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meeting and talking to him caused one Shimerian to post the following; “He believes in the centrality of certain outdated and dangerous narratives.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.