Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Some Points to Which to Get

Well, anyway, some time after I graduated, I was living in an apartment in Hyde Park with some other former Shimerians and friends and working as a mailroom clerk at the Graduate School of Business of the University of Chicago. I was still in touch with friends who remained on the Mount Carroll campus and would frequently go out to visit on weekends. We knew right away when the first closing was announced. We knew right away when the announcement was rejected and wondered what we could do to help.

I thought maybe I could find something in the archived papers of William Rainey Harper relating to the Frances Shimer Academy that might be useful, so I looked. What was most useful was actually a volume from the main stacks at the Regenstein which was evidently issued in connection with the memorial service at the time of Frances Shimer's death. How I used it (or should I say: "How it used me"?) was to write a song about the struggles of Frances Ann Wood and her partner Cinderella Gregory to establish and maintain the Mount Carroll Seminary from the point of view of one of the locals. The song has never really been finished- I got about as far as the Civil War and then the words stopped flowing.

I played as much as I got, though, out in Mount Carroll at Frances Shimer's final resting place, at alumni gatherings, at Orange Horses at the old campus, in Waukegan, and now in the Cinderella lounge in the new IIT digs. I'm told that David Shiner has kept the song alive even in my absence, which I guess makes it a genuine folk song or something. I can't wait to hear what Lance Dyke does with it on the ukulele. After my performance at the Orange Horse on the new campus I was told by some stranger who had evidently participated in the recent move from Waukegan that I had no idea how much that song has meant to the community during this last transition.

Maybe, but the song and the chord it seems to strike in the hearts of many Shimer people point to my first point: THE CORE OF THE SHIMER EXPERIENCE IS NOT THE GREAT BOOKS, NOT THE DIALOGIC PEDAGOGY NOR THE COMPREHENSIVE CURRICULUM; THE CORE IS A COMMUNAL LOVE OF LEARNING. I emphasize the "a". There are many other communal loves of learning but Shimer's is that shared by individuals gathered into a specific community streatching back to Frances Ann Wood and Cinderella Gregory.

There is more to be elaborated on this point but it has gotten late and I am still a working stiff, so later. Right now I want to make sure I get my second point out, which is: I have often been told that I should record that song (and other fine tunes inspired by my studies at Shimer.) OK, well I'm willing and if we find someone who can record them for commercial distribution I'm quite willing to sign my cut over to the College. If the songs are as successful as they might be, perhaps some more of our fair share of prospective students would hear about us. Trouble is I'm never going to make the arrangements, myself, so somebody else would have to push the project through to completion. I'll try at least to get the songs online somehow so anybody out there who cares and knows how can make their own judgment about the merits of the proposal.

Some other quick points without support or argument.

Start an online Shimer Historical Society to archive and share documentation of the history
of Shimer and its curriculum. Include reminiscences from alums (and old journal entries)

Buy an island 0n Second Life, scale model all three campuses and conduct virtual classes.

Get some sleep.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Up to Speed

I've just finished reading this whole blog from start to finish. I am impressed and disappointed not to have been reading it while it was being written. I'm tempted to offer as an excuse for not following the move more closely the fact that during the six months between July and December of 2005 I was undergoing chemotherapy three days out of every two weeks following the removal of most of my colon at the end of May. I know better, though.

Right now it's three in the morning. I'll be getting up at five to go to my job as interlibrary loan coordinator at Governors State University in University Park, Illinois. That's about as far south on the Metra Electric as Waukegan is north on Metra's North Line. (I should know- I don't drive: Waukegan is farther but they're both end of the line.) After an 8:30 to five day shuffling books and affiliated papers, including a lunchtime meeting of the Friends of the GSU Library Historical Society I'm trying to foment, I'll be meeting with the board of the South Suburban Heritage Association till passed ten. Shimer's got me pulling another all-nighter.

I graduated from Shimer the same year as Young Kim, 1973. Same year but maybe a few months earlier. I completed my coursework in three years, one in Oxford sandwiched between two in Mt. Carroll. Alas! The comprehensive wasn't offered until late in the following fall so I didn't get the degree until the February of my fourth year. I still claim to be an early extrant.

What gave me a jump was the placement exams and the preparation for them that I had gotten from my parents and my high school. My parents met at the University of Chicago in the late Hutchins era. They participated in one of the early Great Books Foundation's reading groups
and the kids of all their friends were our friends so we all grew up with the same books. And the parents all took an interest in what was going on in the schools. And our favorite teachers were all U of C graduates or spouses of U of C graduate students. So when I got to Shimer I was used to small group discussions of seminal texts. And while I found myself quite at home, it was not at last but still.

I came to Mt. Carroll in the aftermath of the GIS. There were still students around from the time of that catastrophic event, and we listened to their tales of the bygone glory days, and the Grotesque Internecine Struggle like ghost stories around the camp fire. Oh! would we had a blog such as this of that!

