Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"I signed up for Shimer College not the Thomas Lindsay Reading Club."

Recent alum Byron Keys recounts the initial reaction of the Shimer College community to Thomas Lindsay.

I was a student member of the Board of Trustees in 2007-08. I was also the secretary of Administrative Committee and a member of the Agenda Committee during the same school year. In retrospect, we know now that the change in the responsibilities of the Administrative Committee and the foisting of Tom Lindsay on the college appear to be steps in a carefully orchestrated plan to take over the college. I know that some of you refuse to believe this and think that the Lindsayites have the best interest of the school at heart. I would argue to you that this is not the case.

By now, you have heard from many students, alums and employees of the college as to why Tom Lindsay must resign immediately to begin to return the college back to normal. I would offer you a number of voices from the past, of students, staff and faculty, that were sent to the board after Tom Lindsay’s May 28, 2008 visit to campus, prior to the vote on the presidency. It is amazing how, with this much documented opposition Tom Lindsay was still able to garner three quarters of the trustees in order to be confirmed. I will let these voices speak now, I will not identify the writer for a couple of reasons. I have not asked the writer’s permission and I fear Tom Lindsay would retaliate against some of the people who have commented, especially those in admin or academic positions at the college. So, listen to the voices of opposition that were raised at the end of May 2008. In retrospect, some of the comments seem very prophetic.

One commenter, whose remarks were the voicing of the secret fears of many Shimerians at the time said, “I have concerns about the candidate and his thoughts about the direction of the school and curriculum. I am concerned about his possible pushing in a direction that takes Shimer away from its roots.” Tom Lindsay’s visit at the end of May was a disaster, meeting and talking to him caused one Shimerian to post the following; “He believes in the centrality of certain outdated and dangerous narratives. And I do not mean the great books themselves (hahaha). Rather he holds ideologically loaded beliefs regarding what ‘questions we should be asking.’ This is important because he believes he is being objective when he says that race, class and gender are not important academic topics. He is a cultural imperialist and a staunch opponent of ‘multiculturalism.’ It would not be as upsetting to me had he not made it explicit that these were the fundamentals of (h)is crusade. He wants to implement these dogmatic jingoistic beliefs and make us into ‘proper American citizens.’ That last quote offended me. He also called all of continental philosophy (excluding Heidegger) derivative and not as worthy of our curriculum. His favorites ‘The Founding Fathers,’ whatever that means, however are excluded from criticism. He believes we should all identify with, what I call but he would never claim is, the dominant ideology of this country and that in fact the dominant ideology itself is a good litmus test for what is important to read. I think this sort of agenda-driven approach is harmful and will probably alienate a lot of students who are diametrically opposed to all of it. I signed up for Shimer College not the Thomas Lindsay Reading Club.”

Remember that Tom Lindsay submitted a CV for the original job opening, but was not chosen for a campus visit by the committee. A committee headed by Patrick Parker. However, after his chat with Barre Seid, in which Seid handed him a check for $75,000, he came to the May 8 board meeting with the purpose of extending the search. Actually, not extending the search, but bringing in Tom Lindsay and force feeding him down everyone’s throat. This should sound familiar to people who were on the Administrative Committee when Amy Pitts was rammed down their throats. One community member commented of Tom Lindsay’s visit, “Although I liked his ideas, I disagreed with his methods. I would prefer overall candidate #3 (I believe Mark Tierno) for Shimer. Not only did Mark connect more easily with Shimer students than Tom (at least from what I saw), he was also willing to listen and work things out before putting out his own ideas. I respect that. (Sorry for the dual evaluation.. but I didn't get a chance to fill out Mark's form!)” The favorite was Mark Tierno, who still serves as president of Cazenovia College in New York. Tierno’s visit was enlightening, he seemed to really be excited at the prospect of turning the colleges around and is an experienced and proven fundraiser. Tom Lindsay either avoided or obfuscated questions relating to his fundraising experience. One community member commented, “Very limited administrative experience - academic for sure, but little beyond that. He did not come across as a real leader to me - so I really wonder how this would play itself out. Little evidence of a sense of humor. Not clear if he is committed to diversity - in terms of the curriculum, student body etc. in any way, shape, or manner.”

