Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Problem with "Good" Administrators as Shimer Presidents

The process of selecting the next president of Shimer College remains on hold until the problems with the Board are resolved. In the meantime, it appears that Ed Noonan is providing outstanding and much-needed leadership. That said, it is certainly not too early to reflect on the factors that have led to Shimer's best and worst presidencies, and how these might best guide the selection of the next president.

In the history of Shimer, there have been three presidents who served for twenty years or more: Frances Shimer, William Parker McKee and Don Moon. Shimer's enrollment more than doubled (arguably tripled) under each of these presidents, and each of them effectively built a campus from scratch: the 4-building 25-acre Seminary campus under Mrs Shimer, the 12-building Junior College campus under Dean McKee, and the 12-building Waukegan campus under President Moon. As Shimer once again finds itself in need of a figure who can lead us to renewed expansion -- and once again in need of a campus -- it is worth looking at what attributes these three figures share.

Shimer has had thirteen full (non-"interim") presidents in its history. These can be roughly graded according to their qualifications as administrators of higher education. Some were extremely highly qualified, in both education and experience: Floyd Wilcox, Raymond Culver, Aaron Brumbaugh, Robert Long, Tom Lindsay. Others had substantial qualifications and experience, though of a less sterling character: Albin Bro, F.J. Mullin, Milburn Akers, Ralph Conant, Bill Rice. And there were three who had no obvious qualifications or experience in running anything larger than a classroom or a congregation: Frances Shimer, William Parker McKee, and Don Moon. (All three were accomplished in their chosen fields, but juding from the available records, none appears to have had prior experience administering an institution of any size.)

I do not think it is a coincidence that the least superficially qualified presidents in Shimer's history have also been the most successful. Nor is it a coincidence that of the three presidencies that ended in unmitigated disaster, two were led by figures of unquestioned qualifications (Long and Lindsay).

Shimer has gone through many transformations in its history, but certain things have remained constant: Shimer has always been small, has always been unusual, and has never been a terribly glamorous place to be president. As such, it has little to command the attention or respect of the career administrator. No one whose qualifications would pass muster with a search committee would want to spend their career as the president of Shimer College. Thus, judging from the record, the best that we can hope for is that a qualified administrator will leave quietly after a short time, as Wilcox did in 1935, Brumbaugh in 1953, and Rice in 2006. Alternatively, unless they die early (Culver, Akers), such figures seem invariably to leave the college in disarray, if not chaos (Lindsay) or bankruptcy (Long).

On behalf of 157 years of hard-learned lessons, then, I make this request to the Board of Trustees: for our next president, please do not hire anyone who is "qualified" for the position. Instead, if you can, hire someone intelligent and accomplished in their field, someone who demonstrably cares about Shimer and about education... and who has never set foot in educational administration before.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Trustee Skips Commencement to Attend Tea-Party Rally

I wish this were more shocking. Via the aptly-named Crooks and Liars:
Hennessy's most recent post links to the American Majority 'grassroots summit' in Kansas City this weekend. One of the featured speakers is Eric O'Keefe, Chairman of the Sam Adams Alliance, also on the board of Wisconsin Club for Growth and a former director of Americans for Limited Government. ALG has been associated with Howard Rich and Grover Norquist.
O'Keefe is, of course, one of the many new additions to Shimer's Board of Trustees, brought on by the extremely former president Tom Lindsay.

A look at the schedule further shows that O'Keefe was speaking on Friday evening. So, if Shimer academics had any meaning to him -- or any of the other members of Lindsay's wrecking crew, not a single one of whom showed their faces at commencement -- he could easily have made the trip. That he did not, and they did not, shows that their disregard for the community extends to a general lack of regard for Shimer as anything but a useful, accredited shell.

In contrast, friendly trustees arrived from as far away as California to attend commencement, the single most important and uniting event in the Shimer year. And this year's commencement was a glorious occasion. Students, parents, and alumni from far and near came out to congratulate the newest members of the alum community.

We can only hope that Mr O'Keefe and his friends will continue to follow the precedent they have set, and stay away from Shimer permanently in the future. Unfortunately, despite the failure of their takeover attempt, and their evident shared contempt for everything that Shimer represents, not a single one has left the Board. This forces us, reluctantly, to conclude that there is still work to be done to preserve Shimer from the hostile takeover led by Patrick Parker.

Once O'Keefe and his ilk are gone at last, it is imperative that the Board enact substantial changes that will prevent anything of this nature from ever happening again.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Acts of the Assembly of May 2



I. The Assembly congratulates and welcomes Edward Noonan to the presidency of Shimer College, and offers its support and assistance to the President in the constitutional governance of the College.

II. State of the College Address President Edward Noonan

III. Amendment of the Constitution

That the Speaker of the Assembly be a faculty or staff member who has worked for the college for at least four years.


Section IV:1

From: “The Assembly shall elect from among the members of the Agenda Committee (Section V) a Speaker, who will be responsible for publishing the agendas for all Assembly meetings, for convening and chairing the Assembly, and for chairing the Agenda Committee.”

To: “The Assembly shall elect a Speaker early in the fall term from among Faculty and administrative staff who have been employed on a fulltime basis by the College for at least the previous four years, including any formally approved leaves of absence. The Speaker will be responsible for publishing the agendas for all Assembly meetings, for convening and chairing the Assembly, and for chairing the Agenda Committee.


Section V:4

From: “The Committee shall be composed of four persons elected early in the fall term, at least one of whom must be a staff member.”

To: “The Committee shall be composed of the Speaker (Section IV:1) and three members elected early in the fall term.”

The motion was tabled indefinitely.

IV. An ad hoc committee is formed to study the Agenda Committee of the Assembly and to make recommendations to the Assembly by the end of October 2010.

V. The Ad Hoc Committee to Study the Agenda Committee is to consist of five self-nominated members of the Assembly, appointed by the Speaker.

VI. 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.

This document is a redaction of the acts of the meeting, in compliance with Motion VI. Complete minutes will be publicly available after they are approved by the Assembly.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Webcast of Assembly of May 2

The agenda for today's Assembly is here.

Today's Assembly will be webcast.

To join the meeting:

(Select "Enter as guest" and type your name; no password is required.)

If you have never attended a Connect Pro meeting before:

Test your connection:

Get a quick overview:


There will also be a livetweet commencing at @shimerians and continuing at @saradevil if needed.