Unfortunately, freelance journalist Emily Smith followed in the NAS’ footsteps with an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal. Smith’s article both misrepresents the situation and comes out in clear support of Lindsay and his supporters' hostile takeover of our college.
Like the NAS, Lindsay himself, and some of Lindsay’s followers, Smith depicts Shimer's political conflict as a simple debate over management:
The "family dispute" is over how to govern this great-books school. Should a community of scholars call the shots, as it has done over the past 30 years? Or should the school be run by a chief executive, as the college's president thinks? Is Shimer a Greek-style polis, as many Shimerians believe? Or does it need to function more like a corporation, as the president contends?
Smith continues this effort to falsely depict Shimer's stance later in the article, when she writes, “What seems to be irking faculty and students are the President's classically liberal politics, which are out of tune at a campus that invited ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers to be a speaker in 2008.” Ayers, of course, was one of many guest lecturers that were invited to speak at Shimer. His lecture was on education and, as stated in a press release issued by Shimer shortly after Ayers' visit, "hearing and scrutinizing the competing views of others on important topics such as education is essential to Shimer's core mission." Smith's attempt to characterize the attitudes of the student body with the mention of Ayers' talk is an instance of irresponsible generalization and poor, propagandist journalism.
Had Smith been genuinely interested what's "irking” the students, her investigation might have incorporated the views of students. Students could have shown Smith the handbills that they distributed at the latest board meeting, which read, in part:
We strongly protest the poor management, intimidation, and disrespect offered to both the employees and the body of the College at large. This mismanagement has resulted in a general malaise within the College that affects the atmosphere that makes genuine discussion with the administration unlikely.
If Smith were interested in what's irking the faculty, she could have read the faculty's collectively penned letter to the Board, which made no reference to the President's “classically liberal politics.” Rather, the faculty took issue with, for one, Linday's presumed entitlement to define the College's mission:
The Faculty and Assembly together, rather than President Lindsay by himself, have the standing to define the College's mission. [....] President Lindsay has maintained that he wants only to clarify the College's mission, not to change it. An unsympathetic redrafting of the entire mission statement is not a clarification. Further, his intransigent insistence on the rightness of his views on education, even in the face of considerate attempts to qualify them and to offer alternatives, only betrays how little he understands or adheres to the College's principles for cooperative dialogue.
President Lindsay presumes to use his mission statement as a test of the Faculty's continuing commitment to the college. He has indicated to us that if the Board adopts his statement, he would ask us individually to confirm our support of it. The implied alternative was to seek employment elsewhere. Let us be clear: we reject with one voice such tests of our loyalty to Shimer College or to President Lindsay.
Smith's article, along with misrepresenting the current struggle, misrepresents history. After an inaccurate summary of the Assembly's inception, Smith misrepresents recent history when she claims that:
At the time [when Lindsay was hired], Shimer faculty, staff and students were eager for Mr. Lindsay to join their tiny school, which enrolls about 100 students, and lead it to happier times. Less than two years later, many of the same people who once cheered Mr. Lindsay's arrival now denounce him as a "conservative menace," calling him "authoritarian" and "autocratic."