Monday, April 05, 2010

Not my Shimer? Plus ca change, plus ca reste

Shimer College and the future … is also Shimer College and the past. I would like to address a sentiment I’ve heard often enough since Shimer moved in 1979 from its Mt. Carroll campus, an opinion that can now be shared by alums from Shimer’s Waukegan incarnation, since Shimer is now based in Chicago: that’s not my Shimer.

For those of you who have said and/or thought that, please consider: oh, yes, it is.

I have a singular perspective: Mt Carroll alum (1975) who was Shimer faculty when the college moved to Waukegan in 1979 and who now visits the “Great Books College in Chicago” because my daughter is a student. It’s true: the Mies van der Rohe urban campus at IIT, where Shimer now lives, is not rural-bucolic. An elevated train runs through it, noisily. And no, it’s not the small enclave of aging buildings (which had character and also nice rugs) that was Shimer in Waukegan. But: plus ca change, plus ca reste, as they said in Brigitte LaCombe’s French III class in Mt. Carroll.

I went to a class last year on James Joyce’s Ulysses (an unreadable but important member of the Western Canon), which I read in an independent study with Eileen Buchanan in 1974. I was therefore ready for the class and most delighted to (a) remember anything from the book after 30 plus years and (b) accept insights based on close and imaginative readings of the text. It was fun, true, and good. I also recently attended a meeting of Shimer’s governing Assembly, which is foreign to Mt. Carroll alums. To Mt. Carrollingians I say: it sounded like student government from back in the day, and it also put me in mind of The People Shall Judge from our social sciences curriculum. There were the people, judging, deliberating. Plus ca change, plus ca reste.

Shimer is now in trouble; fellow alumni, if it did something for you, please give back now. Become informed; spread the word; sign the petition requesting the resignation of a president who, with an ideological rather than educational agenda, is a bad match for the school; squeak the wheel.

1 comment :

Elisabeth said...

Marcia, it's so true! As a faculty brat in Mt. Carroll, a student in Waukegan, and an alum who was (and is) supportive of the move to Chicago, I will say this: anyone who doesn't think this is the same Shimer should do what you did and sit in on a class. This is your Shimer. Please help it now.

Elisabeth Buchanan