Thursday, November 19, 2009

An attempt to Summarize Recent Events at Shimer

An attempt to Summarize Recent Events at Shimer

I'm trying to quote people where appropriate, and I may not have all of the information, so do feel free to post comments or corrections for any or all of this information.

As was previously stated by Denise Lane, part of the current issue is:

"Tom Lindsay wants to remake the college and his tactics frighten me."

The frightening tactics are essentially firings and hirings without considering input from the Administrative Committee.

Lack of interest in participating in active dialogue regarding things happen at Shimer.

Proposed changes to the Mission statement (Shimer Mission Statements Past and Present) to move away from active participation and informed decisions and towards something that is not really clear (proposed Mission statement).

Disinterest or unwillingness to participate in the Assembly, or a clear disregard for self-governance in any form at Shimer.

Much of what has happened prior to Nov. 15 was in some way agreed upon by the board in slim majorities. A small group of board members are also interpreting the by-laws in such a way that the Assembly is either obsolete or unimportant to the future of Shimer. (Letters from the Board)

Students and faculty have organized. In the instant of the firing of the former admission's director the faculty formally protested.

"To make matters worse, the President declined to subsequently explain his action, pleading liability exposure. The Faculty formally protested, but the reaction of the Board to the Faculty's protest I think can be objectively described as a dismissal." -Albert Fernandez

Further there are troubling movements on the Shimer board, being described as a crisis.

"Which leads me to the second large feature of the current crisis at Shimer. There is now an undetermined number of new Trustees on the Board who know little about Shimer and who look upon shared governance as an impediment to efficient, corporate management..." -Albert Fernandez

To address the immediate concerns about the Shimer Mission and the Role of the Assembly the Nov. 15, 2009 Assembly had three motions in favor of the current mission statement and to strength both the mission of the college and the role of the Assembly. The Assembly was attended by students, faculty, staff, and Alumni of the school. Some board members were in attendance. Mr. Lindsey sent his regrets but chose not to attend and submitted no remarks to be read to the assembly. There were other board members who were not in attendance. Several did submit letters to the assembly. (Letters from the board will be provided in a separate post.)

The results of the assembly were the passage of the following resolutions: (Thanks to Eric Badger)


I.Resolution addressed to the Board of Trustees: The Assembly of Shimer College: Welcomes and accepts the invitation of the Chair of the Board to dialogue with the Board of Trustees regarding the governance of the College, Thanks all the members of the Board of Trustees for their ongoing service to Shimer College, and looks forward to working collaboratively with them, and Urges the Trustees and the President to respect the moral authority of the Faculty and of the Assembly, as the embodiment of the College’s democratic ethos.

II. The Assembly of Shimer College adopts the following declaration: DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES OF SHARED GOVERNANCE AT SHIMER COLLEGE

III. Be it known that shared governance at Shimer College, and the authority and powers of the Assembly in particular, are based, first, on the history of the College... on ideas and values central to liberal education, to academic freedom, and to our curriculum; on innumerable precedents and public statements over the course of the last four decades; and, further, on the following specific constitutional and other official documents. (Full Resolutions passed)

In all, it's been an amazingly busy week at Shimer. Reports are that the Faculty and Students are demoralized by what is going on. The largest problem with this is that a student body that is miserably unhappy is not one that is going to bring in new students, or have any interest in the continuation of Shimer College. Long term these events could be seriously damning.

From Alumni, some students, and with some support, some of the following actions have been proposed or considered:

Raising money to provide a new board member to Shimer from the recent Alumni group (Waukegan Alums in particular)

Discontinuing all donations until Lindsey has been replaced.

Collecting a donation pool that is held until Lindsey has been removed.

A petition for those interested in providing legal representation for the Assembly (should it come down to a real fight between President, small majority of the board, and the assembly).

So that is a quick overview of what is happening. More on what we can do, how we can participate, and actions to be taken will hopefully be coming.

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