Monday, November 22, 2010

Barre Seid updates

Anyone with a lingering interest in Barre Seid's shenanigans will want to check out these articles regarding his funding of distribution of the anti-Muslim Obsession DVD in 2008.
1. The breakthrough article by Justin Elliott on
2. Expert dissection by Richard Silverstein of the lies and dissemblings involved
3. Little bit o' Shimer-focused analysis by yours truly

Personally, what really ticks me off about this is how little Seid was willing to put into Shimer by comparison. Apparently education comes a distant second to wingnut demagoguery for him.

But then, given the people he chose to be his stooges on the Board of Trustees, I suppose that shouldn't come as a great surprise.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shimer is hiring

Shimer alums tend to run in fairly erudite circles. Which means that if you're a Shimer alum, there's a good chance that you know some brilliant, thoughtful, well-read, under-appreciated Ph.D.'d person who would be a fantastic Shimer facilitator.


Shimer College, the Great Books College of Chicago, is seeking to fill fulltime faculty positions beginning in August 2011.

Shimer’s academic program features an interdisciplinary core curriculum consisting of courses in the Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. Classes average ten students and are conducted in a seminar format. Shimer faculty members are generalists who are expected to teach in more than one area of the curriculum. The faculty participates extensively in the life of the College outside of the classroom. Shimer is very small (currently 120 students) but growing: enrollment has risen by 65% over the past three years and is expected to continue to increase over the next few years.

Applicants will be considered in any area of the liberal arts.

The announcement is also posted on the Chronicle website.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Academic Affairs Address by David Shiner, Dean of the College

Academic Affairs Address

November 14, 2010

The Constitution of the Shimer College Assembly mandates that the Dean of the College is to deliver a State of Academic Affairs Address to the Assembly at this time each year. This address offers an opportunity for the Dean to reflect on, and for members of the Shimer community to learn about, aspects of the academic life of the College that don’t impact most of us on a day-to-day basis, and about which some of us might not even be aware. In preparing this address, one of the challenges is to try to speak about matters in a way that’s equally informative for those who have been at Shimer for three months and those who have been here for thirty years. I hope to strike that balance in my remarks this afternoon.

I’d like to begin by discussing course offerings. Last month the Academic Planning Committee of the Assembly, or APC, asked all Shimer students to indicate their interest in a wide range of proposed elective courses by means of an online survey. That survey provided the basis for the committee’s decisions about which electives to offer. The 7 non-core courses we will be hosting in the Weekday Program next term are the most in any semester since our move to Chicago in 2006. That’s especially impressive given that this is an “Oxford year,” meaning that a number of students who need electives are taking them in Oxford, England, under the auspices of the Shimer-in-Oxford Program. Granted, 7 courses is not very many, but it’s the direct consequence of two regrettable but undeniable facts – one, we don’t have all that many students; and two, we don’t have all that many faculty members. The fact that the number of electives has been increasing is the result of the recent increase in the size of the student body. I’ll have more to say about both that increase and the elective situation later on in this address.

First, though, I’d like to focus on an important event that will take place fairly soon. Visitors representing Shimer’s accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, will be visiting us a year from now – in fact, a year to this very day. That might well be the single most important event that will take place at Shimer in 2011, so it’s well worth taking some time to reflect on it this afternoon.

Before discussing what accreditation entails, I’d like to briefly explain what it is. Accreditation is a process by which an external organization evaluates the services and operations of an institution to determine if applicable standards in various areas of concern are being met. In most countries the accreditation process for academic institutions is overseen by a government agency; here in the US it’s handled by private membership organizations such as the aforementioned North Central Association. A key step in the accreditation process takes place when the accrediting agency sends visitors – in our case, mostly faculty and staff members from other small colleges – to inspect the school’s academic program, its enrollment, its finances, its mission, and its processes of internal assessment. Before they do all this, we must do it ourselves. That is, we are required to undertake a self-study that critically examines Shimer. This self-study results in the composition of a detailed narrative that we present to our accrediting guests. They in turn decide, in part, whether that narrative tells the truth about Shimer, and to what extent it meets the standards to which the accrediting agency is expected to hold us.

As everyone here knows, many of the most important aspects of the Shimer story are unequivocally positive. The PhD rate of Shimer graduates is among the top 1% in the entire country, as it has been for many years. That achievement is particularly noteworthy given that all the other top schools have stricter admission criteria than we do. In addition, an increasing number of our graduates are attending, and excelling in, law school, a statistic that is not reflected in the PhD rate. The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, scores of Shimerians are well above national averages in most categories. In short, Shimer graduates achieve the sorts of results in testing, and in graduate and law schools, that indicate academic success by conventional standards. Furthermore, it takes very little investigation to discover why this is the case. One need only attend our classes to realize that the level of intellectual activity at Shimer is clearly and significantly higher than in the vast majority of classes in most other colleges and universities. Past accreditation visitors have visited those classes, and have been unanimous in their praise of both our academic program and the achievements of our graduates.

If that were the whole story concerning our preparation for the accreditation visit, I’d stop talking about it right now. But merely having a great academic program, laudable though that is, does not ensure soundness of operations or solid prospects for sustainability. On those fronts, much remains to be done over the next year, and that work will be a college-wide endeavor. Since this address is intended to emphasize matters concerning the academic life here at Shimer, I would like here to focus on the portions of that endeavor that directly involve the faculty.

Many of you are aware that the faculty is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of the entire core curriculum. That’s vitally important, since the core is the foundation of our academic program. Our review involves extensive research and many meetings during which the faculty prepares for decisions concerning what to keep and what to change, based on its expertise and experience at Shimer. It’s a lot of work, but it’s work that must be done, both for the affirmation and renewal of the curriculum itself and for the message it sends to accreditors concerning our ongoing attention to, and concern on behalf of, the academic program.

In addition, other types of assessment are increasingly becoming regarded as vital components of any school’s case for accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission doesn’t only want to know that Shimer has an outstanding academic program; they also want to be assured that our processes are such that that program can be expected to continue to achieve excellent results for the foreseeable future. This means that the faculty needs to qualify and quantify its assessment procedures now as never before. That involves additional work of various sorts. For example, multiple faculty members have been assessing every writing diagnostic taken by every entering Weekday Program student for the past four years according to eight separate categories, after which those evaluations are compared with the similarly detailed assessments of student writing later in those same students’ tenure at Shimer. The faculty will be reviewing all that data in an attempt to reach valid conclusions concerning the overall quality of student writing, the improvement of students at various stages of the academic program, the level of similarity or dissimilarity of assessment of student writing by each individual faculty member, and a number of other factors. That task is daunting, but it must be completed in the next eight months or so, before our self-study is due to be sent to the accreditors.

All of this is undertaken in what might euphemistically be called the faculty’s “copious spare time.” The Shimer faculty is far from underworked. In fact, the faculty teaches more each year on a credit basis than our counterparts at any other college or university I know. That teaching does not include tutorials, which make the overall teaching load even greater. And that leads us back to the issue of electives.

It’s no secret that many Shimer students cherish tutorials. And well they should. Tutorials – that is, elective courses of three or fewer students that normally meet once a week – are a wonderful learning opportunity for students. Nevertheless, as I have already announced, we will be offering few if any tutorials next semester. The reasons for that are regrettable but undeniable. Even when we are not undertaking a self-study, a core curriculum review, and additional assessment of student writing, we are in no position to offer more than a handful of tutorials in any given semester. We strive to strike a balance between student aspirations and desires and faculty expertise and availability, all within the context of the overall state of the College at any given time. This semester every fulltime faculty member without exception is hosting a tutorial. That’s unprecedented; it has never before occurred in the entire 25 years since tutorials were introduced at Shimer. Given all that the faculty has to accomplish over the next few months for the benefit of future Shimerians, particularly with respect to preparing for the accreditation visit, we simply do not have the luxury to do that, or anything remotely like it, next term.

