes from firesides, Assembly meetings, and general brainstorming sessions. The resulting several hundred pieces of information were consolidated into a project plan designed to facilitate Shimer’s meeting deadlines, addressing concerns, and balancing the workload amongst ourselves in a fashion that would prevent as much disruption as possible to our spring semester academic schedule.

What sort of tasks would be part of such a plan? Items as complex as how to be certain our architect really understands Shimer’s community before she begins her designs to things as mundane as how to define “smoking areas” in the exterior spaces. Items as critical to maintaining the Shimer experience as how to preserve community dining, firesides, theatre, and Assembly to less weighty issues like “how will we keep the coffee flowing?” Each of these hundreds of tasks has a staff member assigned to it. While we may not be responsible for doing the work, we’re absolutely responsible for making sure it gets done. Essentially we’re attempting nothing more extraordinary than the type of cooperation and group achievement that we do so well at Shimer. We work together, deal with problems head on, share responsibility and work as a group towards a satisfactory outcome.

In terms of items completed, the lease and student services agreement was signed on Friday April 7th. These documents outline the framework of our physical presence on the Chicago campus. We’ve also provided that the same kinds of services that are already available to IIT students will be extended to Shimer students such as health care, gymnasium, library, u-pass CTA access, campus-wide computer labs, wireless networks, printing, etc. Negotiations are always energetic – Shimer won some points and conceded some points. In the end we’ve a good workable understanding of our mutual obligations and freedoms over the term of the lease.

Construction crews have been working pretty much non-stop since March (it was one of IIT’s good-faith gestures that they began building to Shimer’s specifications long before the lease was signed or any construction dollars changed hands). All windows are being removed and replaced, sprinklers installed, and the entire site prepared for decorating in mid-June. Barring any unforeseen delays it would seem we are on track for an August 1st move-in date. Final color samples for paint and carpeting should be available for community comment next week. We can make a copy of the floor-plan available on request. Some of the Shimer-specific details we’ve designed include removal of most of the West side interior walls to create a large open free-form lounge, removing walls to create “double-wide” classroom spaces, and consolidating several large rooms into a single multi-purpose enclosed space on the East side which will serve for film screenings, Assembly, lectures and some performances.

Exterior planning is less able to be customized, but we’ve been given some leeway in this regard. Stuart Patterson will work with some students on this outside space. There seems to be some misconception of the campus as a concrete urban strip – but as we hope you’ll find when you visit, Mies worked directly with famous Chicago landscape architect Alfred Caldwell (The Lily Pool in Lincoln Park, The Peace Garden at Irving Park Rd.) to create vast green areas surrounded by open-plan buildings. We’ll do our best to bring the Shimer touch!

Shimer Faculty and Staff continue to build relationships with our counterparts at IIT. These contacts have been overwhelmingly positive: not just from the standpoint of being cooperative with one another, but we sense a real excitement and enthusiasm about Shimer’s presence this fall. This was especially evident at an IIT – Shimer summit meeting held in March and hosted by IIT when almost 35 staff from both institutions had a working lunch to focus goals and clarify open issues.

Wes and Noah have created a computer kiosk in Admissions with a virtual tour of the IIT campus and the new Shimer space.

Noah and Lance are developing programs to build and maintain Shimer community in Chicago. There’s some talk of a joint social event sometime this spring and we’re still planning to organize a larger field-trip event to include a tour of the campus, the space under construction, a meal in the commons, and a cultural event of some type in Chicago before returning to Waukegan.

Don Moon has been working his way through the weekday student body with individually scheduled meetings to assess student feelings, assist in planning, and generally be a sounding board for community sentiment. He’s found great excitement, occasional trepidation, but only one student who has reported she won’t be returning next year – her reason being non-IIT related. Students and staff are all singularly focused on maintaining community and intimacy as well as academic integrity.

APC, the Faculty, and Dean Barbara Stone have worked out a new weekly class schedule grid that embeds a Tuesday community lunch which segues into a completely class-free Tuesday afternoon. This is set aside as community time for activities, performances, lectures, or (perhaps most important) just hanging around together before heading outside for Frisbee. The rearrangement of the week did require the sacrifice of “no-class-Wednesday” but most students seem to feel that we’ve gained more than we’ve lost in that regard.

Now that our lease is signed and more specifics have become clear, you should be seeing a fresh copy of Symposium in your mail in the next few weeks and increasing communication from the Development Office. Until then, please continue to show the amazing support and care for Shimer’s future that you’ve exhibited on this website and when you’ve concerns, we’ll do our best to answer them.

There have been questions here regarding final celebrations and “farewells” to Waukegan.

The date for Solidarity Day has been erroneously reported here and should be corrected to Saturday May 13th. As always, everyone is encouraged to attend the events…the only restriction is with regard to Solidarity Night at the North Avenue Dormitory, the Dean of Students asks that”any non-student must be with a specific host who is responsible for the guest's behavior”.