One of the ways that Tom Lindsay rubbed me wrong was his body language and not giving direct answers to direct questions. This was noticed by other people who met him that day as well, as evidenced by the following comments, “Lindsay does not seem open to views that are different from his own. He tends to label any intellectual approach that differs from his own as ‘ideology’ and dismisses it as not worthy of liberal education. Shimer has served itself well by staying out of the cultures wars; Lindsay is a stauch cultural warrior and I fear he will drag our institution into this tiresome debate. He does not provide straight answers to questions but repeats the same ideas about a liberal education to most direct questions. We all agreed before the search process that what Shimer needs is someone who can be an effective fundraiser; Lindsay evaded questions about this aspect of the job. The one direct answer he gave was that when he believes in a cause, such as liberal education, he doesn't mind asking for money. We need a president who is less ideolgical and more interested in raising money for the College.” When we needed a man who was like our interim president, Ron Champagne, what we got was an ideologically compromised candidate who was in the pocket of and had marching orders from Barre Seid and Patrick Parker. Lindsay’s writings were printed and circulated at the college during May 08. One Shimerian said of them, “I discovered his writings online just as many others in our community did. Some of them scared me.”

Anyone who thinks that Tom Lindsay came on board with universal acclaim is mistaken. There was opposition to him before he ever set foot on campus when his sexist, racist and misogynistic writing was discovered. I offer these voices from the past to ensure you that he faced a lot of opposition early on. I believe this opposition will continue until Tom Lindsay is fired or resigns. Perhaps the presidency of COTUS would be suited for him.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shimer College Fact Check: The Odd Lies of Joe Bast, Volume I

Heartland Institute president Joe Bast is among the many trustees with no prior ties to Shimer College who recently joined the Shimer board while enjoying the undisclosed backing of Barre Seid. Since joining the Board, Mr Bast has become an ardent member of absentee president Thomas Lindsay's political wrecking crew. As one friend of the college recently said, "He runs a zombie think tank; why not a zombie college?"

In addition to his fondness for zombie philanthropy, it seems that somewhere in his rise to wealth, fame and Trusteeship, Mr Bast lost the ability to tell the truth.
Today we begin what we fear will have to be a very long-running feature on Mr Bast's peculiar Shimer-related lies and distortions. Our first text is "Size Matters" by Jay Schalin, a Pope Center article published in October 2009 that cites Mr Bast as its sole source for information about Shimer College. The only falsehood not directly linked to Bast's name is also the most innocent:

Almost Harmlessly False: "It was founded as a women’s college in Mount Carroll, Illinois, during the 19th century. "

As even a casual student of Shimer history knows, Shimer was founded as a coeducational seminary in 1853. It became a women's seminary only 13 years later, under space constraints. For a reasonably accurate portrayal of the school's first 135 years, the interested reader is referred to the classic article "Big Ideas" by Harold Henderson. As noted above, it is possible that this error is simply a mistake on Mr Schalin's part, and not directly attributable to Mr Bast.

Just False: "At one point, Bast said enrollment dropped to less than 50 students. However, a subsequent move to the campus of Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago appears to have stabilized the school, and enrollment is now back up to 106. "

Enrollment was well over 100 in the late 1990s, when Shimer was still in Waukegan. Whatever the other merits of the move to IIT, it cannot be said to have had much positive impact on enrollment thus far.

Stupefyingly False: "Bast said the Board of Trustees hope to get it back up to 300 to 400 students, which they consider optimal size for a Great Books college (he added that the faculty and students would rather to keep it at its present size)."

This insult alone should be enough to wipe out any possibility that this man is operating in good faith. It boggles the mind that Bast could even imagine that anyone in the community, let alone a majority, does not want Shimer to grow to a healthy and sustainable size. There have been plans for a swift return to 300-500 students since at least the early 1980s. Thus far, every such plan has fallen maddeningly short. And thus far, there is little reason to believe that the absentee efforts of Thomas Lindsay will fare any better. Early indications are that recruiting for the
coming year is flat or down. It would seem that putting our school's curriculum and faculty to the torch may not have been the best recruiting tool after all. Who could have foreseen that?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why Thomas Lindsay Must Go

Please sign the petition.

General Summary of President Lindsay’s Tenure

Thomas Lindsay assumed the presidency of Shimer College in January 2009.[1] Lindsay was not among the three candidates recommended by the search committee, and there are no public records as to the process by which he was chosen.[2] Since taking office, Lindsay has repeatedly violated the administrative procedures of the school in order to advance a his own agenda and place his associates in positions of importance.[3] In order to preserve their narrow majority, Lindsay's allies on the Board, who for the most part lack any connection to Shimer College, have blocked the candidacy of qualified alumni.[4] The most recent transgression by Lindsay and his allies has been the abrupt, wholesale alteration of the College's mission statement, over the unanimous objections of the faculty.[5] There is abundant reason to believe that the faculty and curriculum of Shimer College are in serious peril. [6]

Primary Issues of Concern:

Stacking the Board

For all his many faults, Lindsay would not pose a credible threat to the College if he did not enjoy the support of a majority on the Board of Trustees. At the moment that majority is quite narrow: Lindsay's mission statement passed by only two votes in the February meeting of the Board. This narrow majority was only obtained by flooding the Board with new members over the past two years. Almost none of these new members have any prior connection to the college. The impression of a hostile takeover is confirmed by the refusal of the Nominating Committee, on which these new members now hold a majority, to confirm any of the six eligible alumni candidates who have been put forward.