None of this should be taken to imply that I’m unappreciative of tutorials, which can be a great opportunity for faculty members as well as for students. I’ve been happily reminded of that this semester, in the weekly sessions in which Erik Boneff, Kieran Kelley, and I pore over and attempt to puzzle out the complex writings of Gregory Bateson. All of my faculty colleagues have similar tales to tell. But the general well-being of the College entails our offering tutorials more judiciously, particularly next semester. I therefore encourage students who need electives to consider enrolling in the excellent ones that we will be offering, and also to consider courses at IIT and, for those interested in music and art, VanderCook College of Music and Harold Washington College respectively.

Of course, the hiring of additional faculty members will make more elective and tutorial opportunities possible in the future. Concerning that point, I’m pleased to announce that the APC has undertaken a search for new faculty members for next year. This is most welcome. We need new blood on the faculty, and we especially need young new blood on the faculty. We are, of course, looking for skilled seminar leaders – “facilitators,” as some Shimerians like to call them – who are well grounded in the Great Books. Finding them will be one of the keys in helping to secure Shimer’s academic future.

The APC would like to be able to hire at least two new faculty members for next year. Whether we will be in a position to do that is largely dependent on two factors: the departure of current faculty members, and an increase in student enrollment. The former is sadly but inevitably occurring, as our longtime faculty stalwarts begin to retire. As far as higher student enrollment is concerned, I’m optimistic. Shimer’s enrollment has already been rising at an impressive rate, an increase averaging 18% over the past three years, and the report that Amy Pritts sent the Assembly a couple of days ago indicates that that upward trend is likely to continue in the coming year.

Still, not all the enrollment news is favorable. In particular, I have expressed varying levels of concern about the Weekend Program in each of my State of Academic Affairs addresses over the past four years. I remain concerned about that program, in fact more concerned now than a year ago. For nearly two decades, the Weekend Program accounted for about one-third of Shimer’s total student enrollment, a proportion reflected in the fact that several Assembly committees and the Board of Trustees include designated positions for two Weekday students and one Weekend student each. This semester, Weekenders represent significantly less than 20% of the student body. As things stand, only a dozen current Weekend students are candidates to still be enrolled at Shimer a year from now. We will certainly enroll new Weekend Program students by then, but we will also inevitably lose some of those who are enrolled now, aside from those who are expected to graduate this coming May. This is a serious issue. I say this not to denigrate the quality of the Weekend Program or to make light of my care for the students it serves, nor to imply that there is any danger that the program will be terminated in the immediate future. But it’s important, although sobering, to realize that the Weekend Program is probably not sustainable indefinitely at current enrollment levels, and that our sincere attempts to increase Weekend enrollment in recent years have not borne sufficient fruit.

Let’s now turn from the cautionary to the encouraging. Aside from overseeing the academic program, a Dean at Shimer tries to provide some measure of connection between past and present; and hopefully between past, present, and future. Last year I had the opportunity to meet with Professor John Hirschfield, a well-respected and much-loved faculty member of half a century ago, when the Great Books Program was in its infancy at Shimer. John taught here for only ten years, but he regards them as the most educationally fulfilling years of his long and successful teaching career. As we lunched together he told me that, in his view, Shimer’s educational system was successful because classes were small, the faculty was gifted and committed, and students sat around tables discussing original texts and important ideas with genuine interest and intelligence. I assured him that that’s still the case at Shimer today.

And there’s lots of evidence to back that up. Early last month, for example, I sent an email to Weekday students asking for volunteers to participate in a seminar on Plato’s Crito for the purpose of showing interested members of the Board of Trustees what Shimer discussion classes are like these days. That seminar took place at the end of a long week, at a time when two other classes were meeting. Nevertheless, ten students signed up, attended, and participated. There was no particular incentive for them to do that – no academic credit, no free stuff from the Bookstore, nothing but the joy of learning together. The discussion went well, and the Board members who attended were suitably impressed. One of them, a distinguished professor at a noted East Coast university, subsequently sent me a highly complimentary note in which he stated that the seminar compared favorably with the classes in which he participated as a Shimer student back in the 1960s – some of them under the tutelage of John Hirschfield. In my response, I wrote simply, “That’s Shimer.”

And so it is. For most of the intellectual work we do here, there are tangible payoffs: grades, diplomas, and the like. And yet, it’s striking that we do what we do primarily for the love of learning. If that wasn’t true, each student here would have chosen to attend a college that’s less expensive, or more career oriented, or just plain easier. But you didn’t. That’s to your credit, and to Shimer’s.

The academic life here at Shimer is shared by all of us, but the Dean of the College has special responsibilities and reaps special rewards. I have now served in that position on three separate occasions, each of them lasting 4-5 years. My first stint as Dean ended in 1991. The second came to a close in 2001 – 10 years after the first. It therefore seems appropriate that this one will end in 2011 – that is, at the conclusion of the current academic year. That will involve a transition for Shimer, but it’s unlikely to be a major one. I’m well aware that most of you who are attending today’s Assembly meeting have never known Shimer when I wasn’t the Dean, and it might seem to you as though I have the position by divine right. If so, you can rest assured that that’s far from the case, and that Shimer functions perfectly well when someone else serves in that role.

The Deanship at Shimer is, and should be, shared among qualified and interested members of the senior faculty. A subcommittee of the APC has begun the process of discerning who will inherit that role next year, and their recommendations will be taken up by the faculty a few months from now. All Shimerians will be informed of the results of that process once it is known. You’ll also be invited to become involved in various aspects of the self-study process for accreditation, as well as in assessing prospective future members of the Shimer faculty who will be interviewing with us here next semester. That’s always an exciting process for all of us, as those who have participated in such interviews in the past will attest. For now, I close my final State of Academic Affairs Address by thanking you for your kind attention, and for affording me the privilege of serving you as Dean of Shimer College.

David Shiner

Links added; text otherwise unaltered. -- Ed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lawsuit settled &c.

Update: You can find a fuller explanation of the terms of the settlement on the Shimer Alumni Alliance blog.

According to an announcement made by Interim President Ed Noonan at the close of the Shimer College Assembly on Sunday, the Lindsay v. Shimer lawsuit has been settled by circulation of signatures among the parties. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but the terms of the settlement are said to include permanent bans on either Thomas Lindsay or Patrick Parker ever again holding office at Shimer College.

So much for the past.

Looking to the future, in his State of Academic Affairs address, Dean David Shiner mentioned that the next NCA visit will occur in 364 days. The faculty are working overtime (even more thean usual) to make sure that all aspects of Shimer academics, including assessment procedures, are in shape to once again pass muster with the accreditors. Of course, academics are only one part of the accreditation process, and are generally the part that Shimer passes with flying colors. More critical is that Shimer be on a demonstrably sound and sustainable footing, financially and administratively.

If, like some alumni, you have held off on making a recurring donation to Shimer because of the lingering uncertainty caused by the frivolous Lindsay-Parker lawsuit ... it's probably about time to make that donation, for whatever amount you can afford. Shimer has definitively turned the page on the ugly but mercifully brief Lindsay period, and is in as great need as ever of the support of its friends as it moves into the new era.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Agenda for Shimer College Assembly of 11/14

The Shimer College Assembly, the self-governing body of Shimer College, will assemble on Sunday, November 14, 2010, at 4 PM in the Cinderella Lounge at Shimer. Alumni are non-voting members of the Assembly, and are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

The Assembly will be webcast, in part for the benefit of students in the Oxford program. It will also be livetweeted, commencing at @shimerians and continuing to @samuelhenderson if necessary.

