Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shimer College Open House for prospective students, October 8 2012


OCTOBER 8, 2012

The faculty and students of Shimer invite you to visit us on Columbus Day, Monday, October 8, 9:30am to about 2:00pm (or later if you'd like to sit in on afternoon classes).

College for a Day

You will tour the campus, meet Shimer faculty, students, and staff, and get a chance to experience a Shimer class: a class with no more than twelve students discussing a text that has been pivotal to the development of civilization.

Feel free to bring your parents, a friend, or both.

Complete this online registration form to let us know that you are coming.

Call 312.235.3504 or email us with any questions you have. We hope you can join us in the Great Conversation.

Shimer College
Office of Admission
3424 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60616

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Susan Henking interviewed about Shimer on Out of Bounds Radio (PRX)

Earlier this week, Shimer College president Susan Henking was interviewed by Tish Pearlman on the Out of Bounds Radio Show, which airs on WEOS and WSKG in upstate New York and is syndicated online by PRX.

Listen to the excellent half-hour interview here -- or right here:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Banned Books reading at Shimer College, October 4 2012

Thursday, October 4, 6:45 – 8pm
Shimer College, Cinderella Lounge
3424 S. State St.
Shimer College invites Chicago to participate in an evening of short readings from the (sadly) long list of books that have been banned, burned and otherwise barred from the public. Reflecting on the history of book burnings as depicted in The Book Thief, this event coincides with the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. Come read from your own favorite once- or currently-threatened book or from one selected by the students, staff and faculty of Shimer. For more information call (312) 235-3529 or email

See also event pages on:, Goodreads, LibraryThing.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Shimer College Assembly, 9/9/2012

The first meeting of the Assembly of Shimer College for this academic year will be held on Sunday, September 9, 2012, at 4 PM in the Cinderella Lounge at Shimer.

No agenda is currently available, although it has apparently been circulated to the internal community.

Proceedings will be livetweeted at @shimerians, with overflow to @samuelhenderson and/or @saradevil if needed.

Update: unedited transcript of livetweet, with tweets in chronological order: 

 Meeting of Shimer College Assembly to commence shortly.

9 items on agenda. 1. Approval of minutes of 4/1 Assembly.

2. Proposal for Suspension of Constitution (temporary suspension of weekend program representation requirements)

3. Agenda Committee Reports & election of officers (speaker &c.)

4. Financial overview, including intro by Susan Henking, budget, fundraising & admissions reports.

5. "Governance" including reports from Board of Trustees & "summer committee on governance"

6. Election of QLC 7. Election of student rep to IIT student govt.

8. Announcements 9. Adjournment

Eileen gavels the Assembly to order.

""We're doing things a little bit differently than we have in the past."

Parliamentarian KateLynn to speak on manners in the Assembly.

KateLynn: "It's important that we remember the rules of the Assembly" -- stay on topic, wait to be recognized, etc.

Eileen: "I'm hoping that by the end of the Assembly today we will all have a clear idea of what is happening at our college."

To item 1, approval of minutes. No objections.

Thanks to Adrian Nelson for stepping in to take role of secretary.

To item 2, suspending Constitutional requirements for WE student membership on committees.

If no weekend students available for a committee, noms of weekday students to be accepted.

Sara(h): "I would hope that if we did suspend that, that people would recognize that being on committees is still important."

... that the sense of responsibility to serve should continue to be recongized.

Jim D: support proposal; there is precedent for this.

Aron D: It seems a bit strange to suspend the constitution; shouldn't there be a line to allow this change?

Albert: There is such a provision, but it only allows the requirement to be lifted for the *following* Assembly after a vote is taken.

Jim: I misspoke.

Harold S: Point of information: WE student participation goes back to a time when WE college had 30-40 students.

"It was not some kind of malicious power grab from Weekend College."

The motion passes.

Next: elections for 2 weekend spots on APC.

Eileen: "No one's jumping up and down."

Requirements: at least 1 semester in good academic standing (i.e. not on probation).

Nominations: Nate Wright.

Nomation: Sarah Scalise.

Approx. 40 total in attendance.

Allison S., KC S., and Alex R. are currently on APC.

Additonal nominations: Kelsey Crick, Daniel L.

This is constituency voting, but in this case all students vote.

Ann D explains constituency voting for new attendees.

Each student has 2 votes.

"The new members of the APC are Dan and Sarah"

Item 3: committee reports.

Eileen B: Agenda is Agenda Comm's primary report, but will explain the committee's work in some detail.