Anyway- I see that 5am is pressing closer and I'll have to break off soon and haven't gotten to any of my points. I've got some, really. I just had to put up something so Sara would know I was serious about getting permission to post.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

also on 12/10/00

i'm really out of sorts lately. i know, i write that a lot, but i mean it this time. it's the first time all semester that i've wanted to leave campus but somehow been mentally incapable of it. there were a million things i wanted to do in the city yesterday, and a million of things i wanted to do today, none of which i did.

i'm trying to figure out how much of this is because i'm working through that book, and how much of this is because it's the end of the semester. i got in an argument with my housemate about the FRIDGE, for christ's sake. there's never any room in it and i never buy any groceries because i know they won't fit, and she says it's because i'm too lazy to clean it out. (except she insists that when she said "you" she didn't mean me. or some shit.) i say that i don't like throwing out other people's stuff, and maybe if everybody else would stop taking up all the shelf space, the two of us who have NOTHING in there could buy a bag of apples every once in a while...anyways...

i finally finished my semester project, almost. we don't really have finals days at my school, some of the classes I'm in have final papers or exams (usu. take-home exams) so there's really not a big push for studying for finals. however, during writing week we either have to take Comprehensive Exams or do a semester project. There are only two comps, the basic comp and the area comp. I've already basic comped, and don't have to area comp until next semester. So all I have to do this week is work on my project. We're supposed to spend forty hours working on our projects, though most students don't...they call it (writing week) "drinking week and writing day." But we're not allowed to work for the school or rewrite papers or anything this week, and I do my best to try to spend all forty hours on it.

One semester, I did an analysis of religion and mysticism by having students fill out surveys about whether they believe in god or faeries, and analyzing the results. My first semester, I did a zine about my experience at college. Last semester, I wrote a huge (thirty or so page) essay about my friend who passed away on mother's day, and my reaction to it, and my thoughts about how the school was handling it.

This semester I'm doing the newsletter, and I'm almost done. I have an intro page, 4 pages of places to go and things to do in this lame-ass town, three pages of things to do in Evanston and Chicago.

There are also articles about the electives in our school, and how there are more Humanities electives than Soc. and Nat Sci. ones. I interviewed the Dean and two students and we tried to figure out why. There's one on the selection process for RA's, tutors, editors, etc. and it calls for open application processes from the school as well as students not selected being told the reasons why, with quotes from a student chosen as an RA, one not chosen, and the person who chose.

There's an article on housing disputes and conflict resolution, interviewing two dissatisfied people, one RA and the Housing Director. There's a rumor control section, which was fun, I went around and verified all the rumors going around, mostly false. There's an article I wrote about the enviro group and what we've done all semester, which was originally printed in a copy of the school paper that didn't quite make it into everybody's mailbox (they're doing an awful job this semester). I also interviewed the computer lab director (my boss) abt. new developments, and all the banks in the area about their accounts. There's stuff I copied from off of the walls in the dorms, a piece on detoxing with herbs, an article on doublecasting for the play, and one on the controversy of the tutor system in the school. I worked really hard on it!!

So far two students have offered to do columns if I keep doing it next semester, so I'm planning on it...part of it is that our school paper rarely has articles about things going on...but partially it's because I'm pissed that I didn't get picked as editor for the school paper this semester (even though I wrote for it a lot)...and I just think it's good to have a paper not officially sanctioned by the school.I'm tired...and hoping I can get my ass out to Chicago tomorrow instead of sitting around and whining about wanting to go and not going.

posted at

memories of Waukegan police

Sunday, December 10, 2000

i was walking to this downtown association in my city to get some information for my project, and i'm being watched by this cop car. the cop is trailing me. i can feel his eyes on me as he drives by really slowly.

it's freezing out, and my shoes have holes, and i am walking in snow (i've staggered off the sidewalk now) and my toes are cold. so i pull my heavy brown coat that i hide behind even tighter against my skin.

then i realize he's probably going to think i have something on me.

i go to the store, get my info, and walk out. he's still there, sitting in his cop car. watching me.

i start to walk home, and about thirty seconds later, i hear a "hey you!"

"hey you!"

i turn around, with my short hair, with my thick coat, with my hemp shoes with the holes in them, trying to see who is yelling at me.

sure enough, it's that cop.

now he's waving me over, trying to get me to come over. well, it's a cop, i guess i have to go.

"can i ask you a question?" he finally says, after staring me down some more.
"um, yeah..."
"how old are you?"
"oh, really?? you look like you're about fifteen!! ha ha!! ha ha ha!!"
"eh heh."

i'm remembering all the verbal boundary-setting skills i learned and not feeling able to use any of them.
i'm wishing it wasn't a cop so i could tell him to fuck off. but he's got a gun and i've got an arrest record.
i'm remembering the articles i read in slingshot when i was in high school.
i want to ask him if he's detaining me.

instead i say,
"can i go?"

he says yeah and i have to make an effort to walk, instead of running.

posted at

Monday, November 12, 2007

just one more--Yael on Shakespeare

I think this was from my first year, too--I took Eileen's Shakespeare class for 2.5 credits.