Agenda for the Meeting of the Shimer College Assembly
November 14, 2010 – 4 PM

1) Approval of the Minutes of the Meeting of September 12, 2010 (prepared by Colleen McCarroll)

2) Committee Report Updates and Questions

3) State of Academic Affairs Address (David Shiner)

4) Elections to Assembly Committees
a. Financial Aid Policy ‐ 3 staff members (at least 2 from the faculty), 2 Weekday students, 1 Weekend student (tenure 11‐15‐10 until late Fall 2011)
b. Quality of Life Committee ‐ 1 Assembly member (tenure 11‐15‐10 until early Fall 2011)
c. Academic Planning Committee ‐ 1 Weekday student (tenure 1‐1‐11 until August 2011)

5) Proposal for an addition to the section on “Powers of the Assembly” in the Constitution of the Assembly
(proposed and motivated by Jonathan Timm):
Election of members to any Assembly committee, as well as of representatives to the Board of Trustees, may occur online. Voting on all other matters will only occur in person at Assembly or committee meetings. Members of the Assembly who are not physically present at an Assembly meeting may only vote remotely if they are participating in a remotely located, official Shimer College program.

6) Proposal for an amendment to the “Preamble” to the Constitution of the Assembly (proposed and motivated by Eileen Buchanan and Albert Fernandez):
Current Language:
The Assembly recognizes the Board of Trustees as the ultimate legal authority of the College. Should there arise a conflict between any section of the Assembly Constitution and the By-laws of the Board of Trustees, the By-laws will take precedence.
The Assembly recognizes the President as the chief executive administrator of the College.
The Assembly recognizes that the College Faculty is authorized to maintain, develop and revise the instructional program of the College. This authorization includes responsibility for curriculum content, degree requirements, recommendation of graduates, college examinations, and academic lectures and convocations.
Proposed Language:
The Assembly recognizes the Board of Trustees as the legal authority of the College.
The Assembly recognizes the President as the chief executive administrator of the College.
The Assembly recognizes the College Faculty as the academic authority of the College.
The Faculty maintains, develops, and revises the instructional program of the College. Its authority includes responsibility for curriculum content, degree requirements, recommendation of graduates, College examinations, and academic lectures and convocations.

7) Announcements

8) Adjournment

[Original PDF of Assembly Agenda]

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Montaigne scholarship now open

If you know any prospective or potential Shimerians, make sure they know about this opportunity: Shimer's Montaigne scholarship competition for 2011 is now accepting applications. The Montaigne is an essay and discussion scholarship; one full tuition and two half tuition scholarships are provided.

You can read an interview with Naomi Neal, a previous winner of this scholarship competition, on the Shimer blog. Here is an account of the scholarship weekend last February, and a spectator and participant's account of the Montaigne competition by Adrian Nelson.

The contest is open to all prospective Shimer students, including those who wish to attend Shimer's early entrance program, its Weekend College program, or its BA to JD prelaw program.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

October's Over

The end of a month seems like a good time for another roundup post. Here's what's been going on in the past month, as far as your humble narrator is aware. (Previous summary here.)

The past month
- Top news: Seven members of Lindsay's wrecking crew left the Board of Trustees, conveniently matching the number of new alum members who joined in late September. The pro-Shimer majority is, thus, now quite solid.
- Shimer Days were held with great success.

A good number of Shimer faculty have been heard from, in print and on the blogs:
- Eileen Buchanan and Jim Donovan were published in Substance, Judgment and Education, a volume of papers from the Association for Core Texts conference in 2006. Both papers deal with Shimer's curricular development in response to the "Great Books, Great Art" NEH grant which ran from 2005 to 2007. Eileen's paper is titled "Michelangelo and the Copernican Revolution," although it begins "in reality, this paper is about neither Michelangelo nor the Copernican Revolution." Jim's paper is on "Teaching Scientists to See: A Possible Bridge Between C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures."

- Dave Shiner was quoted in a Pope Center article on whether tenure is necessary.
- Dave also talked with legendary Shimer professor John Hirschfield.
- Stuart Patterson checked in from Shimer-in-Oxford.
- Steven Werlin posted two articles about his work with Haitian microfinance agency Fonkoze: "Walking with Elie" and "Scaling Up".

Other blogospheric happenings:
- Mohini Lal shared her story as an early entrant.
- Noah Lebien shared his story as a transfer student.
- Shimer-in-Oxford student Adrian Nelson reported on Oxford academics and other matters:

- Shimer-at-Shimer student Michael Doherty interpreted Jean-Paul Sartre on stress management:

NB: No new materials have been added to the public case file for Lindsay v. Shimer College since early September. The case appears to be in a holding pattern.

Next month
- Eugene Baldwin, "Made in Illinois: Archaeology of the First Americans", November 5, 7 PM in Cinderella Lounge at Shimer (3424 S State)
- Orange Horse: November 13, 7 PM in Cinderella Lounge
- Life After Shimer Reading Group: The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper, November 14, 11 AM at the home of Jack Sigel in Evanston
- Assembly: November 14, 4 PM in Cinderella Lounge
- Buffy Ellsworth, "Of Men, Mice and Foxes", November 19, 7 PM in Cinderella Lounge

In closing
Two things come to mind:
1. Dang, there's a lot going on at Shimer.
2. It's always a good day to donate to Shimer.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thought for the day

Isn't it odd that Chicago Public Media, an organization with a notorious contempt for its listeners' opinions, has a much greater commitment to transparency than our beloved, participatory Shimer College?

2. Open Meetings. All meetings of the Board of Directors and Council and their committees shall be open meetings preceded by reasonable notice to the public at least one week in advance, except in the event of an emergency. In the event that the bylaws of the Board of Directors or Council permit such meeting held telephonically or other alternative format, the public shall be mean an ability to listen or observe.

3. Reasonable Notice. CPM shall post a notice on its website of any applicable meetings and make on-air announcements on at least three consecutive days once each calendar quarter explaining this policy and providing information about how the public can obtain information regarding specific dates, times and locations.

4. Closed Sessions. CPM may hold closed meetings or portions of meetings to consider matters relating to individual employees, proprietary information, litigation and other matters requiring confidential advice of counsel, commercial or financial information obtained from a person on a privileged or confidential basis, or the purchase of property or services whenever premature exposure of such purchase would compromise the business interests of such organization.

Contrast this with Shimer's open meetings policy:

Just putting it out there...

Friday, October 01, 2010

September song

Here's another little old roundup (most recent previous roundup here). Things have been pretty quiet in the external community, as far as I'm aware, so this is mostly limited to news from inside the bubble.

