Dedicated to the preservation and advancement of Shimer's mission, ethos, and self-governance.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Sunday's Emergency Assembly
As previously posted, the Assembly held an emergency meeting this past Sunday, February 28th in response to the results of the last board meeting. Here are the resolutions that were passed:
Motivated by the Agenda Committee:
Whereas the Board of Trustees adopted a statement called a “mission statement,” written by President Thomas Lindsay, on February 19, 2010;
Whereas this statement is without the expressed support of the faculty, the students, the administrative staff, or the vast majority of alumni who have addressed it, and is upheld only by 18 out of 34 Trustees;
Whereas the Assembly by overwhelming majority and the Faculty unanimously have voted to retain the current mission statement at least for the time being;
Whereas the statement approved by the Board is not consistent with the criteriaof the College’s academic accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, that “Understanding of and support of the mission pervade the organization” (Accreditation Criterion 1c);
Whereas the statement, unlike all other mission statement proposals, was never submitted to the Self-Study Group, or brought to the Assembly, but was sent exclusively to Trustees, and only five days before they were to vote on it, in evident disregard of more than 30 years of Shimer’s traditions and procedures;
Whereas thestatement was approved by the Boardafter a major donor said, one day before the Board plenary, that funding would cease if a new mission statement were not adopted;
Whereas shortly before the Board plenary President Lindsay urged the Trustees on the Executive Committee to resign if they would not vote for his statement, and told another Trustee that he would “have to go” or words to that effect if he did not vote for his statement; and,
Whereas the statement was voted on by the Board without the customary notification of a vote in the meeting agenda, after only 75 minutes of consideration, and without observance of equal time for those opposed;
The Assembly of Shimer College does not recognize the legitimacy or authority of this so-called “mission statement."
Motivated by David Shiner, Erik Badger, Barry Carroll:
The Assembly will endeavor to provide a mission statement enjoying broad support from the community, including the board, staff, faculty, students and alumni of Shimer College by March 21, 2010.
The vote of no confidence was tabled indefinitely.
I am pleased with the results of the Assembly. The first resolution accurately conveys and formalizes our grievances against Tom. Its specificity helps to more effectively convey the position of the Assembly. The second resolution illustrates that, though the Assembly supports our current mission statement, we are in favor of revising it -- as long as it has wide-scale support.
Previously, I was in favor of passing the vote of no confidence in Tom. But the more I discussed that option with people, the more I was convinced otherwise, and I voted in favor of tabling the option. There are two reasons for my change in position: first, after speaking with more than one member of the faculty, I learned that officials from the HLC and AAUP both, along with most everyone outside the community who has knowledge of the common repercussions of no confidence votes, strongly advised that we abstain from the vote. Often, it was reported to us, votes of no confidence result in the death of schools. It usually takes more than one vote of no confidence and similar gestures to get a board to respond, and by that point we would have gone beyond the point of no return.
More importantly, I have yet to hear a single argument in favor of the no confidence vote that carries any weight. The fact that all of us at Shimer have no confidence in Tom is already known. The question that has yet to be answered convincingly, in my view, is how a no confidence vote would have helped us. Though we have more than enough reason to vote no confidence, we would probably just turn more trustees against us -- and give more ammunition to the people who are steadfastly against us.