"During the time that Albert calls the civil war, we realized how much of the Assembly's working depended on good faith."

"We are a group that rules by persuasion."

"We had written our constitution in 1980, and a lot of the assumptions that we had ... needed to be made apparent, so that people buying

the community had an articulated sense of what we were about."

Started w/ad hoc committee that reported in spring, followed by summer committee. "The work is in progress."

"I expect that work to continue by whoever the new Agenda Committee is and who the next Speaker is."

"working together to create a situation in which the ethos of the college is defined by transparency, equality,

confidentiality but not secrecy."

"That's what the Agenda Committee is here to protect and to promote."

Expect the Agenda Committee to convene some firesides, aim for updated constitution by end of this calendar year.

On to elections, first of Assembly & then of committee.

First up: the Speaker.

Nominations: Eileen B.

Long silence. Jim D is nominated: "I respectfully decline."

Eileen: "this has not happened to me before."

Eileen Buchanan to remain as Speaker.

Next up: Parliamentarian. KateLynn does not wish to continue.

KL: I've learned a lot being Parliamentarian, you need to have a good familiarity with Robert's Rules, broader knowledge than just the abrgd

Nominations: Adam Bechtol, Albert F.

The new Parliamentarian of Shimer College is Adam Bechtol.

Now, to the Secretary. Eileen: Job is to take accurate notes & get them out in fairly reasonable order.

Adrian N: Being secretary is basically taking the minutes, listening to everything everybody is saying.

Adrian N: attention to detail, good listening skill, "and hopefullyl someone who has better hearing ability than I do."

Many are nominated and decline respectfully.

"Adrian, would you consider doing it again, humble as you are?" "I'd really rather not."

Nominated: Aron Dunlap.

Aron D is acclaimed Secretary of the Assembly of Shimer College.

Eileen asks Bev to speak about what the committee has been doing.

JAG committee has found that having a student as Ombudsperson is not a good idea in terms of legal/insurance issues.

Amending the Constitution not a great idea immediately, just want to inform the community.

Grey L: main reason is that student ombudsing is not considered best practice anywhere, especially due to legal responsibilities.

"We don't want any students here to get in trouble."

Ann D: Wouldn't this issue also apply to staff/faculty, who don't have ombuds training?

Grey: Ombuds is not usually appointed in the way it is at Shimer.

Susan H: "In institutions that elect ombudspeople, they provide training."

Susan: Staff & faculty are covered by institutional insurance "should we make a mistake in the undertaking of our work."

"The main difference ... should there be something that gets messed up, many of us have more to be taken away by the force of law"

than Shimer itself does." ... thus, it's key that whoever takes this job be covered by insurance.

Institutional officers face legal sanctions for failure to report e.g. harassment, drug use, etc.

Ann D: "Are we going to provide training this year?" Susan: "I think we have to." "It is very easy to get such training on the IIT campus."

Jim U: We have a manual from IIT with good information.

Gail: Is this different from issues with student RAs? Susan: Ombudspeople are in a different category legally.

"Neither protected by nor subject to employment law" because not an employment position.

Staff & faculty "are protected by, and oppressed by, employment law." In this case it's protective.

Students could be trained, but insurance is a different issue, probably not feasible.

Grey L: JAG also considered peer counseling, peer mediation as an alternative approach to keeping benefits of a student Ombudsperson.

Grey: as ombuds, "either you do nothing, or it's very very very busy."

"It can be very stressful. I didn't find it to be bad," but at times you have to be very careful what you say & have to be very committed

... to confidentiality. Eileen: Ombuds at Shimer does not handle academic disputes, but does handle other disputes between members.

Nominations: Daniela B.

Additional nominations: Harold S., Albert F.

Runoff between Daniela & Harold.

Harold Stone is the new Ombudsperson of Shimer College.

Next up: nominations for the Agenda Committee (3 slots).

Nominations: Brenton S, Matt K, Mey L, Jo B, Albert F

"Our new Agenda Committee is Brenton, Matt and Albert."

Now on to item 4, Financial Overview.

Susan H will give broad-strokes overview.

"The first thing that I think is absolutely crucial is" .. .that just because no academics on agenda, doesn't mean we only care about $.

Can't be successful academically without financial element.

"What you choose to spend your money on is the things that are important to you."

"It's always bad to spend a lot more than you have."

"Our goal for the year is to meet our values and to balance the budget."

Two ways to balance budget when challenged: spend less or make more.