I'm really glad, first off, that we get to actually perform this and run lines as opposed to just reading/studying + discussing it. Although the discussion certainly clears up a lot of things in terms of who said what, what it means and some of the historical details I don't always pick up on...there is something drastically different between reading a line to understand it and reading a line to act it out and put in your own interpretation.

Since Shakespeare is, indeed, dead*...we don't know exactly how he expected the characters to be and even if we did, the actors might have played it differently than he had written it.

*and they didn't have Camcorders back then

In any case, I think it's just so interesting to analyze the depth of a character by hearing and seeing different interpretations of it.

Midsummer Night's Dream is funny with its whole ethereal/dream-like/"it's all an illusion" bent. There are some very serious issues brought up but the contrast between those issues and the light-hearted tone of the faeries.

From watching scene 1.2 performed I learned a lot abt... there was a LOT of humor I missed. Quince's role took on new life because suddenly words like "a lover, who killed himself most gallant for love" took on new meaning.

Bottom's humor was also even MORE evident in his over-eagerness to play every part.

Natalie as Flute was very funny as well but I think that's because of the casting. :)

Snug and Quince's interaction brought on new meaning with the part "You may do it extempore b/c it is NOTHING BUT ROARING."

There wasn't a whole ton of humor that I could have picked on in Oberon and Titania's part. What I learned from it was just how dramatic the two really are, and not faerie-like, and powerful. Oberon's jealousy (and how he was not used to getting what he wanted) was apparent.

The part with Helena and Hermia I didn't learn too much from because I already analyzed it for English-Speaking-Union. What I did pick up on was...

(okay, I'm getting bored typing this so it must be more boring reading it so I will stop now)

my first year at Shimer--journal entries

I just found one of my old journals from Shimer and thought it'd be fun to post some excerpts. I had to xxxx out some names/events to protect the guilty. I left my typos, etc. intact. The () are added now.

August 29, 1998
Shimer is cooler than cool. It is also wacked. The ppl. are bold, imaginative, daring and somewhat crazy. After an annoying car trip - Eyal (my brother) ultimately stopping to help some womyn change their tires...when they were in a gas station and didn't need the help...meanwhile I'm running late and we left an hour later than I was supposed to - dad taking 1/2 hour to make some coffee, me waiting for mom who said the shower was hers at 7AM and I waited 'til 7:15 to ignore hr. We were supposed to leave @8, left @9.

Ran into the guy I thought was so cute...smoking a joint w/ a group of ppl. My "mentor" offered me some alcoholic beverage...I didn't think Shimer was a party school.

Met Brandi, finally...which was awes. The luncheon was great, wonderful food (vegetarian, too!) - a good speech by David Shiner on how nobody calls a textbook "great"-and cake. Met my roommate, who I really like. Walked outside on broken glass + got lost w/ her. Attempted to unpack. Met John + Rich, neo-beatniks, and Psyche and Luke. Got a CD from John, gave them (and Luke) stones, traipsed up and down the colorfully painted hallway... listened to Mom bitch in the car all day. Am having a blast and attempting to figure out... my confusion. I don't know how I feel abt. being here yet. The drugs and alcohol threw me off. I feel uncomfortable w/ them. I do indeed like the ppl. I've met so far though.

rt on North
left on Cory

the 30th?

This is the real thing. ppl here have children, are married, have arrest records. the plato (euthyphro) sem. class rocked...I'm still thrown off by the pot/alcohol use but... went to a picnic by the lake. later on we all swam naked in the beach. there's a guy here named XXXXX, intuition man, who is really, really, cool. XXXX, XXXXX, (censored), XXXX, XXXX...everyone is really cool. went grocery shopping, did more unpacking, had some fun.

he's bad to visualize to try to change the future. he said__ God, he said so many things so full of insight. really hit close to home. well i guess it's okay that luke is sleeping in my bunk with amy beside him my comforter on their lap. my blanket

and that i feel like a stranger in my own room + someone would do me the service of going in + telling them


September 8th
school is interesting. am learning and questioning more than i ever fathomed. it's scary that ppl. understand me and what i say to the pt. that they argue abt. it so much I just have to TOTALLY change it.

went w/ jason stahl to get a drum the other day but he didn't like it and charlie came and drove my car and almost killed us 3 times.

he was mad that i said if it was womyn in lord of the flies they would've just braided each other's hair. (he said) it was sexist + wrong of me to say that.

it was also a joke.

being + nothingness. we can confuse ourselves here. i like it, it's challenging. only a bit frustrating. i keep forgetting he has a hard time talking to people. that maybe he's as nervous as i am.

I can't believe I'm about to go to church with the Dean. That's so weird. This school is crazy. I hear he did a lot of acid and had affairs with students but that he is married now + it's all good.

Well I went + it was really great. His wife came too. We sat, said nothing for an hour except one womyn who spoke abt how we were united in the Spirit and in silence and not distracted by the outside world/noise and it was so beautiful. I couldn't get my mind to shut up but the silence really helped. Then they introduced the Sunday school kids who explained what they did that day (the oldest group talked abt. which word they'd never utter and about what it means to be gay, etc.) They listed off a lot of activist stuff they did. I just really like Quakers, they've done so much w/ gay rights, womyn suffragists, native people, conscientious objectors to war, underground railroad, etc.