Lindsay and his appointees on the Board have used their narrow majority to push through an ideologically-loaded rewrite of the mission statement. This was done under false pretenses and against the express, nearly unanimous disapproval of the faculty and student bodies. Approximately half of the student body came out on a freezing Saturday morning, in February, in Chicago, in order to calmly and peacefully express their objections to the Board's planned action.


Lindsay has expressed a desire to remove what he views as "political correctness" from the curriculum. This suggests that he will press to remove the many works by women and persons of color that are currently included in the Core. It may also suggest a desire to remove non-canonical works, keeping only the historical Great Books. Furthermore, by unilaterally removing "citizenship" from the mission statement of the College, Lindsay has stricken out one of the three pillars of Great Books education as articulated by Robert Maynard Hutchins. This bodes extremely poorly for his future intentions, which remain in shadow.


Lindsay has threatened faculty [6] and members of the Board with removal if they do not support his agenda.


President Lindsay has fired skilled, professional staff members – notably Elaine Vincent, who modernized Shimer's admissions and achieved impressive gains in enrollment – in order to hire people he knows will support him. In this instance, he went against the express will of the committees that normally oversee personnel issues. Lindsay subsequently refused to discuss the rationale for his highly suspect firing of Ms. Vincent, even after a formal request by the faculty that he explain himself. [1] Elaine Vincent was replaced by a remarkably under-qualified Director of Admissions, Amy Pritts. In flagrant disregard of Shimer hiring procedures, Mrs. Pritts was re-inserted into the pool of applicants after three rounds of selection by the Administrative Committee per Lindsay’s directive. Mrs. Pritts had previously worked at the University of Dallas in a non-managerial capacity, further heightening suspicions of cronyism.


Lindsay's actions disregard the established, documented administrative institutions and procedures of Shimer College. His actions are most flagrantly in violation of the model of self-governance – reaffirmed by the Board as recently as 2008 – that has kept the college alive for so long against such incredible odds. But they also violate basic principles of sound management; Lindsay has made no effort to keep the community on board, or even to keep key stakeholders informed of his planned actions. In the process he has done the nearly impossible: united the Shimer community.


Lindsay’s tenure has resulted in an atmosphere of suspicion and acrimony, wherein faculty and staff are saddled with justified and deep concerns for their jobs and students for the future of their education at Shimer College. These have grown to include the very tenability of Shimer College as an institution. It is difficult to see this as an ambiance in which education can proceed, let alone flourish.

Please sign the petition.

Please fill out the form.

1. "Inauguration of 13th President of Shimer College".
2. "Shimer College Presidential Search Finalist Candidates",
3. "Growing Suspicion Pits President and Several Trustees Against The Rest of Shimer's Community", Eugene Lim, February 2010 Promulgates, page 8 et seq.
4. In what is believed to be an unprecedented action, the Nominating Committee in January voted to table 6 eligible Shimer graduates who had been nominated to the Board, thus effectively turning away both money and support. The group that was tabled included former members of the Board, and others who had made substantial contributions to the college. "For First Time in Recent Shimer History, 6 Nominees to Board of Trustees 'Indefinitely Tabled'", Dan Merchan, February 2010 Promulgates, page 4.
5. Faculty statement:*tueKCe9NgV86Q. Assembly resolution:*tueKCe9NgV86Q.
6. The statement adopted by the faculty in February reads in part "[Lindsay] 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." Personnel decisions by the President are subject to review and reversal under the Article V Paragraph 4 of the
Board bylaws. However, the Executive Committee of the Board has recently claimed that the President has always had the simple authority to hire and fire faculty.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shimer College Assembly Approves New Mission Statement

In its March 21 meeting, the Assembly of Shimer College unanimously approved the following mission statement, selected from among a total 10 candidate statements that had been put forward.

