Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Letter to the Assembly by Young Kim

Young Kim graduated from Shimer College in 1973, and obtained his JD from Northwestern in 1976. A distinguished attorney and scholar of law, Kim currently serves on the faculties of both Colorado and Northwestern. He is a past president of the Asian American Bar Association, and also chaired the Shimer College Board of Trustees for many years. The following letter was disseminated to the community just before the February 28th Assembly of Shimer College, at which the Board's illegitimate "mission statement" was approved, and a vote of no confidence in the president was tabled.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I write you as an alum and former three-term Chair of the Board of Trustees of Shimer College. I have been following recent events and communications at the College with increasing concern and consternation. For those of you attending this Sunday’s Assembly meeting which, unfortunately, I will be unable to do, I urge you to vote “No Confidence” in President Lindsay for his truly astounding lack of good leadership and management of the College and its affairs.

Furthermore, I urge you to vote in favor of not recognizing the legitimacy or authority of the new and quite inappropriate “mission statement” recently adopted by the Board in an 18 to 16 vote. As an aside, it is, of course, ironic that many who trumpet “freedom” as a cause, would construct the most illiberal of societies. This mission statement controversy, though, is of secondary importance and somewhat of a red herring, diverting attention from what I believe to be the real issues at hand. In such latter regard, and for reasons that I will explain, I believe that President Lindsay and certain recently appointed Trustees should resign their positions for the good of the College.

The recent controversies at the College appear to be intentionally instigated by President Lindsay in an ego-driven quest for power. In saying this, I point to his creation of the recent “mission statement” misadventure as an example of his pursuit of a purely personal agenda. Quite oddly, the power that President Lindsay seems to crave is some sense of personal ownership of an abstract concept of “power.” There seems no purpose, or things that the President seeks to do with this power, other than to claim ownership of it. This therefore vain quest is utterly at odds with his charge to take actions, or not to take actions, in furtherance of the best interests of the College. And, by the College, I mean the institution and the larger Shimer community including its various constituencies. The lack of respect that President Lindsay accords the institution and the College’s various constituencies is truly stunning. He should resign his position.

As to the sadly fractured Board and the rabid posturing that occasionally appears to mark the recent discourse between factions, I would not so quickly attribute the difficulties to Barre Seid, fka The Anonymous Donor. I say this because I have had dealings with Barre on behalf of the College a number of years ago, and the picture of him as an evil behind-the-scenes mastermind orchestrating the actions of his minions on the Board does not fit. I have been tempted to contact him directly about all this, but I have so far restrained myself from doing so. On the other hand, I believe that someone on behalf of the College should talk with him, and I do not mean the President or some of the recently appointed Trustees. As to certain of those Trustees, I believe that their failure to embrace what Shimer is about, viz. the “mission statement” controversy and the Nominating Committee scandal (in which the Nominating Committee refuses to present any Shimer alums as candidates for election to the Board), requires them to resign their positions as Trustees.

I further believe there is an urgency in having President Lindsay and certain recent Trustees resign or be removed from their positions at the College. Rather than taking advantage of the move to Chicago by growing the College beyond its fragile local toehold, as the College’s leadership and management should have done, the College appears consumed by controversy and engaged in rapidly debilitating in-fighting. I lay this chaotic fiasco squarely at the feet of the President and certain recently appointed Trustees.

Not only do these all-consuming controversies represent a huge waste in internal resources at a time when the College can least afford them, but also, I fear that we are faced with a crisis in the life of the College (and I am not an alarmist by nature) that must be dealt with directly and promptly, before all our resources (and ability to replenish them) are exhausted. In that latter regard, externally, all the negative publicity surrounding the recent controversies must have the effect of alienating various constituencies, not the least of which are future students, faculty, administrators, Board members, donors and friends of the College. We must promptly engage in damage control.

Best regards,

Young Kim

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