Saturday, April 10, 2010

After the Brawl is Over...

We may yet have a long and difficult fight ahead of us. We may lose. There was never any reason to believe that Tom Lindsay & Co. would leave quietly. On the other hand, if I were President Lindsay, I would have been thinking about alternative careers for a while now. So if he does suddenly depart, we need to be ready for the next step.

If Lindsay leaves us, there will be three needs that must be met as quickly and effectively as possible: more money, more students, and more secure governance.

More Money!
Altogether, approximately $175,000 has been pledged to support a post-Lindsay Shimer. The short-term goal is $250,000. This will help to ensure a financially smooth transition. You can make a pledge using the online form.

In the longer term, of course, even more will need to be raised. It is critical that we establish a broad base of support to replace the narrow base that has recently been provided, directly and indirectly, by the Seid and Aequus foundations. Also critical will be ensuring that the people providing this broad-based support are heard in future discussions of college governance and mission. The efforts we have put into alum outreach will need to be retooled to this end.

More Students!
Lindsay hasn't been able to meet the expectations he was hired under when it comes to enrollment. If we want there to be a post-Lindsay Shimer, we'll have to do a lot better than he has done.

To that end, thus far approximately 40 alumni have volunteered to donate time on a weekly basis to help recruit students for a post-Lindsay Shimer. You can add yourself to this number by using the online form.

It takes time to get up to speed for this sort of work. Therefore, I would encourage anyone who is not too deeply involved in the current mess to get in touch with the Admissions Office ( as soon as possible about volunteering.

The energy dedicated to online action will also need to be reoriented to identifying and recruiting potential Shimerians. The blogs that have been put up in reaction to the crisis, especially Shimer College Alumni Speak and its sister blogs, will need to be retooled to help get out the word about the real Shimer. Fresh content will be needed, there and elsewhere.

Better Governance!
If we are fortunate enough to be delivered from the current mess, it is critically important that we make it much more difficult for anything like this to ever happen again. To be sure, no system of governance can be completely impervious to hostile takeover. But certain things seem clear:
- It should not be possible for a majority of non-internal seats on the Board to be held by people with no prior connection to the school (as is now the case).
- It should not be easy for a hostile majority on the Board to refuse to seat representatives of the internal community (as would currently be the case).
- It should not be possible to simply dilute the student and faculty seats on the Board into irrelevance.
- The role of the Assembly and its Constitution and committees should be affirmed in the Bylaws in unmistakable, weasel-free language. Some work on this front may already be under way, thanks to the joint task force that has been set up to clarify the changes of 2008.

* * * * *

All of the above, of course, remains miserably hypothetical for the time being. None of it will ever be possible unless Shimer's absentee president adds a seventh day to his weekend. So please keep reaching out to alumni and friends. Please keep spreading the word, in whatever ways you can.

And please, if you haven't yet, sign the petition.

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