Recent happenings:

  • As already noted on this very blog, the Board has added SEVEN NEW ALUM TRUSTEES!!!, each and every one of whom is an awesome human being. If this makes you feel good about the future of Shimer -- and it should -- please consider making a little financial vote of confidence in their honor.
  • On that note, the Advancement Office has rolled out some new ways of donating to Shimer. For instance, you can donate your beat-up old car to Shimer. (Or your motorcycle. Or your steamroller, apparently -- if you happen to have an extra one lying around. Not sure about tanks.)
  • Shimer-in-Oxford has checked in with a video blog by Adrian Nelson and richly illustrated reports from Stuart Patterson and Robert Carpenter. You may remember Robert as the Weekend students' intrepid representative on the Board this past year.
  • First-year student Mohini Lal has posted some reflections on Shimer's smallness and vastness.
  • The mills of the law grind exceeding slow, and Lindsay v. Shimer College continues to plod its ponderous way through Cook County Circuit Court. (No, not that Lindsay v. Shimer, and definitely not this one; this one.) The most recent event on the e-docket is a "stay of execution," a familiar theme in Shimer history. There is currently a lag of more than 15 days between the public case file and the actual motions filed in court; thus, it would seem that the only people who know exactly what has been stayed are those who were present in the courtroom. Still, you can view the case file up through 9/3/2010 here, or in a more organized format here. The motion to dismiss, by Shimer's counsel, is highly recommended for connoisseurs of the legal smackdown.
  • The Shimer-Student-Union listserv, much-used in the recent crisis, has shown unexpected signs of life.
Upcoming events:
  • Something called "Shimer Days" is happening soon (10/11 - 10/16), with all kinds of Shimer-y goings on. Of particular note, there is an open house for prospective students on Columbus Day, 10/11/2010.
  • Further on the Admissions front, any prospective students who complete their applications before 10/15 will not only get an answer by Thanksgiving, but will also get their book fee waived for the first year. So if you know somebody who is or might be applying, you might want to give that somebody a nudge... (Incidentally, this page is a good one to watch for updates admissionary.)
  • Shimer Days also marks the beginning of the fall lecture series, with a panel discussion on Shimer history led by Eileen Buchanan on 10/15.
  • Something called "Life after Shimer Reading Group" is happening just after Shimer Days, on SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY 10/17 in Evanston. The reading is Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland.
  • The next Assembly meeting will be November 14, 2010, at 4 PM in the Cinderella Lounge at Shimer.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shimer Welcomes 7 New Alum Trustees!

Seven new (or restored) trustees have joined the Shimer College Board of Trustees as of September 27th. They are Barry Carroll, Katherine Chappell, Mary Lou Kennedy, Robert Keohane, Peter Hanig, Sandra Hockenbury, and Linda Levy.

Our thanks go out to them, and to all trustees of good will, for helping to preserve the awesomeness that is Shimer.

Read the full report at the Shimer Alumni Alliance page.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Summer summary

I've been remiss in updating this blog about various events in and around Shimer. Selected recent events are summarized below.

(This seems like a good time to note that any interested Shimerian is welcome to post here; just ask me or SaraDevil for posting rights if you don't have them already. )

The latest in hot trustee-on-trustee action:
  • A few weeks after his unceremonious removal, Tom Lindsay filed suit against the College and numerous individual trustees, making accusations which I will not befoul this blog by repeating. Tom was joined in the lawsuit by his puppeteer, Patrick Parker. The suit is now wending its way through the Chancery Division of the Cook County Circuit Court. At this point it seems unlikely that the wrecking crew has anything resembling a case. It's not entirely clear what they are playing at, though one likely possibility is that they're angling for a large cash settlement.
  • In its most recent meeting, the Board of Trustees changed its bylaws to permit board members to be added and removed by a simple majority vote, thus depriving the rump Lindsay-Parker faction of its pernicious veto over student and faculty representatives. Thank you, Trustees!
In news of the internal community:
  • The College beat its alumni fundraising target for the past fiscal year. Kudos to Don Moon, Aaron Garland and Noah Kippley-Ogman! Thanks must also go to noted money-bomber Nate Lefebvre and many other alums who dug deep to support the college.
  • Shimer also exceeded the enrollment target for the coming semester. Kudos to Amy Pritts and Cassie Sherman! And to 38 brilliant young souls who made the right choice.
  • The Admissions crew has been putting out some very interesting student video blogs.
  • Shimer-in-Oxford has begun, under the capable leadership of Stuart Patterson.

In news of the external community:
  • Over the summer, former Shimer President Don Moon toured the country and met with alum groups in cities including New York, Washington and Seattle.
  • New members have joined the Alumni Association board, including 90s alums Erik Badger, Beth Matthews and Sarah Delezen.
  • Thanks to the yeoman efforts of alum Chris Vaughan, the Shimer College article on Wikipedia has gained Featured status -- no easy task.
  • Alum Ron Rothbart has posted a number of Mt Carroll and otherwise Shimerical photographs on the Shimer College Flickr stream. If you also have photos to share, please consider sharing them there.
  • Two alum reading groups have been meeting regularly in the Chicago area, thanks to the efforts of Bill Arnold and Jack Sigel. A good time has been had by all. The next such group will meet on Wednesday, 9/29, at 6:30 PM in the Infinity classroom at Shimer. The text is Roberto Bolaño's By Night in Chile. (Note: date recently changed)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Webcast of Assembly of September 12

The following information was recently disseminated by Speaker Albert Fernandez. The livetweet of this Assembly will be at @shimerians, with overflow to @saradevil if needed. The agenda is here.

Sunday’s meeting of the Assembly, starting at 4 pm CST, will be webcast. To access the site, go to

If you have never used an Acrobat Connect webcast site before, you can get an overview at , and you can practice at

Many thanks to Shimer Data Services Administrator Steven Parker for arranging the webcast.Please remember that, according to the Constitution of the Assembly, only members present may address the Assembly, vote, or introduce motions or resolutions.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Shimer College Assembly Meeting, 9/12/2010

The Assembly of Shimer College will hold its first meeting of the 2010-2011 academic year this Sunday, September 12th, at 4 PM in the Cinderella Lounge at Shimer College. The agenda is pasted below.

A webcast is likely, but details have not yet been announced. There will be a livetweet, assuming the community does not object.




I Approval of the minutes of the meeting of May 2, 2010

II Committee reports and responses from the floor.

III Amendment of the Constitution of the Assembly
Motivated by the Ad Hoc Committee to Study the Agenda Committee
The Speaker of the Assembly to be elected from the membership.

Wording changes:

Section IV:1

From: The Assembly shall elect from among the members of the Agenda Committee (Section V) a Speaker, who will be responsible for publishing the agendas for all Assembly meetings, for convening and chairing the Assembly, and for chairing the Agenda Committee.

To: The Assembly shall elect a Speaker early in the Fall term from among the members of the Assembly. The Speaker will be responsible for publishing the agendas for all Assembly meetings, for convening and chairing the Assembly, and for chairing the Agenda Committee.

Section V:4

From: The Committee shall be composed of four persons elected early in the fall term, at least one of whom must be a staff member.

To: The Committee shall be composed of the Speaker (Section IV:1) and three members elected early in the fall term. At least one of the four persons on the Committee must be on the (academic or administrative) staff of the College.

IV Elections
General procedure: Before each of the elections listed below, the Speaker will ask for nominations, including self-nominations, and for acceptance or decline of nominations by those nominated.

1) Admissions Committee: “two faculty members, one student from the Weekday Program, and one student from the Weekend Program. Community members employed in the Office of Admission and members of the Financial Aid Policy Committee are not eligible for election to this committee.”

2) Quality of Life Committee
“six other members of the community, at least one of whom must be a staff member and at least two of whom must be students in the Weekday Program.”

If proposed constitutional amendment is adopted:
3) Speaker
“From among the members of the Assembly.”

4) Agenda Committee:
If proposed constitutional amendment is adopted:“Three members. . . . At least one of the four persons on the Committee must be on the (academic or administrative) staff of the College.”

If proposed constitutional amendment is not adopted:“Four persons . . . , at least one of whom must be a staff member.”