It was cool reading this because just last Friday I was teaching my 8th graders about Quakers after we read a textbook story about Harriet Tubman...all these years later!!

I will look for more interesting excerpts...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mini Globe and President

Okay, I’ll fill you in on as many interesting happenings at Shimer that I can muster before I go to sleep…cool things going on at Shimer…well, my favorite “cool” thing is (literally) the miniature “Cool Globe” that Shimer students, faculty, and staff designed and created to increase global warming awareness. The following text is from the e-newsletter I sent out today…

“Shimer has been awarded one of 10-20 “Mini Cool Globes” in response to our submission of the artistic vision “Read the Earth: Great Books and Great Art Supporting Environmental Stewardship.” Shimer students, faculty, and staff have covered the oceans of this miniature globe with quotes about the environment from influential texts, including selections from Maria Montessori, Albert Einstein, Pindar, Darwin, Heraclitus, Lao Tze, Aristotle, and Alice Walker. The continents feature naturalistic images including those of Leonardo DaVinci, Carl Linnaeus, Maria Sibylla Merian, and the Cave of Lascaux.

Shimer’s mini-globe will be auctioned along with larger globes on October 5th at the Auditorium Theatre, at an event hosted by activist/comedian Al Franken. Tickets for the auction are $75.00 (you can also bid online – for general information about the auction, visit We would like a Shimer alum to win the globe at auction, so if you are interested in bidding, please contact either Stuart Patterson ( or Julia Mossbridge ( to receive a free ticket…first come, first serve, but serious bidders only, please!”

The next cool thing occurring to me is that, with a remarkably quick turnaround time, Shimer has named Ron Champagne the Interim President. He has worked closely with Shimer in his past role as Vice President of Development at Roosevelt University, and is President Emeritus at St. Xavier. He’s also a likeable, respectful, kind, responsible, well-read and intelligent guy, at least in my dealings with him so far. Here are some words from the e-newsletter on Ron…

“Shimer’s President Emeritus Don Moon tells us, ‘As President during the Roosevelt negotiations, I met with Ron and got to know him. More importantly, he got to know Shimer and its mission, which he and the then president of Roosevelt held in high regard. I have confidence that Ron Champagne will provide excellent leadership for the College during the coming year.’

Shimer’s Academic Dean David Shiner agrees, adding ‘The transition is being managed at the Board level by Chair Chris Nelson, the President of another Great Books college. Like Ron Champagne, he is a longtime friend of Shimer. Both Ron and Chris should be stable, positive forces at Shimer while we search for the next Shimer President during the coming year.’”

…Now I have to sleep…my kid is sick and I’m afraid I don’t feel altogether vibrantly healthy…more on the Marshall Field donation, The New Digs at 3424, Fall Lecture Series, etc. later. By the way, if you want this kind of news more regularly (albeit a bit more formally), please sign up for the e-newsletter at . I send one out around the 15th of every month, and there’s no way your email address will be traded/sold/packaged/mutilated/turned into an electronic widget of any kind, at least as far as I can control such things.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Overwhelmed with options...what would be interesting?

Hi Shimerians,

I'm physically new at Shimer, but philosophically old. My parents, aunts, uncles, step-parents, graduate advisor, and good friends all either attended Shimer or work here. I, on the other hand, went to Oberlin because my parents told me they feared Shimer would go bankrupt before I graduated.

Wrong, of course...and that's part of why I'm here. I want to become a full-time natural sciences professor/facilitator/teacher/whatever at Shimer, but there isn't enough money to pay for a new faculty hire. So I'm here as a marketing/PR consultant to get the word out about Shimer...and I'm here as an adjunct faculty member to get a sense of what it means to profess/facilitate/teach at Shimer.

Sara invited me to blog because, in my role as PR/marketing person, I have a sense of the goings-on here and I'd like alums to know about them. We've got an email newsletter and of course the Symposium paper thing...but a lot of folks don't read those. SO...I have a lot to share...some amazing cool stuff happening in this place that both is and isn't Shimer (I loved that post). I'm overwhelmed with ideas about what to share, so I'm taking you want to hear about Shimer's entry into the mini-cool globe project (, the guerrilla marketing effort underway this summer, plans to create a Crucible-like play with actual readings from the McCarthy era, the new Shimer viewbook, Marshall Field donation of Art Institute memberships to Shimer students, the IIT/Shimer academic cross-fertilization experiment...something else I'm forgetting to mention?

If so, post here or (better) send an email to me at j.mossbridge at

Groove on Shimerians of many eras...


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Interim Prez

I'm responding to Sara's question about the Interim President. At least that's what I'm trying to do; I've never been too good with machines. Anyway, the plan is for Ron C (the Interim President) to be around for about a year. We're planning to begin a search for a "permanent" President soon. The Presidential Search Committee consists of 1/2 Assembly members and 1/2 Board members. The Assembly will elect its members this Sunday, and the Board will elect theirs when it meets at Shimer next month. A search like this takes about 8 months (at least the last one did), so allowing for slop of various sorts we should have the new person in tow by next summer or thereabouts. Of course, this is Shimer, where things of this sort don't run on schedule all that often, so take this with several grains of salt.