Shimer College—the Great Books College of Chicago—provides and preserves education centered on discussion of enduring questions and issues. Historically influential original sources are studied through Socratic questioning, in small seminar classes and following the curriculum developed by Robert Maynard Hutchins. The core values informing education at Shimer are free inquiry, dialog, critical open-mindedness, and integration of disciplines. As a community, the College offers all its members the opportunity to participate meaningfully in deciding the future of the institution. A Shimer education demands much of both the intellect and the character of students, and prepares them for responsible citizenship and the examined life.

The Assembly further approved a request to the Board of Trustees that the statement be formally adopted, without modification, at the May meeting.

3/21 Livetweet

Livetweet of the Special Assembly of March 21, 2010 will commence at @samuelhenderson, and will probably continue at @saradevil as technical constraints require. Check #shimercollege for pertinent announcements.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Agenda for the Special Assembly of March 21st



I Motion, motivated by Barbara Stone

The Assembly shall elect three mission statement proposals, by vote count, from among those that have been submitted to comply with the motion passed at the Assembly of February 28, and send them to the Board of Trustees with an invitation to the Board to choose one of them as the mission statement of Shimer College.


Motion passed at the Assembly of February 28:

The Assembly will endeavor to provide a mission statement enjoying broad support from the community, including the board, staff, faculty, students and alumni of Shimer College by March 21, 2010.

II Election of a mission statement or statements, in accordance with the motion passed at the Assembly of February 28, and with the motion above (agenda item I) if it has been passed.

Proposed mission statements (in alphabetical order by last name of first author):


It is the Mission of Shimer College to cultivate habits of critical inquiry and an ethic of participation, and to thereby enable students to enter the world as active citizens who, on the model of Socrates, endeavor to maximize intellectual liberty and relentlessly pursue the examined life.

Shimer is a small, tight-knit community where students and facilitators cooperatively inquire into the questions and problems contained in, and raised by, the 'Great Books' of the Hutchins Curriculum. This inquiry seeks both to take up the investigations at the heart of these texts and to reveal them as contingent and polysemous; through such inquiry students identify and interrogate the unexamined assumptions which bind these texts and this tradition, and thus prepare themselves to reflect upon the extent to which their thinking may be comparably bound, and how they might begin to liberate themselves from such bondage.

All classes at Shimer are dialogue-based and predicated on an egalitarian ethic of participation. In keeping with this ethic, students acknowledge their reciprocal obligations to do close reading, careful listening, and thoughtful, respectful responding, facilitators work to keep the classroom a safe space for serious intellectual work, and the College offers the entire community - students, facilitators, staff, alumni, and trustees - the opportunity to participate in the Assembly, the democratic component of the college's governance model.

Bill Arnold


Shimer College fosters independent thought and analysis applied across a broad liberal arts core curriculum linking the humanities, and the natural and social sciences. Agreeing with Socrates that “the unexamined life is not worth living," our mission is to graduate students who have questioned their assumptions and who appreciate the need to understand presuppositions, habits, beliefs and the power of prejudices. Liberal education at Shimer offers a setting for students to learn for, through and in an atmosphere of liberty. The goal of liberty should be the pursuit of truth and we believe that the best perspective on how this may be accomplished is by active engagement in the Great Dialogue. Using the works of the greatest accomplishments of Western culture for the starting point of this dialogue, students develop an intellectual framework for lifelong learning and responsible citizenship to preserve freedom of enquiry and expression. Our motto, Non ministrari sed ministrare, (“To serve rather than to be served”), reflects our commitment to work for the greater good over partisan or parochial interests.

Barry Carroll, Harold Stone, Simon Creek, Erik Badger


Shimer welcomes students who seek to learn how to think independently and to freely choose their personal values. To this end students (1) attend small seminar classes where the Great Books and other original sources are explored using the Socratic method of open inquiry, and (2) participate in a democratic process of shared governance of college affairs with faculty and administrative staff. This affords ample opportunity to examine alternatives dispassionately, to put ideas into practice, and to integrate one's unfolding intellectual understanding within the broader cycle of deliberation and action.

The core curriculum, based on innovation by Robert Maynard Hutchins, includes course sequences in the Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities, followed by integrative courses in History and Philosophy. The educational community at Shimer cultivates the kind of collegial interplay that fosters individual autonomy, the ability to think critically, tolerance for a diverse spectrum of values, skillful approach toward mutual understanding, and principled action: the essential qualities that enable lifelong learning and active citizenship in the world at large.

