Sunday, February 28, 2010

LiveBlog, Tweet of the Special Assembly

If you would like to follow what is going on at the Feb. 28th Special Assembly. It's a doozy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Special Assembly Feb. 28th Agenda



I Resolution, motivated by the Agenda Committee


Whereas the Board of Trustees adopted a statement called a
“mission statement,” written by President Thomas Lindsay, on February
19, 2010;

Whereas this statement is without the support of the faculty,
the students, the administrative staff, or the vast majority of alumni
who have addressed it, and is upheld only by 18 out of 34 Trustees;

Whereas the Assembly by overwhelming majority and the Faculty
unanimously have voted to retain the current mission statement at
least for the time being;

Whereas the statement approved by the Board does not meet the
criterion of the College’s academic accreditor, the Higher Learning
Commission, that “Understanding of and support of the mission pervade
the organization” (Accreditation Criterion 1c);

Whereas the statement, unlike all other mission statement
proposals, was never submitted to the Self-Study Group, or brought to
the Assembly, but was sent exclusively to Trustees, and only five days
before they were to vote on it;

Whereas the statement was approved by the Board under threat by
a major donor, delivered one day before the Board plenary, that
funding would cease if the statement were not adopted;

Whereas shortly before the Board plenary President Lindsay urged
the Trustees on the Executive Committee to resign if they would not
vote for his statement, and told another Trustee that he would “have
to go” or words to that effect if he did not vote for his statement;

Whereas the statement was voted on by the Board without the
customary notification of a vote in the meeting agenda, after only 75
minutes of consideration, and without observance of equal time for
those opposed;


The Assembly of Shimer College does not recognize the legitimacy
or authority of this so-called “mission statement.”

II Resolution, motivated by the Agenda Committee


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

III Announcement from the Agenda Committee regarding future mission
statement proposals.

IV Other announcements

[The Assembly will convene at 4 PM in Cinderella Lounge.]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Special Meeting of the Assembly to Take Place::::Sunday, February 28, starting at 4 pm, in the Cinderella Lounge.

Citizens of Shimer College,

A special unscheduled meeting of the Assembly will take place this Sunday, February 28, starting at 4 pm, in the Cinderella Lounge. The Agenda Committee is convening the Assembly in response to requests from throughout the community for an emergency meeting after the Board of Trustees plenary last Saturday. The agenda for the meeting will be published shortly and no later than tomorrow.

Because of the special nature of this meeting there will be no approval of minutes or committee reports, though time will be set aside for announcements. It is not clear how lengthy this meeting will be, but, given the importance of the issues before us, members are asked to prepare to stay late if need be.

Members who are unable to attend the meeting but who would like to address the Assembly may send written messages to the Speaker and they will be forwarded to the membership. In keeping with Assembly precedent, in the interest of saving time, and to avoid preferential recognition of absent members, such messages will not be read or distributed during the meeting. For prior distribution, they must be received no later than Saturday, 9 pm cst, but the Committee cannot guarantee all messages will be disseminated if their number turns out to be overwhelming.

Since Sunday’s will be an unscheduled meeting, we cannot say with assurance that it will be webcast, as prior meetings have been, but preparations are being made for online access, and, if the meeting will be available on the internet, website information will be disseminated to members of the community. Please bear in mind that, according to the Constitution of the Assembly, only members present may address the Assembly, vote, or introduce motions.

Both Trustees and alumni are members of the Assembly, though alumni are not voting members. Since it is not possible to send this message to all alumni, those who are recipients should feel free to forward it to alumni whom they know are planning to attend. The Committee, on behalf of the internal community, welcomes Trustees, alumni, and all other members to the meeting.

Albert B Fernandez

Speaker of the Assembly
For the Agenda Committee
(Simon Creek, Jim Donovan, Meg Nelson)

Letter from the Faculty to the Board Re Mission Statement Changes

The Faculty supports unanimously the Assembly's recent vote to uphold the current mission statement of Shimer College. In doing so we confirm and uphold our responsibility for the College's mission itself: in word, education.

The Faculty and Assembly together, rather than President Lindsay by himself, have the standing to define the College's mission. As Chris Nelson recently wrote, the Faculty and Assembly have for decades labored against "almost insuperable challenges" to save the College itself and greatly enrich its incomparable instructional program. But President Lindsay turns his back to this history, revealing just days ago a proposed mission statement restating "guideposts" that have been resoundingly rejected by the internal community and alumni both.

