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.

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