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.

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1. "Inauguration of 13th President of Shimer College". http://alumni.shimer.edu/s/1028/index.aspx?calcid=772&calpgid=61&cid=933&crid=0&ecid=933&gid=1&pgid=252&sid=1028.
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:
https://acrobat.com/#d=PMxWWeia*tueKCe9NgV86Q. Assembly resolution: https://acrobat.com/#d=PMxWWeia*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. https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B788E5miKgPCMmI2ZGI4NjEtOTcwYS00MWRkLTlhYmUtYWZhMTAwMzBlN2Yx.


mherman said...

Please help me understand why Lindsay wants to stay despite all this acrimony. I have no knowledge of him/his practices but it seems to me that the problem is either 1. he lacks leadership to unite the group and/or 2. the group needs to change or compromise. thanks, Mary

Visviva said...

The most parsimonious answer is that Lindsay's behavior outlined above is simply the execution of a premeditated scheme. According to this hypothesis, Lindsay never intended to lead the community; he wanted only to rule over it and remake it in the image he desired. Firing faculty and staff, and gutting the curriculum and pedagogy, are then simply part of the basic plan to modify the school beyond recognition for ideological purposes. In this scenario, Lindsay's mistake -- if it was one -- was to move a bit too precipitately and thereby unite the otherwise vulnerable community against him. In support of this hypothesis, although Lindsay himself has said nothing in public for months, revealing comments have been made by pro-Lindsay trustees Parker and Bast. I would particularly refer you to a sentence in Bast's recent letter:
"Shimer’s fortunes had fallen so low that it presented an opportunity for a fresh start, an opportunity to show the rest of higher education how a small college devoted to a Great Books education could point the way to excellence."

The fresh start Bast speaks of is a fresh start for Lindsay's wrecking crew, not for Shimer, for under them Shimer would effectively cease to exist.

[Read the full letter here: bit.ly/9CDfKC . Note that the letter is full of distortions and outright lies, and also that the author is a career ideologue who makes his living promoting junk science. A detailed response to the letter has been delayed, but is forthcoming.]

Unknown said...

Who were the 6 qualified alums?