In other news: how do you like my picture? Lots more gray hair, eh? The student with whom I'm speaking in the photo is Meg Nelson, whose mother was a Shimer student when I arrived all those years and two campuses ago. Time shows no mercy.

Best to all,
David Shiner

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

First Community Lunch - year two

We also thought you might like to see some pictures from the Community Lunch/Picnic last week. It was a great start to the semester.

COSMOS: Interim President Announcement

As members of this blog you've shown an interest in
Shimer College and its future in Chicago.
Many of you are still part of the COSMOS
mailing list but some are not.

We'd like to share with you some information which
was sent out to the entire internal community.

An official press release will be forthcoming in
the next day or so.
Thanks, as always, for your interest in the success
of the College in our new home.


Dear Shimer Community:

This e-mail brings exciting news regarding our College's
search for an interim President occasioned upon Bill Rice's
departure in mid-September. As you know the Board of
Trustees and representatives of Shimer Faculty and
Staff spent much of the past month interviewing and
evaluating prospective candidates. Our goal has been to
provide Shimer with the best possible leadership and
continuity of fund-raising efforts during the upcoming
Presidential search. The Board of Trustees joins with
our Faculty and Staff to thank the College community for
its characteristic good will and support for a decision
that needed to be made quickly. While our Assembly will not
meet for another week we trust that all members of the
community understand the power of their voice in College
affairs and will feel motivated to become involved in the
search for a permanent President.

John Meech of Shimer's Advancement Office will be responsible
for notifications to the press, alumni and our accrediting
bodies and will begin that task tomorrow morning. While the
following information is, therefore, not yet generally known
we wanted you of the Shimer Community to be the first to hear.
None of this is secret and you may certainly feel free to
share the news with your friends and family. Please refer
any request for official statements directly to John.

This Thursday, September 6, the Shimer community will
welcome Ronald O.Champagne as the next President of Shimer
College. Ron will serve as interim President while the Board
of Trustees and the Assembly undertake the presidential search

Ron is President Emeritus of Saint Xavier University in
Chicago where he served from 1982 to 1994. At Saint Xavier,
Ron led a ten year program of expansion that in 1992
culminated in the institution's transformation from a
college to a university. During his tenure Ron also
strengthened Saint Xavier's distinguished Board of Trustees
and implemented a three-year faculty compensation program that
yielded substantially increased faculty compensation.

Since departing Saint Xavier in 1994, Ron has held senior
development positions at two prominent Chicago institutions:
He was Senior Vice President for Development at the National
Alzheimer's Association, and Vice President for Development
at Roosevelt University. During his career at the Alzheimer's
Association, Ron's team raised $238 million, increasing yearly
receipts from $54 million to $66 million. At Roosevelt Ron
led a team of twenty-eight people who raised funds for two
campuses in Chicago and Schaumburg. Ron organized and led a
successful campaign to raise $6.5 million for the Roosevelt
University scholarship fund, personally securing major
scholarship gifts including a $2 million gift from the Pepsi
Corporation. In the 1990s Ron played a key role in negotiations between
Shimer College and Roosevelt University concerning
a possible affiliation.

Ron earned the Ph.D. from Fordham University, New York, in 1973 after
receiving his M.A. from Catholic University, Washington, D.C., and his B.A.
from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Ron has served as an Academic Dean at Salem College in Salem, West Virginia;
as a Professor of Mathematics at Saint Xavier University and Salem College;
and as a Professor of Philosophy of Science at Roosevelt University. In the
1970s Ron co-founded the Manhattanville Advanced Studies Program, a highly
innovative college-level program for 170 gifted junior and senior high
school students.

To quote Chris Nelson, President of St. John's College and Acting Chair of
the Shimer Board of Trustees, "Ron Champagne brings an extraordinary wealth
of experience to the position. He has known Shimer and its leadership for
nearly two decades. He has extensive presidential and fundraising
experience, and knows Chicago well, having made it his home for years. We
are incredibly fortunate to have a person of this caliber for our president,
while we undertake the process of searching for a permanent president. This
should be an energizing year for the college."

On the Road to Shimer

I didn't want to bump the prime news but I wanted to share. ~S

The day prior was spent on and in Lake Michigan on the Indiana side. This was followed by the typically early wake up and some more sleeping and laying about and then a brunch-ish breakfast. On the drive up to Chicago, returning to the fabulous Ms. Skimmel's, Sam turned and asked "do you have anything you want to do on the South Side?"