Russell Davis


Shimer College—the Great Books College of Chicago—provides and preserves education centered on discussion of enduring questions and issues. Historically influential original sources are studied through Socratic questioning, in small seminar classes and following the curriculum developed by Robert Maynard Hutchins. The core values informing education at Shimer are free inquiry, dialog, critical open-mindedness, and integration of disciplines. As a community, the College offers all its members the opportunity to participate meaningfully in deciding the future of the institution. A Shimer education demands much of both the intellect and the character of students, and prepares them for responsible citizenship and the examined life.

Albert B. Fernandez


The Shimer College community engages with ideas embedded in works of enduring value, enabling its members to develop skills of critical and creative thinking. Consistent with Shimer's traditional Great Books curriculum, first developed at the University of Chicago under President Robert Maynard Hutchins, emphasis is placed on original sources. These works are are discussed in small classes using a contemporary adaptation of the Socratic method. A Shimer liberal education, which includes active

participation in governance of the community by its members, is designed to enable its graduates to become active citizens in a free society as well as to be engaged productively on issues of global concern.

Robert O Keohane


Shimer College is an independent undergraduate liberal arts college dedicated to developing students' abilities to interpret, reason with, and express ideas free of any commitments to particular subject matters, methodologies, doctrines, professions, disciplines or creeds, but prepared to be informed by any of them. Following the Hutchins' Curriculum, all Shimer students and their facilitators read the original expressions of reasoned interpretations of natural science, social science, individual human creativity and the integrating principles relating these aspects of reality as embodied in the Great Books of Western Civilization and its global context These works and the questions they raise are engaged together in small group discussions in Socratic style, and individually confronted by students in written essays and examinations.

In the spirit of Frances Wood Shimer, whose labors gave birth to this institution and whose name we still bear, we embrace the active participation and mutual empowerment of all members of the Shimer community in the rights and duties of self governance as the proper means to secure the context of reciprocal respect and support that allows the education we seek to take place.

Eric Nicholson


In its long history, Shimer College has always engaged its students and community members toward meaningful and unselfish participation in the world. Shimer College follows the Socratic Method of shared inquiry, requiring of students and faculty alike the recognition of each inquirer's fundamental dignity and equality, for the sake of unselfish participation in the world. Shimer College is thus an intentional community, recognizing that participation in this intellectual dialogue demands that each member has both an opportunity and a responsibility to participate in the College's governance.

The College, in the spirit of Robert Hutchins, challenges its members to examine those great works (Great Books) of all civilizations, which have influenced thinkers throughout history. The College, through dialogue, cultivates an unwavering and demanding intellectual liberty and honesty. It endeavors to move its members beyond either unquestioning acceptance of authority or its automatic mistrust and toward responsible and active citizenship.

Mike Weinman, Mark Robinson, Chris McGlynn


Shimer College's mission is to educate through close study of the Great Books conducted in the Socratic dialogue method. The education and intellectual liberty that Shimer pursues depends on an environment that cultivates freedom of thought and conscience necessary for participation as citizens in a democracy and in the world at large. The end of a Shimer education is the capacity to set aside unexamined assumptions in the dispassionate search for truth as the model for a lifelong education.

Gerald Welch


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.

IV Announcements


A tabled motion or resolution is taken from the table upon passage of a motion to do so, which requires a simple majority. A motion to take from the table may be introduced before or after, but not during, consideration of any item on the agenda.

At the meeting of February 28, 2010, the following resolution was tabled:

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

Friday, March 12, 2010

Shimer College Fact Check: Wall Street Journal article

Here at SC&TF, we try not to give undue prominence to political hit pieces called in by Lindsay and his cronies. However, when a publication as prominent as The Wall Street Journal publishes a misleading, tendentious screed about the current events at Shimer, we believe it is necessary to respond. In what follows we address the more obviously false and misleading statements in the article. If you read that article, you will realize that the following list is far from complete. Please feel free to adapt, expand, and repost.

False: "The school's embattled president, Tom Lindsay, is facing ideological opposition from faculty and students. "
The opposition to Lindsay's mismanagement and abuse of power runs across the spectrum, including staff, students, and alumni of all political persuasions. Shimer's intellectually diverse faculty have been unanimous in condemning Lindsay's actions, which have included firing and threatening to fire anyone who stands in the path of his premeditated hostile takeover. [President Lindsay Threatens Faculty, They Firmly Declare Stance]

Opponents of Lindsay's actions also include many current and former Trustees, notably the distinguished former Chairman of the Board, Young Kim, who urged the community to support a vote of no confidence in Lindsay.

