If you're the parent of a Shimerian, we'd like to post your thoughts too. Please send submissions to shimerspeaksout@gmail.com

Friday, March 26, 2010

Letter to the Board of Trustees by Janna C. Roop

Dr Janna C. Roop is the mother of a current student, and an Assistant Professor on the nursing faculty at Wayne State University.

To the Board of Trustees of Shimer College:
I am the parent of a current Shimer student. I have been astounded by how Shimer has transformed my son from an unfocused indifferent student to a passionate scholar who demonstrates excellent analytical thinking, rhetorical, and writing skills. Shimer has truly been a wonderful place for him.
I am writing because I have grave concerns about the current state of the college. I have become convinced that President Lindsay is not the right person to lead the college, and I just took the unprecedented action (for me) of signing a petition requesting his resignation. As I commented on the petition:
"I have served as a faculty member at a medium-sized private college and now at a large state university. In both places, I have worked on the self-study committees that prepare for accreditation visits. The Higher Learning Commission [HLC] that accredits Shimer College clearly states "Unless all [the college's] internal constituencies understand and support the fundamental mission, even the most beautifully crafted mission documents will fail to account for much." (Criterion 1c)."
The recent action led by President Lindsay and approved by a simple majority of the Board of Trustees indicates that neither the 18 approving members of the Board, nor President Lindsay himself, is mindful of this guidance from the HLC. To approve a mission statement against the expressed opposition of nearly all the faculty, many of the students, and almost 50% of the Board demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the criteria for a valid mission statement in higher education. While it is perhaps understandable that Board members might not be familiar with the criteria for ensuring continued accreditation, a college president should practically be able to recite the criteria in his or her sleep!
For me, this is the final straw in a stream of activities initiated by President Lindsay that show, at the very best, that he is NOT the right person to lead Shimer College. I urge you to relieve him of his position immediately.
Janna C. Roop, Ph.D.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Letter to Thomas Lindsay by Marcia Zdun Nelson

Author and journalist Marcia Zdun Nelson is a 1975 Shimer College graduate and the mother of current student Meg Nelson. This letter is cross-posted from Shimer College Alumni Speak.

Dear President Lindsay,

I’ve been a financial supporter of Shimer College for most of my working life since I graduated in 1975. I taught there for two years (1978-80), helping to move the college to Waukegan. Shimer has my firstborn child, Meg Nelson; I was excited by the opportunities made possible by the move to Chicago. I also recently submitted my name for a position on the board of trustees but withdrew when a complication arose in our finances. I think I am familiar with the school.

I have on my bookshelf an underlined, highlighted copy of The People Shall Judge, the anthology of readings about the formation of American policy prepared at the University of Chicago for the Great Books curriculum; PSJ was used in Soc 2 when I was there. The introduction has some lovely and reasoned statements about the purpose of liberal education, e.g., “Liberal education must help the people to judge well.” It also notes that in the development of what it calls intelligent citizenship, “the students must themselves practice judgment” through discussion classes and dialog as a means to critical examination. The book’s editors don’t, however, argue that the American Constitution enshrines the political freedom on which intellectual liberty depends. But possibly this compendium of writings essential to understanding the American system of liberties is no longer in use at Shimer.

I bring up the above because I can’t figure out why Shimer’s new mission statement gives pride of place to readings about the development of American liberty. They’re an important part of the curriculum, but they don’t seem more important than anything else in an education aimed at developing broad, general knowledge and critical faculties. Are they more important than Plato’s Republic? Or Aristotle’s Poetics? Or Shakespeare’s Hamlet? The wording of the new mission statement smacks of ideological jingoism, which is the very antithesis of the “liberal” – free; also broad, generous -- in liberal arts education.

I gave $500 at the end of 2009, but I will not be liberal – as in generous – with Shimer College as long as this mission statement stands. You and a bare majority of the recently expanded board of trustees, a number of whom appear to have little familiarity with the workings and history of the institution but do appear to have some sort of agenda, have redefined the mission of Shimer into something I don’t recognize, so I can’t support the school. I am also sending a copy of this letter to Albert Fernandez for dissemination to the College through its assembly.


Marcia Zdun Nelson

B.A., Shimer College, 1975; M.A, University of Chicago; M.S.J., Northwestern University