If proposed constitutional amendment is not adopted:
5) Speaker“From among the members of the Agenda Committee”

6) Other Officers of the Assembly:

7) Shimer College Representative to the IIT Student Government

V Announcements

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Problem with "Good" Administrators as Shimer Presidents

The process of selecting the next president of Shimer College remains on hold until the problems with the Board are resolved. In the meantime, it appears that Ed Noonan is providing outstanding and much-needed leadership. That said, it is certainly not too early to reflect on the factors that have led to Shimer's best and worst presidencies, and how these might best guide the selection of the next president.

In the history of Shimer, there have been three presidents who served for twenty years or more: Frances Shimer, William Parker McKee and Don Moon. Shimer's enrollment more than doubled (arguably tripled) under each of these presidents, and each of them effectively built a campus from scratch: the 4-building 25-acre Seminary campus under Mrs Shimer, the 12-building Junior College campus under Dean McKee, and the 12-building Waukegan campus under President Moon. As Shimer once again finds itself in need of a figure who can lead us to renewed expansion -- and once again in need of a campus -- it is worth looking at what attributes these three figures share.

Shimer has had thirteen full (non-"interim") presidents in its history. These can be roughly graded according to their qualifications as administrators of higher education. Some were extremely highly qualified, in both education and experience: Floyd Wilcox, Raymond Culver, Aaron Brumbaugh, Robert Long, Tom Lindsay. Others had substantial qualifications and experience, though of a less sterling character: Albin Bro, F.J. Mullin, Milburn Akers, Ralph Conant, Bill Rice. And there were three who had no obvious qualifications or experience in running anything larger than a classroom or a congregation: Frances Shimer, William Parker McKee, and Don Moon. (All three were accomplished in their chosen fields, but juding from the available records, none appears to have had prior experience administering an institution of any size.)

I do not think it is a coincidence that the least superficially qualified presidents in Shimer's history have also been the most successful. Nor is it a coincidence that of the three presidencies that ended in unmitigated disaster, two were led by figures of unquestioned qualifications (Long and Lindsay).

Shimer has gone through many transformations in its history, but certain things have remained constant: Shimer has always been small, has always been unusual, and has never been a terribly glamorous place to be president. As such, it has little to command the attention or respect of the career administrator. No one whose qualifications would pass muster with a search committee would want to spend their career as the president of Shimer College. Thus, judging from the record, the best that we can hope for is that a qualified administrator will leave quietly after a short time, as Wilcox did in 1935, Brumbaugh in 1953, and Rice in 2006. Alternatively, unless they die early (Culver, Akers), such figures seem invariably to leave the college in disarray, if not chaos (Lindsay) or bankruptcy (Long).

On behalf of 157 years of hard-learned lessons, then, I make this request to the Board of Trustees: for our next president, please do not hire anyone who is "qualified" for the position. Instead, if you can, hire someone intelligent and accomplished in their field, someone who demonstrably cares about Shimer and about education... and who has never set foot in educational administration before.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Trustee Skips Commencement to Attend Tea-Party Rally

I wish this were more shocking. Via the aptly-named Crooks and Liars:
Hennessy's most recent post links to the American Majority 'grassroots summit' in Kansas City this weekend. One of the featured speakers is Eric O'Keefe, Chairman of the Sam Adams Alliance, also on the board of Wisconsin Club for Growth and a former director of Americans for Limited Government. ALG has been associated with Howard Rich and Grover Norquist.
O'Keefe is, of course, one of the many new additions to Shimer's Board of Trustees, brought on by the extremely former president Tom Lindsay.

A look at the schedule further shows that O'Keefe was speaking on Friday evening. So, if Shimer academics had any meaning to him -- or any of the other members of Lindsay's wrecking crew, not a single one of whom showed their faces at commencement -- he could easily have made the trip. That he did not, and they did not, shows that their disregard for the community extends to a general lack of regard for Shimer as anything but a useful, accredited shell.

In contrast, friendly trustees arrived from as far away as California to attend commencement, the single most important and uniting event in the Shimer year. And this year's commencement was a glorious occasion. Students, parents, and alumni from far and near came out to congratulate the newest members of the alum community.

We can only hope that Mr O'Keefe and his friends will continue to follow the precedent they have set, and stay away from Shimer permanently in the future. Unfortunately, despite the failure of their takeover attempt, and their evident shared contempt for everything that Shimer represents, not a single one has left the Board. This forces us, reluctantly, to conclude that there is still work to be done to preserve Shimer from the hostile takeover led by Patrick Parker.

Once O'Keefe and his ilk are gone at last, it is imperative that the Board enact substantial changes that will prevent anything of this nature from ever happening again.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Acts of the Assembly of May 2



I. The Assembly congratulates and welcomes Edward Noonan to the presidency of Shimer College, and offers its support and assistance to the President in the constitutional governance of the College.

II. State of the College Address President Edward Noonan

III. Amendment of the Constitution

That the Speaker of the Assembly be a faculty or staff member who has worked for the college for at least four years.


Section IV:1

From: “The Assembly shall elect from among the members of the Agenda Committee (Section V) a Speaker, who will be responsible for publishing the agendas for all Assembly meetings, for convening and chairing the Assembly, and for chairing the Agenda Committee.”

To: “The Assembly shall elect a Speaker early in the fall term from among Faculty and administrative staff who have been employed on a fulltime basis by the College for at least the previous four years, including any formally approved leaves of absence. The Speaker will be responsible for publishing the agendas for all Assembly meetings, for convening and chairing the Assembly, and for chairing the Agenda Committee.


Section V:4

From: “The Committee shall be composed of four persons elected early in the fall term, at least one of whom must be a staff member.”

To: “The Committee shall be composed of the Speaker (Section IV:1) and three members elected early in the fall term.”

The motion was tabled indefinitely.

IV. An ad hoc committee is formed to study the Agenda Committee of the Assembly and to make recommendations to the Assembly by the end of October 2010.

V. The Ad Hoc Committee to Study the Agenda Committee is to consist of five self-nominated members of the Assembly, appointed by the Speaker.

VI. The Assembly instructs the Speaker to address and disseminate the acts of this day to all the constituencies of Shimer College, including Trustees and alumni.

This document is a redaction of the acts of the meeting, in compliance with Motion VI. Complete minutes will be publicly available after they are approved by the Assembly.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Webcast of Assembly of May 2

The agenda for today's Assembly is here.

Today's Assembly will be webcast.

To join the meeting:

(Select "Enter as guest" and type your name; no password is required.)

If you have never attended a Connect Pro meeting before:

Test your connection:

Get a quick overview:


There will also be a livetweet commencing at @shimerians and continuing at @saradevil if needed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Agenda for the Assembly of May 2



I Approval of the minutes of the meetings of February 7th and 28th , March 21st ,

and April 11th.

II Committee reports and responses from the floor.

III Resolution Motivated by the Agenda Committee

The Assembly congratulates and welcomes Edward Noonan as the fourteenth President of Shimer College, and offers its support and assistance to the President in the constitutional governance of the College.

IV State of the College Address President Edward Noonan

V Amendment of the Constitution Motivated by Eileen Buchanan

That the Speaker of the Assembly be a faculty or staff member who has worked for the college for at least four years.


Section IV:1

From: “The Assembly shall elect from among the members of the Agenda Committee (Section V) a Speaker, who will be responsible for publishing the agendas for all Assembly meetings, for convening and chairing the Assembly, and for chairing the Agenda Committee.”

To: “The Assembly shall elect a Speaker early in the fall term from among Faculty and administrative staff who have been employed on a fulltime basis by the College for at least the previous four years, including any formally approved leaves of absence. The Speaker will be responsible for publishing the agendas for all Assembly meetings, for convening and chairing the Assembly, and for chairing the Agenda Committee.


