Friday, May 28, 2010

Let's Respond to Joe Bast's Article Positively

Shimer Trustee and President Lindsay supporter Joe Bast recently raised his voice, once again, to misrepresent and disrespect Shimer College and its people. As usual, his narrative paints Lindsay as Shimer's savior and Shimer's people as hotheaded, politically-homogenous idiots. Bast's understanding is that Lindsay was unquestionably successful in his large-scale "reforms" of Shimer College and that his opposition was nothing but simple-minded stubbornness. Following down the path he started after his infamous meeting with students, Bast reaches new lows in attacking the academic credibility and general character of Shimer's supporters -- those who, unlike Bast, are contributing positively and productively to Shimer College in sentimental, tangible, and financial ways.

Bast's article isn't worthy of any thorough critique. His positions are illegitimate and unsubstantiated, marked by the same lethal combination of ignorance and arrogance that has fueled the attack on our beloved and dynamic school. Perhaps most striking is his contention that Shimer lacks academic credibility, something that runs completely contrary to any Accreditation Report of which I am aware, or any report on the success of our graduates. Most offensive among the insults to Shimer's strong academics may be the fact that at the Board Meeting, not only did Dean Shiner have to sit through Bast's completely false allegation that Shiner received his Doctorate from a "Diploma-Mill," but seven trustees also voted (unsuccessfully) to revoke the Class of 2010's degrees on the grounds that the "campaign against Tom Lindsay" was "an attempt to hide the deficiencies in the quality of education being delivered by Shimer." A tragically ironic jab is Bast's allegation of Trustee and Alumnus Daniel Shiner's conflict of interest, simply by virtue of his kinship to Dean David Shiner. The irony of this is apparent to anyone who has studied the undisclosed fiscal connections between several destructive Trustees, including Bast, and the Anonymous Donor.

Bast's words are deplorable and do a disservice to the many people who work so hard to make Shimer the amazing place that it is. It is understandable for us to respond to his insults with frustration and anger. But are we really surprised by Bast's depiction of our school and its current situation? Do we expect from him, given his record, anything other than slander and insult to the people that work so hard to preserve the College that we know and love? Bast's article, let's not forget, contains the most laughable lie since the supposed free pizza that lured us salivating dogs to vote "No Confidence": that all classes were supposedly cancelled for a day in celebration of Lindsay's resignation. Bast does not know or understand Shimer College, nor the people he targets. Attacks directed at both our academic credibility and strong supporters of our school just illustrate his ignorance.

Instead of expressing hatred towards Bast, let's direct that energy towards reaffirming our appreciation for those who are under his crosshairs and those working so hard to repair the damage that he and his cohorts have caused. Joe Bast isn't going to dialogue with any of us students, nor will he contribute positively to our experience at Shimer. Let's allow his words to be forgotten and instead concentrate on people who make tremendous sacrifices to make Shimer thrive. Personally, my support for our Faculty, staff, and hard-working Trustees is not "blind," as Bast claims. I support Trustee Daniel Shiner for spearheading a frantic and challenging search that yielded 6 highly qualified nominees to the Board -- and his words of support and humor when things looked their worst. I support Dean David Shiner not (solely) for his (legitimate) Doctoral Diploma, but for the extra hours he has dedicated to our school during this time of crisis, trudging through adversities I couldn't imagine shouldering in his position -- and for the fact that he treated me with respect and knew my name before I had attended my first class. I support Marc Hoffman, whose arm I had to twist for two hours today just to take a break from preparing the College's defense and eat something. I support our second-longest-working Faculty Member, Eileen Buchanan, who, while battling cancer and after undergoing chemotherapy, is enthusiastically planning her return to Shimer classrooms this Fall and gives me a joyful hug every time I see her.

Joe Bast hasn't taken the time to get to know these people and the many others who keep Shimer's doors open, or ever come close to fathoming the amount of blood, sweat, and tears they've poured into this organization. He hasn't even taken the time to learn enough of Shimer's history to construct a mildly legitimate argument concerning the issues facing our little College, or an understanding of what makes it so special to us. And that's his loss.


  1. Thanks Jonathan...I've found your post very helpful...focus on those things we can control, like our reactions, and let the other stuff go. Anyway, something tells me that Joe's one-time blog posting isn't aimed at gaining support for his cause but rather is intended to antagonize his opposition. Mom's advice still rings true, just ignore the annoyance and it'll go away.

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  3. Thanks for making Marc eat, Jon.

    Just to add my two cents: the main reason I support the faculty of Shimer College is not because they respect me, it's because they taught me to think and prepared me for what Hutchins called "intelligent action." Through cajoling, critiquing, holding me accountable, and, yes, through respecting me enough to listen and point me in the appropriate direction for me, the faculty made me into someone who can engage with my world and work productively in it.

    And I wasn't a special Shimer student. That the faculty are so committed to the education of students is what makes the slander of them so bizarre from a man who has attended board meetings but never a class.