Misleading: 'The "family dispute" is over how to govern this great-books school.'
The problem is less the governance structure than what Lindsay and his cronies intend to do with it. Lindsay & Co. have already vandalized the school’s mission statement and threatened the jobs of staff and faculty. An analysis of Lindsay's speeches and writings indicates strongly that he, and presumably his backers, are also bent on reshaping the Shimer core curriculum according to their own political inclinations, trimming the diversity of ideas currently found there. The contempt that Lindsay & Company have demonstrated for dialogue and participation further suggests that Shimer's unique dialogical classes are also at risk. If we had any reason to believe that Lindsay and his cronies support the core ideals of Shimer, his arrogation of power would be less troubling -- but, unfortunately, there is absolutely no reason to believe this.

False: "Is Shimer a Greek-style polis, as many Shimerians believe?"
Shimer has not operated this way in many years. If there are any Shimerians who think otherwise – and perhaps there are – they are seriously confused. Shimer has operated for decades as a nonprofit corporation with a chief executive whose power is tempered by community and Board oversight. Unfortunately, Thomas Lindsay and his cronies on the board have been working to gut that oversight, eliminating the College’s long-standing tradition of accountability. This is bad management and an abuse of the public trust, and has been decried as such by Rev. Don Moon, who served as president of Shimer for 26 years and arguably deserves the greatest credit for keeping the school alive.

Misleading: "At the time, Shimer faculty, staff and students were eager for Mr. Lindsay to join their tiny school, which enrolls about 100 students, and lead it to happier times."

No doubt, hope springs eternal at Shimer, and we in the alum community dearly hoped that Lindsay's appointment would work out. But the very manner by which he became president raised very serious issues. Lindsay had actually been rejected in the first round of the presidential search process, in favor of other candidates with more pertinent experience. Although the finalists had been narrowed to two excellent candidates in May 2008, Lindsay was suddenly pushed forward by his backer Patrick Parker, who successfully intimidated other trustees with the threat that “anonymous” donor Barre Seid would not approve of these nominees – even though the finalists had real experience at the helm of small colleges, while Lindsay had no experience as a No. 1 executive at all. [May 2008 board minutes]

Misleading: “Enter Mr. Lindsay, charged by Shimer's board—which includes faculty and students—with securing the college's future. “
Unbeknownst to the community, a majority had already been secured on the board by proxies for wealthy industrialist Barre Seid. This fact was only discovered in December 2009, thanks to the diligence of a concerned alumnus. Thus, Tom Lindsay was selected by a board that was already out of the school’s control. [Who’s Buying Shimer?] Confirming the reality of a hostile takeover, this covertly-assembled majority, led by operative Patrick Parker, has maneuvered to maintain its control by blocking the nominations of reputable alumni. [Promulgates 2/2010, page 4]

Misleading: " Less than two years later,"
Actually, objections to Lindsay's abuse of power became widespread less than eight months into his tenure. [Promulgates 2/2010, page 8] Even now he has been in office for only slightly more than a year (he was installed in late January 2009). It is certainly true, however, that 8 months is less than 2 years.

False: 'many of the same people who once cheered Mr. Lindsay's arrival now denounce him as a "conservative menace,"'
"The Conservative Menace" is the sensationalistic title of a Chicago Reader exposé. Newspapers like the Reader do what they must. However, no member of the Shimer community has been heard to use this term. Shimer's problem is not with Lindsay's political leanings, whatever they may be, but with his evident contempt for the unique ethos and mission of the college. Lindsay is definitely a menace, but his political inclinations are only incidental to this.

Misleading: "He fired the director of admissions, without consulting the assembly."
It would have been very unusual for Tom to consult the Assembly, which has not deliberated on specific personnel issues for decades. His responsibility, however, was to consult with the Administrative Committee. This responsibility is specified in the Board bylaws. Not only did Lindsay refuse to discuss his firing of the skilled, successful, and recently-hired Director of Admissions, but both the Admissions Director’s firing and Lindsay's subsequent hiring of a political crony to replace her were done over the express objections of the Administrative Committee and the college faculty. [Promulgates 2/2010]

So yes, Lindsay didn’t consult the Assembly, nor would anyone have expected him to; the breach of procedure was much more profound.