Section V:4

From: “The Committee shall be composed of four persons elected early in the fall term, at least one of whom must be a staff member.”

To: “The Committee shall be composed of the Speaker (Section IV:1) and three members elected early in the fall term.”


“A) The speaker needs to be someone with considerable experience at Shimer in order to sense when a matter of college ethos is surfacing and to bring it to the attention of the Agenda Committee and the community.

B) Although this saddens me, I believe that we are at a point in terms of the wider community at which a student speaker would not garner the respect necessary to underline the importance of Assembly concerns and motions.”

VI Discussion Motivated by Eileen Buchanan

Should the Assembly meet during the summer? How might summer meetings be arranged and conducted? Are the technical means available for participation and voting from a distance?

VII Motion Motivated by the Agenda Committee

The Assembly instructs the Speaker to address and disseminate the acts of this day to all the constituencies of Shimer College, including Trustees and alumni.

VIII Announcements

Monday, April 26, 2010

Shimer College Radio 4/27

The final broadcast of this incarnation of Shimer College Radio will occur from 4 to 6 PM, Chicago time, on Tuesday the 27th (today).

Please listen and call in. We have much to discuss. The call-in number will be (646) 716-4446.

You can still listen to the first broadcast (3/30) here, and the second broadcast (4/13) here.

Thanks to alumna Jacqueline Harris for making Shimer College Radio a reality.

Future broadcasts are being planned by Chris McGlynn, who also moderated the second broadcast. Stay tuned for details, but in the meantime please listen & call.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How Patrick Parker Gets His Way

I would like to begin by thanking Patrick Parker for finally making the text of the 2007 agreement between Shimer College and the Aequus Foundation available to the community, shortly before the recent excitement. Granted, it was a few weeks late, but it's the thought that counts!

Trustee Patrick Parker played a key role in engineering both Thomas Lindsay's hiring in 2008 and the adoption of Lindsay's slipshod mission statement in 2010. We in the external community now have enough information about how these events unfolded to draw some general conclusions about how Patrick Parker gets his way.

Of course, in drawing these conclusions, there are only two data points to work from. Thus, it is likely that some parts of this pattern are illusory. But the similarities between these two events are striking. Here is how it seems to work:

1. Patrick Parker identifies some legitimate concern to which he just happens to have a privileged connection.

In 2008, this was the concern that the "anonymous donor" (Barre Seid) might reconsider his donations if a substandard president were chosen. It's not clear whether Barre Seid even knew that his identity was being invoked in this way. However, since Parker was the only conduit of information between Seid and the Board, nobody was in a position to contradict him.

In 2010, Parker's legitimate concern was that a contract existed between Shimer and Aequus that required certain changes to the mission statement. Although we do not know exactly what was said in the Board meeting, Parker certainly managed to convey the impression that both President Bill Rice and the Dean of the College had been signatories to this contract. We now know that this contract was a vague and probably unenforceable agreement to which a Development Office assistant had signed as the "authorized officer" of Shimer . However, since Parker didn't have a copy of the agreement handy (and neither did anyone else, as he hadn't happened to mention it until just before the meeting), no substantive questions about the agreement could be asked or answered.

2. Parker exploits the uncertainty of this concern so that he can present some specific action linked to his personal agenda as the only workable solution.

Did it make sense that a donor concerned about executive qualifications would prefer a candidate (Tom Lindsay) who had not been properly vetted and had never run a college before? Of course not. But since only Parker could know what the "anonymous donor's" exact concerns were, nobody was in a position to question how Parker presented them. Did it make sense that an agreement never mentioned before would require the sudden adoption of a poorly-written mission statement that placed extraordinary emphasis on a couple weeks' worth of Soc 2 readings? Of course not -- but once again, since only Parker knew what was in the contract, nobody was in a position to question its relevance.

3. The vote is held, reasonable people do the only reasonable thing based on the available information...

... and Parker gets exactly what he wants.

Patrick Parker is clearly a talented boardroom manipulator. We could all learn a lot from him. It is a great tribute to the sharp and observant intellects on the Shimer Board that, despite such skillful manipulation, the vast majority of swayable Trustees voted against the Lindsay mission statement in February. An even greater tribute, of course, is the outcome of the recent meeting in which Tom Lindsay was, at long last, relieved of his duties.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Dawn A Success!


That's how much we have raised so far, a little more than halfway through the first ever Shimer "money bomb" fundraising drive!

I can barely believe my eyes. When Sam and I put together the event we were wondering if our little ChipIn chart counting up to $5,000 would be too big, and make it look like we barely raised any money. Yet here we are, halfway through with more than ten times that amount!

And it's all thanks to you and your unwavering support. Together we have weathered one hell of a storm--the likes of which have left Shimer's halls empty once before--and now, not only are we still here, but we're bouncing back with a vengeance!

You all deserve a serious pat on the back for all the work and support you have put in to bring Shimer back to it's full potential, and I love you all for it. Several of you have even gone above and beyond the call, working tirelessly to speak with every alumn, to write our history and to organize our leaders. I think we should take a moment to reflect on the people who made this possible, and tell them how much we appreciate their efforts. Today's money bomb, and the Alumni Alliance as a whole, could not have been possible without

Sam Henderson
Erik Badger
Sarah Delezen
Noah Kippley-Ogman
Beth Matthews
Dan Merchan

And I want to give special thanks to Dan Shiner, who has labored so hard to keep Shimer afloat and is currently working the phones and emails like a madman to secure alumni contributions to the New Dawn Money Bomb. There is no way this event would have been anywhere near as successful as it has been without his efforts.

This is only a very partial list, it doesn't even come close to recognizing all the efforts of people involved, like Allie Peluso and her amazing research, or Bill Arnold for keeping a level head and forming a bridge between two rival camps, or Erik Graf and Chris McGlynn for their muckraking, Jon Timm and Heath Iverson for their leadership, and all the others who have worked so hard to keep this going.

With that being said, we've got a ton of work left to do my friends, so let's not let the momentum slack even for a moment! We've got a new administration, but plenty of old problems yet to solve. Today we show ourselves and the world what kind of future Shimer has in store for it, and tomorrow we work together to see it done!

Don't forget to take a moment and show your support by joining the Shimer's New Dawn cause on Facebook, and making a contribution if you are able (see the link below). Thank you all sooooo much for your support!

Nate Lefebvre
, Class of '08

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shimer President "Steps Down"

The following statement was released shortly before midnight on the 19th of April, and can be read in PDF at

Lindsay's eagerly-awaited departure has also been noted by the
Chicago Tribune and the Chronicle of Higher Education.


Shimer College President Steps Down

Shimer College, the Great Books College of Chicago, has announced that its 13th president, Thomas K. Lindsay, will be stepping down effective immediately. Long-time trustee Edward Noonan, chairman of Chicago Associates Planners & Architects, has been named interim president until the college undertakes a search for a new president.

Mr. Lindsay accepted the Shimer presidency in June 2008 and assumed formal leadership of the college in January 2009. During his tenure, he brought fiscal responsibility to the college by insisting upon balanced annual budgets and eliminating the college’s trailing deficit. Chairman of the Board Christopher Nelson said, “We are grateful to Tom Lindsay for his financial leadership over the past year and a half and wish him well in his future endeavors.” When asked about the change in leadership, Mr. Nelson said “Shimer continues to face many challenges, but we are fortunate to have an experienced leader like Ed Noonan ready to step in and assist us through this transition.”