Shimer’s final Waukegan Commencement is Saturday May 20th. Watch the website for more information.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

From Bill

From Bill---
Lifted Post: This letter, posted in February, from xflickerflyx is a little saddening:
When I first heard the news about Shimer moving to Chicago, I was both surprised and jealous. My surprise stemmed from the fact that the idea of moving seemed to come very unexpectedly. I was jealous because when I first came to Shimer, my friends and I would always talk about how amazing it would be if Shimer could be somewhere in the city. I wanted to have a Shimer-in-Chicago experience. My feelings soon shifted to a general uncaring attitude because as a Senior, no matter what happens next year, I won't be around to experience it. So I said fuck it -- I decided not to participate in any of the meetings about IIT or the vote -- the whole process seemed beyond my control anyway.As I started to hear more information about IIT, the less exciting it sounded. In my visions of a Chicago campus, I always thought it would be wonderful if Shimer had its own dedicated campus somewhere closer to the city, but this IIT situation was nothing of the sort. First of all, it's on the south end of downtown in an area that really isn't all too appealing for a plethora of reasons. Secondly it's a technical college. While I feel like the fact that it is a technical college says enough, I will elaborate on how ridiculous it is that a liberal arts college is moving into a building that is much more appropriate for scenes from the movie "2001: a space odyssey". The space and people we will be surrounding ourselves with are not inspiring for delicious conversations about art and philosophy.Okay, so none of this really even mattered to me until I went to the "fireside with Bill Rice" yesterday. I was ready to dismiss Shimer and bid it good riddance and good luck (which I actually did in my online blog). But last night's discussion made me realize that this school will not survive at IIT. By "this school", I mean the community and environment that is held in high regard by nearly all the students that attend and have attended this college on this campus (I cannot speak for the mt. carroll campus, as I have no frame of reference). Listening to Mr. Rice discuss forcing a community in a place where it is EXTREMELY obvious that little to no community will exist was disheartening at best. You cannot force a community to happen. The suggestions for "keeping the community together" included: requiring students to live in on-campus housing (the dorms at IIT are tiny and require that students who live in them buy a meal plan at a significant increase in cost) and eating together, along with having classes together.The IIT campus is quite large and obviously does not belong exclusively to Shimer College. There is no off-campus housing that is nearby (ie: many houses within walking distance like there are here in Waukegan), forcing students and faculty to live quite spread out from one another. I don't know how one can force students to eat together when they're at a place that gives them a myriad of decisions about where and when they want to eat (cafeterias, outdoor "parks", etc).The reason why the weekday students have a very tight-knit community in Waukegan is because we must, because there aren't a whole lot of other options to be had here. Nearly all of us live within walking distance from the school. We see each other at our best and at our worst. It's incestuous and complicated and beautiful.I can see how weekend students and others that do not live on campus (some faculty and staff, etc) feel like this move won't affect the community all that much. I am sure I'll get hell for saying this, but I don't think you can really be part of the true Shimer spirit unless you live here or take great effort to be around. I speak from experience in that I have been an on-campus weekday student, an off-campus weekend student, a commuter weekday student and an off-campus (in Waukegan) weekday student. I have seen nearly every aspect of community involvement at Shimer College. I can say very assuredly that the only times I have ever felt like I was truly a part of Shimer College was when I've lived in Waukegan. When I commuted back and forth, I rarely stayed around to hang out and just be with fellow students, even though I had several good friends who lived in Waukegan and often invited me to stick around. It was a hassle to travel and to not be near my "home base". Perhaps this can be critiqued as part of my personality and social issues, but I would venture to guess that most people tend to like to be nearish to their homes, especially when they need to study or they're out drinking or staying out late and getting home 40 minutes to an hour away isn't an appealing process. This will be an issue at IIT. There is no way that this sense of community that I equate with Shimer College can be recreated at a place that we will be so diluted in.And so here we are, thank you Bill Rice. It's really too bad you never got to experience Shimer College, and now you never will. I think it might even be appropriate to change the name, because this place, as it exists will never be the same. And sure, the world is always changing and it's inevitable that it will, I for one don't want to sit idly by and just watch all this disappear. I hope that the gold that "the college" hopes to fill its pockets with by this move will be worth the death of our school.And please, stop calling it an "expansion", it's just offensive.Amanda StilwellShimer Student 2002-2006 (accepted 1997, but delayed entry)

Hi All

Hi All!

I just wanted to encapsulate some of the last comments. We who are not on campus are really hoping to be able to understand what is going on with the move. So I have a few questions:

  1. Can we get a link to this blog on the Shimer College website?

  2. Is there a person or persons on campus who can keep us up to date by posting?

  3. Can someone please post the letter Dave Koukal is inquiring about?

  4. What is the date of Solidarity Night?