False: "As for the claim that the president ignored the tradition of self-governance at Shimer, in 2008 the college's board itself determined that matters of personnel, among others, would rest with the president."
The Board's own bylaws, as amended in 2008, require that the president consult with the Administrative Committee. This cannot be said to have occurred in any meaningful sense. The Board's bylaws also specify that the Board has the power to overturn any personnel decision by the president. However, the Board, which has been covertly packed with people owing their allegiance and funding to Lindsay's backer Barre Seid, has consistently failed to exercise this oversight. [Board bylaws]

Misleading: "What seems to be irking faculty and students are the president's classically liberal politics, which are out of tune on a campus that invited ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers to be a speaker in 2008."
Shimer has always welcomed speakers from across the political spectrum. This tradition dates back at least to the early 1960s, when the president of the American Nazi Party was invited to speak on campus. [Big Ideas] I fear that Ms Smith’s latching onto this point speaks more about what she and other members of Lindsay's circle imagine “liberty” to be. In this regard it is worth noting that even Tom Lindsay defended Ayers' right to speak on campus.

False: "When Mr. Lindsay shared the statement with students and faculty as part of an intended consultation process, the words "liberty" and "liberal" exploded like a bomb."
In fact, the actual statement drafted by Lindsay was never shared with the community, and was not even disclosed to the Board until a few days before it was voted on. Instead, Lindsay disclosed what he claimed were "guideposts", and rejected any specific criticism on the grounds that these guideposts were not, in fact, a mission statement proposal. The problems with the so-called “mission statement” and the manner of its adopting are detailed in the resolution passed by the February 28th Assembly.

In closing, we believe it is prudent to mention that the WSJ appropriately classified the above-quoted piece as "Opinion," and that Emily Smith, who authored the piece, is not a
Wall Street Journal reporter. Ms Smith is instead a "fellow" at the "Collegiate Network" operated by the Weekly Standard. The Collegiate Network, like approximately half of Shimer's current Board, has benefited from the generosity of Barre Seid, the "anonymous donor". Much like the members of the Board, Ms Smith apparently did not consider it necessary to disclose this information.

Announcement of Special Assembly March 21

Citizens of Shimer College,

A special unscheduled meeting of the Assembly will take place on Sunday, March 21, starting at 4 pm central time, in the Cinderella Lounge. The Agenda Committee is convening the Assembly to comply with the Carroll-Badger-Shiner motion passed by the Assembly at the special meeting of February 28, which reads as follows:

The Assembly will endeavor to provide a mission statement enjoying broad support from the community, including the board, staff, faculty, students and alumni of Shimer College by March 21, 2010.

The agenda will include motions for electing a new mission statement and will be disseminated on Tuesday, March 16. Those who are writing mission statement proposals are asked to submit them by noon on that date (to ) so that the community has time to study the proposals before meeting. However, in recognition of the short amount of time since the motion, Dean’s Break, this notice, and the upcoming meeting, statement revisions and additional proposals will be accepted by the Committee until Friday, March 19, 9 pm cst. Updated editions of the Agenda will be sent between Tuesday and Saturday if need be.

As at the February 7th meeting of the Assembly, there will be discussion of Shimer’s mission and of the mission statement proposals before the election begins, but amending, including friendly amending, of the text of the various statements will again be out of order. The Committee believes that last-minute wordsmithing during the meeting would take up a completely prohibitive amount of time, and could result in poor and hasty rewriting of a statement of the greatest importance to the College. The Speaker will entertain objections to this procedure from the floor (amending as usual will be in order for other agenda items). Members who would like changes in any of the proposed statements on the Agenda should contact the authors with suggested emendations. Some proposals have already been circulated, and contact information for authors will be provided when the agenda is distributed.

The Carroll-Shiner-Badger motion calls for a mission statement with “broad support from the community, including the Board, staff, faculty, students and alumni.” Although the Committee will not judge whether proposals received are in accord with the intent of motion or not, it may be helpful to those who are composing or revising statement proposals to consider the following list of content components and qualities that members of the community have advocated in various forums since the review of our mission statement began in the fall. The list is by no means intended by the Committee as a set of requirements for proposals.

1 written clearly and correctly, and in a tone that commands respect
2 no longer than two paragraphs
3 gives a comprehensive and accurate sense of Shimer to outsiders
4 distinguishes Shimer from other colleges, including St. John’s
5 can realistically be used in soliciting donors, including donors with definite political views
6 mentions small seminar classes
7 mentions original sources
8 mentions the Great Books
9 mentions the Socratic method
10 mentions or invokes shared governance
11 mentions or invokes active citizenship
12 content substantially refers to education and intellectual values
13 mentions freedom of the mind
14 includes the word “liberty”
15 mentions the Hutchins Curriculum

Apart from mission statement proposals, the Committee will also consider other agenda item proposals for this or a future meeting of the Assembly. Any member of the Assembly, including alumni, can suggest agenda items by sending them to any member of the Agenda Committee (names below--Shimer eml addresses consist of the first initial, dot, last name, and As has been the case since the beginning of the academic year, we expect the March 21 meeting to be quite lengthy, and will exercise judgment as to which possible agenda items may be taken up at a later date. Again, considering the importance of the issues before us, we ask members of the Assembly to prepare to stay late. There will be short recesses during the meeting. 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.