Former Chairman of the Board, Edward Noonan is a 20 year veteran of Shimer College and was named Trustee Emeritus in 2000. Said Mr. Nelson, “Ed Noonan is uniquely positioned both as someone who understands the long history of Shimer, but also as someone who understands the necessity of improving the administrative structures within the college. We look forward to Ed working with faculty & staff, alumni, students, and the Board of Trustees to continue the good efforts currently being undertaken by the college administration until we search for our next president.”

Through the years Mr. Noonan has been actively engaged in professional and civic activities at the University of Chicago and throughout the Chicago area. No stranger to the IIT campus, Edward Noonan conducted his graduate studies in architecture under Mies Van Der Rohe. Now a renowned Chicago architect, Mr. Noonan currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Chicago Associates Planners & Architects where he has most recently overseen innovative and eco-friendly development projects for Tryon Farm.

Mr. Noonan is now charged with continuing his recent efforts to strengthen internal structures, reach out to the Chicago community and college supporters, and respond to the new energy of Shimer alumni. “I’m grateful to once again have the opportunity to serve Shimer College. I am looking forward to helping an institution with such a unique and noble educational mission,” said Mr. Noonan.


Now is the time for all Shimerians to come to the aid of their college.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Historic vote

You can read the exact wording of the "no confidence" resolution unanimously approved Sunday night (4/18) by the Shimer College Assembly at both the Shimer Student Alliance blog and the Shimer Alumni Alliance blog . Since I've been scooped by Shimer new media-ites who must be younger and faster -- or at least closer to their computers -- I'll do some instant analysis of the vote and its meaning, like the pundit (did you know pundit derives from Sanskrit?) I once wanted to be.

The no confidence vote by an entity that speaks for Shimer is a loud statement. It follows similar/comparable statements from two major stakeholders in the institution that is Shimer: the college's faculty and alumni. There's an interesting distinction between the no confidence resolutions approved by both faculty and the Assembly, and the alumni association's call for the resignation of President Thomas Lindsay. For those of us who are alums, Lindsay is not our leader, so it's not appropriate for alums to vote no confidence, since we are not led, per se, by Shimer's president, unlike the voting members of the Assembly (students, faculty, trustees, admin staff). But it's as if there is a compound failure here; as a leader, Lindsay has not led. From the point of view of alums, the president has failed on his watch of the institution.

In the focused, non-protracted, non-wordsmithy, citizen-ly deliberations of Sunday's emergency Assembly, two things stood out from my perspective. First, Shimerians care about the faculty and are mindful of them. That means respects them, respects their words, respects their work, their sacrifices, their domain of curriculum. Shimerians will be protective should there be pretty good reason to fear that some faculty are going to be thrown away arbitrarily. One would think that a man with Tom Lindsay's intellectual interests would know dozens upon dozens of examples of historic usurpation of power and how those kinds of things always end badly for the usurper.

Second: unanimous. Since the balloting was secret, the 60-0 unanimity is remarkable. Nobody voted against no confidence. I guess that means positively nobody has confidence in the president's ability to lead the institution he is paid to lead; perhaps the three abstentions represent a kind of agnosticism about the question.

I was impressed by the efficiency of this Assembly. All democratic gatherings should have such informed and thoughtful citizens. The Assembly is Soc 2 homework.

Marcia Zdun Nelson '75

Acts of the Special Assembly of April 18th

This document is a redaction of the acts of the meeting. Complete minutes will be publicly available after they are approved by the Assembly.



I Motion:
The resolution of no confidence from the meeting of February 28, 2010, is taken from the table.

The motion carried, after a vote by secret ballot, by 57 votes in favor, 3 opposed, and 1 abstention.

The count of the ballots was witnessed by visitor Susanne Sklar.

II Resolution (as amended):
Whereas the Presidency of Thomas Lindsay has imperiled the very existence of the College, the Assembly declares that it has no confidence in the ability of President Lindsay to lead Shimer College.

The resolution was adopted, after a vote by secret ballot, by 60 votes in favor, none opposed, and 3 abstentions. The count of the ballots was witnessed by visitor Susanne Sklar.

III Motion:
The Assembly instructs the Speaker to address and disseminate resolutions and motions adopted or passed on this day to all the constituencies of Shimer College, including Trustees and alumni.

The motion was passed unanimously.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Letter to the Assembly by Owen Brugh

The following letter was addressed to the Shimer College Assembly of April 18th, 2010, by alumnus Owen Brugh (2006).

Dear Fellow Shimerians,

Unfortunately, the recent birth of my daughter prevents me from attending Sunday. Please know that I stand firmly with the faculty, staff, and current students in whatever course of action the Assembly chooses to pursue. I trust the Assembly.

I write to advocate that the Assembly unanimously adopt the tabled resolution expressing no confidence in the leadership of President Lindsay.

I will spare the Assembly the bill of particulars against President Lindsay. We are all too familiar with his unwavering quest to gut the very institutions that have given Shimer its strength during decades of adversity and poverty.

Fundamentally, the Assembly should take this step today because President Lindsay has shown himself to be un-Shimerian. His actions show he is unwilling to consider other points of view and unable to abide the consensus-building exercise that is the Assembly. Just as we would with a fellow student or new faculty member suffering a difficult adjustment to Shimer, countless community members have tried to help President Lindsay understand our beloved College and its ways. Unfortunately, such efforts have proved fruitless.

After such efforts, were President Lindsay a student, his grades would reflect his behavior, and he might be formally reprimanded. Were President Lindsey a faculty member, the Academic Planning Committee would not renew his contract. As college President, however, the Assembly has little choice but to repudiate his “leadership” and reprimand him in the strongest terms possible. President Lindsay’s complete and total failure to adhere to the policies, ethos, and folkways of Shimer represents a clear danger to the viability of the College.

Most of all, I urge that the Assembly take unanimous action on this issue for two reasons.

First, action of this magnitude calls for consensus. As I recall some said at the February 28 Assembly, this action could imperil the College’s continued existence. Because of the profound impact this resolution could have on every member of the Shimer community, I urge every member of the Assembly to consider the objections of any community member and do all that is practical to mitigate those concerns. From past experience, I trust this will occur.

Second, and more importantly, the Assembly is most powerful when it is most unified. Just as our faculty’s brave actions are amplified by the lack of abstention or opposition, so is the Assembly strongest when it speaks with one voice. (Conversely, I would argue that the Board of Trustees’ voice on the mission statement was weakened by the deep divisions evident from the vote total.) For this action to have the desired result, the Assembly must be at its strongest, and that requires unanimity.

I trust the Assembly to move forward wisely, and I will support whatever steps the Assembly takes. Despite the actions of the present administration, I remain forever proud to be Shimerian.


Owen Robert Brugh

Class of 2006

Friday, April 16, 2010

Agenda for the Special Assembly of April 18th

The next meeting of the Assembly will be held in the Cinderella Lounge at Shimer College, 3424 S State Street in Chicago, at 4 PM on Sunday April 18th. All constituencies of the College are welcome, including alumni, although alumni cannot vote.




I Procedural motion, motivated by the Agenda Committee:

The Assembly rule of open voting is suspended, so as to allow for secret ballots at the discretion of the Assembly, for the duration of the present meeting or until such time as the Assembly votes to end the suspension, whichever comes sooner.


This motion is not debatable and requires a 2/3 majority to pass.

II Motion, motivated by Bob Carpenter, Heath Iverson, and Katy Martin-Seaver:

The resolution of no confidence from the meeting of February 28, 2010, is taken from the table.


The resolution in question, originally motivated by the Agenda Committee, is as follows:

The Assembly declares that it has no confidence in the ability of President Thomas Lindsay to lead Shimer College.