Somewhat more than 75% of Shimer revenue comes from tuition.

"The rest of it comes from a combination of the hard work of Devt and others."

Out of whack w/other institutions in having to raise the remaining ~25% every year.

Three goals: 1. to have a clearly articulated budget. We have one, but it has not been submitted, so currently operating w/o budget.

2. Live within the budget. 3. Understand the process of sticking with a budget, so that issues don't recur.

"The thing that most rapidly drives people ... from the edge of poverty to irrecoverable poverty" is a car breakdown.

Goal for this year is to use the lean budget to get us to a place where "emergencies can be dealt with" and we can plan ahead.

"The strategic imperatives here are to balance the budget," including raising the $ needed.

"This institution raises more every year than a lot of institutions do."

The problem is having to raise that amount every year.

Attracting & retaining students is key.

"You should not have been able to hire a president", because the budget should have already been there.

"there will never again be a president who can't figure out what's going on with the money."

"It will be a transparent process, within the limits of reason."

"Compassionate transparency."

"There's a difference between secrecy and confidentiality," but some budget processes must be confidential.

"We're not going to be successful in either of our two major forms of revenue" "if we aren't clearly known" & in an accurate way.

Marketing, branding, "having a website that is somewhat more functional, also known as functional."

Budget in its broadest sense: how we bring fiscal transparency & clarity in line with the educational mission. "It involves everybody."

Next, Sandra Collins CFO.

Sandra: I want to elaborate on what Susan was saying.

"Although we do quite a bit of fundraising every year, our unfunded financial aid eats up 100% of it."

"That's a key in understanding the budget." Unfunded financial aid: aid Shimer gives from Shimer $.

"Most colleges have funded financial aid streams. Shimer has very few."

(continuing livetweet of Shimer College Assembly via @shimerians )

Mary Pat: the national average of alumni giving is about 13%.

Shimer is very very close.

"Our average alumni gift is about 3 times the size of the national average."

"We have a small pool, and about 9. something % of that is really really reaching to support Shimer."

"The average gift from a Shimer alumnus is about $250."

"Overall in higher education, giving is increasing"

"The plan that Susan and I are working on" is about diversification of funding sources, not just alumni.

Mary P: trying to start a glossary of relevant terms for the community.

E.g., capital, "money that doesn't go to the operating fund," a rarity in recent Shimer history.

Elaine: the revenue stream from Admissions comes from student contributions, govt contributions, etc.

E.g. if Kemp Foundation "adopts" a kid in middle school, provides mentoring & college tuition.

Need more students, more self-funding students, "more people who know about us" to help w/ other two.

Elaine & Isabella working on "developing brand identity."

"We want people with whom we're trying to communicate to know us by our brand."

Elaine: "Everybody at the school is a recruiter."

"We must expand our prospects pool in the next 2 months" to reach 50 in next entering class.

Gail: is there recruiting for weekend program, or is it being shut down? Elaine: not shutting it down; working on figuring out how2 recruit.

Sarah: Development/Business/Admissions fireside?

Albert: Do we have funded financial aid, if so, what % is it?

Sandra C: funded financial aid is a very small % of the budget -- 10-15% of FA dollars.

Sandra: One of the ways the community can help is finding the grants/scholarships/etc. that go unused.

"This can help the college & help you" by reducing debt after graduation.

Jim U: We did have a student a few years ago who did a semester project looking for scholarships, was successful.

Adam: what efforts are being made to make the budget process more transparent?

Susan H: comparing past to current experience, Shimer does not have good record of knowing what & when we're spending.

First step is to figure that out & build a realistic budget based on that.

Budget has barely been finalized, & already well into the fiscal year.

"It is important to recognize the incredible work that your administrators did" in face of steep budget deficit.

Susan & Ed decided it was more important to avoid a budget.

"You wouldn't have wanted to read a budget report that said what it would have said without the work of the senior staff."

"You all, I think, owe them a debt of gratitude" for getting us to a place where Shimer doesn't have to close.

"We're not as panicked now, and we can be more transparent in the future."

Sandra: We started the process the minute that the HLC left, and didn't come to a balanced budget until the last week of May.

"One reason is that the administrators had never been through a budget process before."

"The next budget process will definitely be different," will take recommendations for savings from students.

"I have not heard one recommendation that we did not venture into during the budget process."

"I just want to make it very clear that there was no intentional secrecy."

"Our financials have been in the negative for the last 3 years."