There are lots of questions that one might enjoy hearing asked about Chicago. "Want to go drinking?" "Want to go eat?" "Want to go shopping?" "Want to go to the lake?" "Want to go listen to some music?" "Want to hit Evanston?" "Want to drive LSD?" "Want to go to a Museum?" "Want to go to a game?" "Want to go to boys town?" "Want to hit Belmont?" "Want to go to the Parthenon?" "Want to hit the aquarium?" "Want to go to a midnight marathon of Kubrick movies at the Music Box?" These are all perfectly acceptable questions to ask someone when you are heading in or out of Chicago. Asking "Anything you want to do on the South Side?" is just one of those question that would make any salted Chicagoan give you the look that says "'Da fuck?"

I'm not saying that there aren't some interesting things on the South Side of Chicago. Hyde Park is on the South Side of Chicago and aside from the Seminary Co-op you have some fabulous places to eat. The Dixie Kitchen, for one and there is that Jamaican place that does the jerk food name of which escapes me. And Hyde Park is pretty. It's a very pretty little part of Chicago all tucked around the UIC. Of course, you don't really want to be caught on the south side in the ten block radius that surrounds Hyde Park, Hyde Park being an island of suburban decadence nestled in the dark underbelly of Chicago.

And while I should have just given the "Da fuck?" look. I instead, asked a question.

"Where are we, again?" I had not been paying attention.

"Stony Island, just past 95th."


There is thinking.

">We could go to Shimer."

There are many a time I have often dreamt of going to Shimer, but rarely would I have thought to utter a response to a question like "Anything you want to do on the south side?" with the answer "We could go to Shimer."

But I did.

And we did.

Sam drove and we looked for signs for the IIT campus where our school had relocated. No longer really our school, I felt. More The School, the Shimer of my dreams now being nothing more then a collection of random memories for buildings that are occupied by people I will never meet. My school is gone, replaced instead by The School which has been relocated to somewhere on the South Side of Chicago. And now in a rented car, with a big orange dog, I was traveling to visit The School and I was not really sure why.

Curiosity more than anything else, perhaps. A confirmation of my fears. A longing. A chance to see something that had been missed. The sense of belonging to something again, even if it wasn't really mine. Shimer. Shimer. I dream a dream of Shimer.

It took a few minutes and some searching but signs were located, a general direction established, and a parking lot was found. The car was parked and the boy, the dog, and the girl got out and crossed the street to head towards a neatly clipped and manicured lawn with a few sprawling trees on a hot summer day. This was Shimer.

My brain railed against it.

This was not Shimer.

And yet, this was Shimer.

We walked together to the front entrance only to find it closed, so we turned down some sidewalks and found a path leading around to the back of the building, where we saw a sign. Shimer College. The door was propped open with a wooden doorstop. And for some reason it screamed to me that this was perfectly Shimerian. We walked through the door, our little ménage a troupe and found that the first thing to catch our eye was a bookshelf. "Take a book." Being that we are in fact true to our calling we stopped and looked through every title on that shelf to find what that might appeal. I picked up a tome on Education and Capitalism and regretted having not brought a book with me to leave. We walked in and found at the front desk a very attractive young girl full of piercings and I found this very comforting. It settled my heart for some reason that there would be some girl working admissions who reminded me of all the pierced out lovelies of my own Shimer generation. She was an amalgamation of myself, and Caila, and Psyche, and Layla, and Natalie (a little of Jason Stahl, but in a feminine sort of way) and a dozen others I could name. She had that sense about her and I recognized it. A feeling, a subtle shift in attitude, an extenuation of grace: Shimerain.

We asked for catalogs but the new ones were not available. She said hello to us, to the dog. We asked if we could go up. "Visiting Alums. Just want to see."

"Sure, sure. There's an elevator around the corner."

"Can we take the dog? He's also an alum."

"I don't think it's a problem." So the three of us found the elevator around the corner and went up to the second floor were Shimer, all the buildings collapsed into a small space, is now housed. The doors opened on a library. And this was somehow comforting. My heart was beating fast; thrumming pounding. Because as strange as this place was, as new as I knew it to be, it was in some small way still a part of myself. And that part of me that is full of Shimer and that will never be able to let Shimer, the education, the people, go; that part of me was called by this place. And that part of me responded to it like a home, an old friend.

The floor was cool and dark, most of the lights were off. Some of the doors were opened but most were locked. We walked through silently. Not speaking, just taking it in. There was a lounge called Cinderella and in the lounge there was a painting I recognized. I used to set up coffee service under that painting. It hung in Prairie House lounge, the tree in a field of muted colors. I talked under that painting. I read Hobbes under that painting. I bumped into Ariella (the littlest Amazon) one night doing a mailing for no readily apparent reason under that painting. She talked to me about getting paper cuts on her tongue. I'd once attended a breakfast where Steve blasted Jonathan Rickman as he served. I'd sat in this very room on many an after-hours night alone playing piano to ease my heart; to make me feel alive. It was not surrounded by the place I remembered, but somehow it felt right. It was a piece of my past and it pulled this place together and made it Shimer.

A few doors were open to classrooms so we let ourselves in. The classrooms were named names that brought just as much to my mind as the paintings. There was Infinity classroom where I drank cognac with my Hum 2 class lead by Sklar while reading The Brother's K. Wolf and Mas got wasted during the class. In the end Wolf walked singing at the top of his lungs towards the train to make sure Mas got on to Chicago where he needed to be.