If the motion carries, the Assembly will proceed to consideration of the resolution.

III Motion motivated by the Agenda Committee:

The Assembly instructs the Speaker to address and disseminate resolutions and motions adopted or passed on this day to all the constituencies of Shimer College, including Trustees and alumni.

IV Announcements


Sunday’s meeting of the Assembly will be webcast, at . A password is not required. Please bear in mind that, according to the Constitution of the Assembly, only members present may address the Assembly, vote, or introduce motions.

Unanimous Resolution of the Board of the Shimer College Alumni Association

The following resolution was adopted by the Board of the Shimer College Alumni Association with 9 votes in favor, none against, and no abstentions.

"The Shimer Alumni Association, acting through its Board, calls for the resignation of Thomas Lindsay as President of Shimer."

This follows on the heels of the unanimous faculty resolution to the same effect.

The community petition calling for Lindsay's resignation now has 618 signatures.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unanimous Resolution of the Faculty of Shimer College

The following statement was adopted by the Shimer College faculty at their Tuesday meeting (4/13). The vote was unanimous with no abstentions.

Whereas Thomas Lindsay’s unilateral approach to the management of Shimer College has sapped morale and created a climate of fear and mistrust that now pervades the College;

Whereas he has consistently shown a lack of understanding of and respect for Shimer College’s history, traditions, culture, identity, and academic mission;

Whereas he has increasingly acted in opposition to structures of the College, including committees and procedures, written policies, and handbooks;

Whereas his inability or unwillingness to communicate and work with Shimer College’s constituencies is demonstrated by his making major decisions and attempting major changes in the face of overwhelming opposition;

And whereas he has given no credible indication that he will desist from the conduct described or cease attempting to transform the College according to his own plans and without broad support;

The Faculty declares that Thomas Lindsay has done grave harm to Shimer College and imperils its very existence; and, therefore,

The Faculty resolves that it has no confidence in Thomas Lindsay as President of Shimer College.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Special Assembly Scheduled for April 18

The Agenda Committee is convening a special meeting of the Assembly this Sunday, April 18, at 4 PM Central, in the Cinderella Lounge at Shimer (3424 S State, Chicago, IL).

The agenda is to be released shortly, and will include consideration of whether to untable and pass the no confidence motion that was tabled in the February assembly.

The full agenda will of course be posted here as soon as it is available.

It is not yet known whether the Assembly will be televised, but it will be tweeted over the usual accounts, @samuelhenderson and @saradevil .

Columbia Chronicle article

Thanks to Stephanie Saviola of the Columbia Chronicle for shedding a bit of public sunlight on the events at Shimer.

It's good to see Nate Lefebvre and Allie Peluso getting some well-deserved media coverage.

“[The mission statement] did need to evolve and the school and community acknowledged that, but we were worried because we weren’t getting the whole picture,” Lefebvre said. “They had this secret contract about the statement and we weren’t told the stipulations.”
Allie Peluso, a second-year student at Shimer, discovered the identity of the anonymous donor through her own research of public records.“I’ve done a lot of research and looked into donations and money the school has received,” Peluso said. “I identified this man as Barre Seid through 990s [a tax form].”

The unwillingness -- or inability -- of Lindsay and his ilk to defend their actions speaks volumes.

Numerous attempts were made by The Chronicle to get in touch with Lindsay, but he could not be reached for comment.
Several messages were left for Joe Bast, board of trustee member and president of Heartland Institute, 19 S. LaSalle St., but no calls were returned to The Chronicle.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

After the Brawl is Over...

We may yet have a long and difficult fight ahead of us. We may lose. There was never any reason to believe that Tom Lindsay & Co. would leave quietly. On the other hand, if I were President Lindsay, I would have been thinking about alternative careers for a while now. So if he does suddenly depart, we need to be ready for the next step.

If Lindsay leaves us, there will be three needs that must be met as quickly and effectively as possible: more money, more students, and more secure governance.

More Money!
Altogether, approximately $175,000 has been pledged to support a post-Lindsay Shimer. The short-term goal is $250,000. This will help to ensure a financially smooth transition. You can make a pledge using the online form.

In the longer term, of course, even more will need to be raised. It is critical that we establish a broad base of support to replace the narrow base that has recently been provided, directly and indirectly, by the Seid and Aequus foundations. Also critical will be ensuring that the people providing this broad-based support are heard in future discussions of college governance and mission. The efforts we have put into alum outreach will need to be retooled to this end.

More Students!
Lindsay hasn't been able to meet the expectations he was hired under when it comes to enrollment. If we want there to be a post-Lindsay Shimer, we'll have to do a lot better than he has done.

To that end, thus far approximately 40 alumni have volunteered to donate time on a weekly basis to help recruit students for a post-Lindsay Shimer. You can add yourself to this number by using the online form.

It takes time to get up to speed for this sort of work. Therefore, I would encourage anyone who is not too deeply involved in the current mess to get in touch with the Admissions Office ( as soon as possible about volunteering.

The energy dedicated to online action will also need to be reoriented to identifying and recruiting potential Shimerians. The blogs that have been put up in reaction to the crisis, especially Shimer College Alumni Speak and its sister blogs, will need to be retooled to help get out the word about the real Shimer. Fresh content will be needed, there and elsewhere.

Better Governance!
If we are fortunate enough to be delivered from the current mess, it is critically important that we make it much more difficult for anything like this to ever happen again. To be sure, no system of governance can be completely impervious to hostile takeover. But certain things seem clear:
- It should not be possible for a majority of non-internal seats on the Board to be held by people with no prior connection to the school (as is now the case).
- It should not be easy for a hostile majority on the Board to refuse to seat representatives of the internal community (as would currently be the case).
- It should not be possible to simply dilute the student and faculty seats on the Board into irrelevance.
- The role of the Assembly and its Constitution and committees should be affirmed in the Bylaws in unmistakable, weasel-free language. Some work on this front may already be under way, thanks to the joint task force that has been set up to clarify the changes of 2008.

* * * * *

All of the above, of course, remains miserably hypothetical for the time being. None of it will ever be possible unless Shimer's absentee president adds a seventh day to his weekend. So please keep reaching out to alumni and friends. Please keep spreading the word, in whatever ways you can.

And please, if you haven't yet, sign the petition.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Shimer's Zipcode is Irrelevant

I appreciate Marcia's posting on the question Not my Shimer? I once held the belief that this Shimer is not my Shimer. And what a turnaround I've had in my realization that for me, the continuing quest for discovery and discourse that Shimer students faculty staff and alums hold, is the basis for what my Shimer is. I've come to realize that my Shimer is not geographically place based.

What is important to a Shimer College liberal arts education are the foundations grounded in the curriculum, the mission, and vision. In these, we then learn and embrace critical inquiry in all that we do. That we take this shared education everywhere we roam, that we may meet someday and have the same or similar readings or experiences in our psyche, is for me what binds us all together as Shimerites.

I have recently connected with a few current and former Shimerites through a listserv, Facebook, and blogs. I see Shimer students staff and faculty being interested in the very same type of fun or thoughtful discussions that we also experienced in years past. Topics I have seen mentioned or discussed include Spreading Life Throughout the Cosmos, notification for a showing of the Japanese film House, and a heads up for the celebration of International Pillow Fight Day on Chicago's Michigan Ave.

All of us who have stepped into the waters of a Shimer education have shared a journey I sometimes think as one of information gatherer, to knowledge seeker, and wisdom bearer. Wherever you are on your own journey now, I do believe that we come from the same place. That place is called Shimer College. Shimer's zipcode is irrelevant.

Ann Perbohner '76