Thursday, March 4, 2010

Letter to the Assembly from alum trustee Peter Schroth

Of course, we all know it isn't primarily about the mission statement.

Yesterday, Trustee Joseph Bast sent an e-mail to the Board (and a few other people), including this sentence: "Many of the newer trustees believe they were brought on board to rescue a failing institution; some of the older trustees believe things were going fine until Tom and the anonymous donor came on the scene."

I think the first part of this sentence is true and goes a long way toward explaining our current difficulties. I think the second part is empty rhetoric and nonsensical, in that it conflates the roles (and
dates) of President Lindsay and the anonymous donor.

In recent decades, Shimer College has never been a "failing institution" in any sense other than financial. It has been splendidly successful in its curriculum, learning environment and internal governance.

In the last years in Waukegan, the college was slowly failing financially. It was hoped that the move to Chicago would solve that problem, but the costs turned out to be more than we could sustain and "slowly failing financially" turned into "rapidly failing financially."

The anonymous donor stepped in and rescued the college. Thanks in large part to him, but also to the faculty, students, trustees, alumni and Ron Champagne and others who helped in various way, by about 2008, we could have survived without his further help.

By the time Tom Lindsay and the new trustees joined us, Shimer College was not a failing institution in any sense. Enrollment was rising and we had a sound plan for the financial future of the college.

We hired Tom to help us continue the plan. We welcomed the new trustees to help us continue the plan.

We did not ask for and do not need business or -- especially -- academic advice from either Tom or the new trustees. The faculty and the long-time trustees know a great deal more about how to make this particular college work than Tom or the new trustees do. They proved it by what they accomplished before the latter group arrived.

Please help us continue to be Shimer College, with its long and rich traditions. However old-fashioned you think we are, please don't try to make us into anything else.

Shimer College does not need to be rescued, because it has been rescued already. Now and in the future, Shimer College needs to be preserved.

Above all, Shimer College must not be changed into something else. If it becomes something else, then all the hard work and love that went into rescuing and preserving it will have been for nothing.

Peter W. Schroth
February 28, 2010

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