"When the HLC comes back here, we have to have positive financials in order to remain accredited."

Mary Pat: hoping to have Development chat on Community Wednesday.

Albert: We have tried to raise $750k per year for last several years; how much $ do we have to raise per year to be in the black?

Sandra: The development # in budget is derived from various revenue streams -- grants as well as giving.

total is slightly over $1 million.

Susan: Our goal is not to get by, but to be a sustainable institution.

Next up: election of the Admissions Committee.

Eileen: Suggesting electronic elections.

"Marc, do you think that we can do it?" Marc: "Probably."

Eileen: "it's not my preference," but meeting is already running long.

The motion passes. Ann: "It concerns me that the people who know computers most understand it."

Susan recaps administrative changes "1. You have a new president."

Continuing to work out relationship between in-college management & Board's policy setting.

Various personnel shifts; happy to answer any questions in regard to them.

there has been 1 layoff & several reductions in time, due to budgetary constraints.

Susan: "compassionate transparency involves protecting the rights of employees."

New director & assistant director of admissions (applause).

susan: trying to figure out what it means to be a Shimerian institution as well as a Shimer ethos.

Audit is imminent; "be incredibly nice to them, because they're crucial to us."

"In the last 20 years, higher education has changed dramatically" in terms of reporting requirements &c.

Will be reviewing ways to get into reporting compliance while remaining within the Shimer ethos.

Example: every document has a different non-discrimination statement.

Will be doing this as transparently as possible, but also with an eye to keeping legal expenses low.

"We need to recognize that we have operated as a culture of sacrifice on the part of faculty & staff for too long."

Barb reports from BOT.

"At the Board meeting in May, a new member was welcomed named Chris Vaughan." ('87)

Board approved exam as graduation requirement -- will be discussing that more in State of Academic Affairs speech.

Priorities: admissions & development.

Tim E: "One of the concerns students have is that the BOT be working for & with the school & not against school's will & policies."

"In the two years I've been on the Board, every Board member has respected the Assembly to the fullest extent."

"We have a Board of Trustees that is working for the college now, and for the students, not against them."

Jim D: "I've been on other boards of trustees," and sometimes CEO & board end up at loggerheads; support & trust for Susan was gratifying.

Susan: at Board retreat, looked at book called "Turnaround," about fragile institutions.

Eileen: Hoping to finish up by 6:15.

Albert: One job of the Agenda Committee is to update the constitution w/updates duly approved by Assembly.

"there has been considerable conversation about not just updating but revision of the constitution."

committees involved so far: informal committee mentioned earlier, which in 4/1 Assembly was formally endorsed as Committee on Governance.

Committee was to present preliminary suggestions at this Assembly.

Over summer, committee met, w/ Albert Dave S & Eileen; came up w/ 8 different recommended revisions to the Constitution.

These recommendations are to be passed on to the long-term committee on governance.

recommendation 1. General recognition that the Assembly & committees no longer play a primary role in the administration of Shimer College.

purpose shifts to advising & ensuring communication, transparency, "and preservation of the college's core values."

2. in view of #1, consolidating the Administrative & Budget committees.

3. Recognition in the preambles of other governing institutions.

4. End WE/WD distinction for purpose of apportioning membership in committees.

5. Other changes to the text of the constitution, to improve fidelity to practice &c..

Eileen: think about these recommendations & whether you would like to serve on a committee working on these.

Floor opened for nominations, encouraging self-noms.

Recommended size of committee: 5.

Non-members can come to meetings & contribute.

KateLynn: move that we approve the 5-member restriction. Motion passes.

Here follow the final tweets of the livetweet of the Shimer College Assembly, not posted in real time due to connectivity issue.

Next up, Bev reporting from JAG committee.

Since the last assembly, handled 1 case, and have been working on revising bylaws; now sent to lawyer for review.

(No major changes since last year's rewrite.)

Also revised description of JAG in Assembly constitution.

New JAGC members should plan on having some kind of training, which will last a few hours.

Will hold new committee in abeyance until seeing whether system of having Assembly & Board report to one another regularly is workable.

Final item: Announcements.

Elaine: There's food, please eat it.

Sarah S: FAPC has been working on changes to Federal Work Study, currently sending out feedback form.

Bev: Everyone should do the math problem I sent out.

Marc: Do we have plans institutionally for voter registration? Barb: yes. I am a voter registrar & will send out something in next few days

Eileen: Yes, everyone needs to register. Barb: And vote.

Thus endeth the not-so-live tweet.