There was Pi (or was it radical 2), you know the room at the top of the stairs on the right. Where the sound system was, a room where I had discussions with Nancy Rose and where David Shiner got so pissed after a day of silence while discussing the Iliad in IS 5 that he actually walked out on us. I can't really blame him for that as the class was truly abysmal that day. I blame the grayness of winter and the fact that at least seven out of twelve people had not done the reading. I do admit though that at the end of the course I found the Iliad was by far a much more engaging read then the Odyssey and have become quite enamored with it.

I was looking into rooms that were not the classrooms I attended, not the rooms with the high vaulted ceilings, the explosive halogen lamps burning last years dead mosquitoes; rooms thick with ancient smoke that no manner of non-smoking policy would ever remove; rooms with memories of a dozen other Shimerians before me who could argue that this place was there's; it wasn't 438, it wasn't Hutchins, but it was somehow still Shimer and it still felt like home. The octagonal tables finished where the paintings left off and I stroked the side of one and thought of some names and smiled to think these tables were still here.

It wasn't my Shimer.

There was no Shimer-Henge. There was no quad. There were no crappy pea gravel paths to cut a swath through the middle and connect buildings. There would be no trudging through the snow to make classes from one place to another. There was no gym basement to play pool in. There was no coffee shop to move from building to building to building. But there was a Young Chang piano that I had played till my fingers bled. There were pictures I remember staring at when my attention wavered after a night of too much reading and too little sleep. There were names that were familiar. There was Shimer. And it is Shimer. We walked through quiet, almost reverent, alone and opening doors and peaking in to see what we could see. A thousand ghosts and memories in every corner of this building that I had never been in before; all of it telling me that this was still Shimer.

It is still Shimer.

Of all the people who were angry about the move, and of the most stubborn, I did not think I could find anything redeeming in this place. So I made a pilgrimage to The School to be angry and to fuel my distaste and my rage. And it didn't happen.

It's not the same. I won't try to argue that it is. It's merely Shimer. Seeing it there whole and intact stole all my hatred from me. It's still Shimer.

The boy, the dog, and I walked down the stairs to find the Nubian pierced goddess of Admissions who was working on a Saturday. We asked for bookmarks and she gave us a stack; bookmarks to be used to promote Shimer, to keep it alive, to put new people and new memories into this new building. I want to keep it alive for the most selfish reason of all, because knowing it is there in some incarnation is easier then letting it go.

The journey the rest of the way north was spent silent for a while. Both of us lost in thoughts of our own Shimer, a little world that had been created there. Then came Skimmel's and coffee and the discussion of what we can do. "Anything you want to do on the South Side?" Yeah, yeah, there is.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Repost: Rice is waving Adieu

This is a repost from the Chicago Reader article of today.

So Long, Shimer

President William Craig Rice engineered Shimer College’s controversial move to the IIT campus, but he’s not hanging around to see how it works out.

August 31, 2007

When I talked with Shimer College president William Craig Rice earlier this summer about how the venerable little school was doing after its first year as a tenant on the IIT campus, he said he was looking forward to the fall of 2008. Last August, at Rice’s urging, Shimer made a controversial move from its cozy cluster of vintage buildings (all but one homes) in Waukegan to the stern Miesian campus on the south side. It’s now a radical pocket tucked into the larger school—its beloved campus traded for the second floor and a main-floor entry at 3424 S. State, in one of IIT’s beige bunkers. Shimer, where students read and talk their way through a Great Books curriculum, made the move in an effort to goose enrollment, which Rice says has been stuck at about 100 for the last 15 years or so.

But instead of bumping up last year the Shimer student body dropped 25 percent. And things weren’t looking any better for this year: Shimer—which accepts serious students without a high school diploma and charges about $22,000 for tuition—had signed up a grand total of 75 undergraduates. Rice said this small number must be transitional and pushed the date for the expected growth spurt ahead to the 2008-’09 school year. Then, last week, just before the start of the fall term, he announced that he’ll be splitting in September to take a job with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

That news left the Shimer board, which he’d clued in two weeks earlier, scrambling for a replacement. According to academic dean David Shiner, no one at the school is positioned to step in. “We don’t have any vice presidents, and this close to the start of the term our [teaching and administrative] lineup’s set.” Shiner says the board wanted a quick fix—an interim president who could fill the gap for a year while a more leisurely search for a permanent hire could be conducted. They turned to the Registry for College and University Presidents for help, which has a roster of mostly retired university executives. (At press time, negotiations were under way.)