As before, 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, March 21, 9 pm cst, but the Committee cannot guarantee all messages will be disseminated if their number turns out to be overwhelming. To make it easier to forward messages to the community, please send them to the Speaker as attachments to e-mail, and not as text within the e-mail.

We expect that the March 21st meeting will be webcast as prior meetings have been. If it will be, access information will be disseminated to members. 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 they know. 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

Thursday, March 04, 2010

News Reports To Date on Shimer Crisis

Here are the recent stories in the Serious Media, in approximate reverse chronological order. This may not be a complete list:
Big Trouble at Little Shimer: What’s happening to Chicago’s Great Books college? Chicago Weekly 3/3/2010 Sam Feldman Focus on 2/28 Assembly vote; good background; somewhat confused about relative size of last two campuses
Anonymous Donor Outed in Debate Over Small College's Mission Chronicle of Philanthropy (subscription) 2/26/2010 Andy Markowitz Poor, poor Barre Seid. How hard his life must be.
At a Tiny College, an Epic Battle Over Academic Authority Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription -- but ask around) 2/25/2010 Don Troop A merciful focus on the real issue of governance, rather than ideological distractions.
Who's Buying Shimer? Chicago Reader 2/25/2010 Deanna Isaacs Deanna takes it up a notch; good details on the covert purchase of the Board and the mysterious COTUS issue.
Shimer College in Power Struggle: Board, president seek independence from partnership with students Chicago Tribune 1/27/2010 Ron Grossman A shameful mess of an article. The first sentence is accurate; the rest, not so much.
The Conservative Menace: Is an influx of neocon board members threatening Shimer College’s egalitarian tradition? Chicago Reader 12/10/2009 Deanna Isaacs Although problematic, this article pretty much broke the story; at the time, few took the claims of conspiracy seriously, and the role of Barre Seid was still unknown.
Overall, I think the media has been doing a decent job. So far the Tribune is the only legitimate news outlet to have fallen for Lindsay's spin. That alone should be enough to get Tom Lindsay fired for incompetence; who ever heard of a conservative executive who couldn't piss on the media and convince them it's raining? Then again, the Tribune is also the only entirely mainstream media outlet to weigh in so far.

A WBEZ reporter has been working on a piece, but as far as I know, there is still no word as to when it will come out, or what form it will take.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Three Video Resources for Following Shimer Events

If you're following events at Shimer College from afar, you may have a hard time visualizing what's going on. Fortunately, there have been a lot of people hanging around with cameras and cell phones, and some of that video has been posted online.

Here are three channels that you should definitely look at, and keep an eye on for future developments.

Go to FWShimerFoundation to see video of the students' extraordinarily civil and disciplined protest of the Board meeting, and of some conversations between the community and Thomas Lindsay:

Go to SuperLordnicon to see some video/audio of the unscripted conversation between trustee Frank Buckley and the protesting students and alumni in the IIT Atrium. It's difficult to avoid the impression that Buckley said a bit more than he meant to:

Go to GadflyNewsOnline for video of the emergency Assembly of February 28:

Please pass the word, and if you have a YouTube account, also subscribe to the channels and uprate and comment on the videos. If you know of any more sources of good Shimer videos, please let us know in the comments.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Resolutions of 2/28 Assembly

In the emergency Assembly of 2/28, the community voted to reject president Thomas Lindsay's so-called "mission statement."

The vote of no confidence in the so-called president was tabled for the time being.

In addition, it was resolved to seek a mission statement enjoying broad support from all constituencies, this process concluding no later than March 21st.

The text of the adopted resolutions follows.


Whereas the Board of Trustees adopted a statement called a “mission statement,” written by President Thomas Lindsay, on February 20, 2010;

Whereas this statement is without the express 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 is not consistent with 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 after a major donor said, one day before the Board plenary, that funding would cease if a new mission 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; and,

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.”

(Adopted by a vote of 69 for, 1 against, and 2 abstentions)

II.The Assembly will endeavor to provide a mission statement enjoying broad support from the community, including the board, staff, faculty, students and alumni of Shimer College by March 21, 2010.

(Motion passed by 59 for, 1 against, and 2 abstentions)