Letter to a Trustee by Ted Krug
Ted Krug is a 2008 graduate of Shimer College.
The reason I’m writing to you has to do with the current situation of the college; and as I’m sure you’re aware, there is a considerable amount of turmoil and discontent under the leadership of the new president, Tom Lindsay. I have been in close contact with many of the current students and various alumni, especially recent alums (though not exclusively) and so I am well aware of the sentiment of the vast majority of the student body.
Before I go further into that, though, I want to thank you, as a recent student, for your ongoing support of and commitment to Shimer, for both your service as a Trustee and your financial support. Without friends of the college such as yourself, I and my fellow alums would not have enjoyed the invaluable experience and education of Shimer College. It is difficult for me to imagine what my life would be without Shimer, as I consider my time there to be one of the most valuable of my life.
I do not know through what channels you have kept yourself informed of the recent state of affairs at the college; but as I mentioned, I have been in touch with current students and recent alumni, and I can report that the vast majority of us are gravely concerned about the direction Mr. Lindsay and, apparently, a newly appointed contingent on the Board, has been taking the college. I think it is important to point out that these people, whatever their experience in organizations academic or otherwise, have almost no experience of Shimer College.
I’m sure you would agree with me that Shimer is a very unique and valuable place. I hope we also share the opinion that a newcomer to Shimer would be well advised to get to know it before trying to change it. Yet the new president and his allies have neither gotten to know nor learned to value Shimer as Shimer. It has become clear that what they see in the college is not its own value or merit but rather an opportunity to advance their own agenda through whatever they can make use of in the college—perhaps especially its accreditation. What is more, Tom Lindsay, while remaining congenial in word, has taken actions without concerning himself with the interests of the Shimer community, and in fact while blatantly disregarding clear community consensus. It is argued that the Assembly is a drag on the college, that it has held us back. Yet this is simply untrue. The Assembly (along with the discussion classes) is the very heart of the college, and to lose it would be to destroy the Shimer that we know and love. I sincerely hope that we are not in complete disagreement on this point.
Whatever your view of the decisions Tom has implemented thus far, the fact is that the way he has been managing the college puts us at great risk of losing accreditation, come the pending review this Fall. Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Criterion 1c demands that support of the College's Mission should "pervade" the community of the college. The new mission statement does not meet that criterion, if only for the reason that it was almost unanimously opposed by the Assembly and the entire community, excepting a slender Board majority, mostly new appointees. Another reason to fear the upcoming review is the tenuous position of the faculty. I am not sure if you are aware, but Mr. Lindsay issued an implied threat to the faculty that their positions would be in danger if they did not assure him of their loyalty to his new mission statement! At Shimer, every faculty member has administrative duties, and several hold official administrative positions. Without them and their experience, I do not see how we can successfully weather the HLC’s pending review. The president needs to be wooing the faculty; instead he has estranged them. It seems likely that he may even fire some of them, and who knows what the rest would do in such a scenario? The eventuality of a faculty strike would be a death knell for the college. They, if no one else, are loyal to the spirit of Shimer, and they would only do such a thing if they saw no other way out. But if it becomes clear to them that the college cannot resist occupation, so to speak, by hostile forces, they would certainly no longer be concerned with retaining accreditation for the shell that remains.
Perhaps you have not been aware of how grave the situation at Shimer has become. I am writing to you because I believe you want what is best for the college. Even if we disagree on some points, I am hopeful that we can agree that Mr. Lindsay and his board majority are not improving but harming the college, and that it is unlikely that Shimer will be able to retain accreditation if these people continue to advance their agenda.
The current students have impressed me with their judiciousness and mature action vis-à-vis the president’s utter disregard for them and the harm he has done thus far. They have demonstrated that they are far from being the immature bunch of hippies some would make them out to be. I urge you, on behalf of Shimer and of the students, to use whatever influence you have ensure that, ten years from now (and hopefully for much longer!) Shimer College will still be a place we can be proud of. Please do anything you can to oppose the leadership of Mr. Lindsay and whatever members of the board are facilitating the current harmful actions, so contrary to the true democratic spirit that Shimer has, for so long, aspired to.
In closing, once again I offer my sincere thanks for your commitment to Shimer and hope that you will do all you can to preserve this precious gem of a school.