More trying still, President Lindsay presumes to use his mission statement as a test of the Faculty's continuing commitment to the College. He has indicated to us that if the Board adopts his statement, he would ask us individually to confirm our support of it. The implied alternative was to seek employment elsewhere. Let us be clear: we reject with one voice such tests of our loyalty to Shimer College or to President Lindsay.

President Lindsay has maintained that he wants only to clarify the College's mission, not to change it. An unsympathetic redrafting of the entire mission statement is not a clarification. Further, his intransigent insistence on the rightness of his views on education, even in the face of months of considerate attempts to qualify them and to offer alternatives, only betrays how little he understands or adheres to the College's principles for cooperative dialogue.

Such betrayals strike at the heart of our educational mission. Students complain rightly that they are admonished just to study, while their studious efforts to defend and clarify their sense of the College's mission are repeatedly dismissed. And we hear more and more from alumni troubled by the lack of harmony gripping an institution they helped build on mutual support. For our part, the Faculty has grown increasingly dismayed at the President's and even Board's seeming relunctance to affirm our necessary authority over the College's core educational program and to assure the security and freedom we must have to protect and enhance it.

We understand entirely the Board's need to support the powers necessary to the President. But to define the College's mission unilaterally and without board approval is not one of these powers. We therefore state again our unanimous backing of the Assembly's present will to uphold the current mission statement. And we trust the Board will help in enlisting President LIindsay to this bgeneral will for the greater and lasting good of the College.

The Faculty of Shimer College

[version circulated at 2/23 SSA meeting]

What the Hell Just Happened

"What the hell just happened?!"

On the afternoon of February 20th, in a discussion circle hastily formed by students outside the IIT meeting room in which the Shimer College Board of Trustees had just decided, by a narrow vote of 18 to 16, to adopt President Lindsay's whole-cloth rewrite of the mission statement, Jack Garvin ('12) - part of a peaceful protest of over 60 students and alums there to challenge this eventuality - in exasperation, asked this question.

Given the circumstances, it's a really good question. Despite overwhelming support from the Assembly, a powerful letter from a unanimous Shimer faculty supporting the Assembly's affirmation of the current mission statement, as well as a petition from both students and alumni in support of the current mission statement, a determined faction of the Board voted against community consensus, instead adopting the clearly unpopular, hastily drafted, last-minute whole-cloth rewrite of Shimer's mission statement by President Tom Lindsay.

What the hell just happened, you ask? Well, here's our answer.

1. October 2009: Mr. Lindsay offers his "guideposts on the mission" in an hour-long lecture to the internal community. Though it's billed as a "discussion," questions are not welcomed.
2. February 3, 2010: Mr. Lindsay met with the Shimer community and respectfully disagreed with faculty, staff, students and alumni about what the mission of the College is (see notes here).
3. February 7, 2010: The Shimer College Assembly considers several alternative mission statements and votes overwhelmingly to affirm the current one. Since Mr. Lindsay had only submitted "guideposts", the Assembly could not vote specifically on his proposed mission statement.
4. February 8, 2010: Noting the "soft conviction" of the [unanimous] Assembly on behalf of the current mission statement, "Bud" Vesta - a Lindsay trustee nominee from 2009 - sends an open letter to Lindsay and the Board asking Mr. Lindsay to draft a rewrite of the Shimer mission for consideration by the Board at their plenary meeting of February 20.
5. February 15, 2010: Mr. Lindsay submits his whole-cloth rewrite of the Shimer mission statement to the Board via email. The Assembly doesn't have a chance to respond to it. As per Lindsay's own strategic plan, it is not formally scheduled for a vote until the May 2010 Board meeting.
6. February 19, 2010: A day before the plenary meeting of the Board, Patrick Parker - the chair of the hiring committee which forced Lindsay's hire despite overwhelming internal community resistance in 2008 - claims that there exists a legally-binding grant document that was supposedly signed by Dean David Shiner and [former president] Bill Rice in 2006, according to which Shimer MUST rewrite its mission statement to include the terms "Great Books of the Western Canon", "Socratic method" and "Hutchins curriculum" by April 10, 2010. Though Dean Shiner does not acknowledge this claim and Parker cannot produce this document, Parker uses this as a pretense for forcing a vote on the issue at the February 20 plenary session of the Board.
7. February 20, 2010: The Board, by a narrow vote of 18 to 16, adopts Mr. Lindsay's whole-cloth rewrite of the Shimer College mission statement.

"What the hell just happened?" The short answer: Snake oil, a la Lindsay. What's gonna happen next? Stay tuned. Like Aristotle says, "This shit ain't over yet."