But a mere placeholder president could be dangerous at such a delicate juncture. And Shimer’s such an odd duck that it’s unlikely the Registry’s candidates would have had experience anyplace comparable. Shimer’s history, recounted in a 1988 Reader story by Harold Henderson, goes like this: Founded in 1853 as the Mount Carroll Seminary, it was purchased two years later by its head, Frances Wood. It changed to a women’s school in 1866, then 30 years later became the Frances Wood Shimer Academy of the University of Chicago—a traditional prep school and junior college for women, under the supervision of the U. of C. The biggest change came in 1950, when it was transformed into a true U. of C. outpost: a four-year coed college devoted to Robert Maynard Hutchins’s Great Books curriculum. The formal U. of C. connection was dropped just eight years later, but Shimer hung on to both the Great Books curriculum and an enhanced academic reputation. By the mid-1960s, with enrollment at more than 500, the school had taken on debt to expand its physical plant. Then—at the school’s apex—the faculty went to war with one another over issues too obscure to recall even 20 years later, when Henderson wrote. Enrollment began a long decline, and by the late 70s Shimer was bankrupt. In 1979 the Mount Carroll buildings were sold, and the small remaining faculty moved the school to Waukegan.

Money’s always been scarce. Henderson recounts how Wood allegedly handled a sizable school debt back in 1857: she married the creditor, Henry Shimer. Over the years the employees have made numerous sacrifices to keep the place going. For two decades, beginning at the time of the bankruptcy, the school had a single salary policy whereby the janitor—if there’d been one—would have been paid as much as the president. That policy began to erode when they brought in a CFO in 2001, but even today new teachers, no matter what their experience, start at the same salary, and almost all of the dozen faculty members also perform administrative functions. Professors also jump the usual boundaries to teach across the core curriculum of humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The physical anchors for the program are the specially designed octagonal tables that were moved from Waukegan, where students in classes of no more than 12 gather to consider the primary documents of Western civilization starting with Plato. Shimer claims that by having students engage directly with the sources rather than predigested textbooks, it teaches not what to think but how to think.

It’s not surprising, then, that when Rice proposed the move a couple years ago, students and former students thought deeply about it. On a Shimer blog they debated whether the school would be able to keep its identity and sense of community when students were no longer living together on their own turf. They worried at length about what it would be like to be tenants on a big campus that some perceived as alien—cold and technocratic, in a possibly dangerous neighborhood. Shimer grad Sarah Kimmel, a corporate training consultant, says the worst fears haven’t materialized: “The community seems to be retaining its identity,” and “many of the people who had doubts are now hopeful” about the school’s future. She adds, however, that Rice’s departure is an unexpected disappointment: “We thought his commitment to the school was greater than that.” Rice was hired in 2004; previous president Don Moon, who’s still on the faculty, served 26 years.

Rice says he wasn’t “out looking for a job” when the NEH offered one he couldn’t refuse: he’ll be heading up its education division, overseeing grants to schools, colleges, and universities. (He says he’d have to recuse himself in regard to Shimer, but others surmise his new gig can’t be bad for the school.) All but one of the dozen Waukegan buildings have been sold (for a total of about $2 million); when the last one goes, the school will be free of long-term debt. Meanwhile, though a planned all-years reunion this month was canceled largely because of a disappointing response, fund-raising is booming, relatively speaking.

Rice says Shimer raised $1.2 million last year—a 400 percent increase over the average of the three preceding years. (According to other sources, the boost in donations was imperative because it’s more expensive to operate at IIT than it was in Waukegan.) The current budget is about $2.75 million. Rice says the move has also given Shimer a leg up on recruiting: its students now get access to IIT’s facilities and services and the option of registering for IIT classes, making it “the best of both” a Great Books school and a great technical institution. Even if they’re not yet storming the place, he says inquiries from prospective students have jumped. A Shimer spokesman says the school got an average of 500 inquiries a year in Waukegan, and has gotten about 2,000 already for 2008-’09. Rice is convinced that “the move is being vindicated.” He just won’t be around when the real evidence comes in.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hold that Sale

Marc or anyone from Shimer who might be subscribing to this blog, will it be possible to get a sale extension for Alums who need to travel transcontinental to shop at the sale?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Book sale

If you don't care to click, Shimer is selling off either a third or two-thirds of its library, including the stuff that has not seen the light of day in ages. The sale will be held on the 19th through the 21st, one to four, most books being a dollar. I am going during office hours, in case you wish to avoid running into me, and I wish I could figure out how one can be considered a "community member" and get invited to the pre-sale!

Take care, all.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Why is this happening?

I simply don't understand. If any of the college attache's are reading could you please explain why they are selling of a large chunk of the library?


Winter Book Sale
Shimer College is planning a major winter book sale from January 19-21, 2007 on its former Waukegan campus. The College is looking to sell 10,000 volumes from its 30,000 book collection at the three day event which is open to the public.

Hours are 10-4 each day. The sale will be held in the former Shimer Gym located between Genesee St. and Sheridan Road, just south of Cory in downtown Waukegan.

Shimer will be moving its remaining 20,000 books to Chicago in February. About 5,000 books will be housed at the College and 15,000 books will move into the Galvin Library at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Shimer Library Director Colleen McCarroll says books which have been part of the College’s collection since its founding in 1853, will be for sale. Most books will be offered for sale at $1 per volume for hard covers and 25-cents for paperbacks.

A special pre-sale event will be held on January 18th from 10 - 4 for librarians and members of the Shimer community."