Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Letter recently received from Shimer

Hello.... is there anybody out there? I received the following e-mail from Shimer College today:
June 7, 2016 Dear Laura, As you have heard, Shimer now faces a great opportunity: to move from unsustainability to sustainability through an affiliation with North Central College in Naperville. The Boards of Shimer and North Central have endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would lead to Shimer becoming the Shimer Great Books School of North Central College, parallel to other schools at NCC. The Shimer Board is enthusiastic, and the Faculty and Assembly have been strongly supportive. We (Chris and Rebecca) also personally believe that this prospective arrangement for Shimer is a wonderful opportunity to maintain the Shimer program, which has contributed so much to all of our lives. But to make this deal work, Shimer will need to raise substantial amounts of money over the next year, since it is an explicit requirement of the MOU that we remain financially viable on our own until March 2017. As you know, we have a detailed development plan. If you write to Isabella Winkler at i.winkler[@redacted], she will send you a copy via email. Shimer needs to raise $900,000, which will involve at least doubling our gifs [sic] from alumni, both in the general alumni appeal and in major donations of $5000 or more fr om alums. In the past, many alums have contributed loyally to Shimer but have not made it a top charitable priority - quite naturally, since our sustainability was always in question and no one wants to throw money away. Now, however, we have a chance to give in this 'window of opportunity,' confident that our gifts will help Shimer become sustainable over the long term. Several of us on the board have already decided to vastly increase our giving to Shimer. Those of us who are soliciting funds feel that we can only ask others to "stretch" if we do so ourselves. Please consider whether you could give an order of magnitude more than in the past-- $10,000 instead of $1000, $5000 instead of $500. If not, please at least consider doubling or tripling your previous gifts. Shimer has been such an integral part of our lives. It has taught us more than just critical thinking; Shimer has encouraged us to be curious in our every endeavor. Shimer has taught us that being different is not only acceptable, but actually desirable. And most importantly, Shimer has shown us through the examples of its amazing faculty how to be strong and persevere with grace and dignity. It is our most fervent hope to keep these same learning and growth opportunities alive for future generations, and that is why we are working now to keep the fires burning for Shimer at North Central. Won't you please join us? Sincerely yours, Chris Vaughan and Rebecca Sundin
I'n not on Facebook, so I have questions. 1. My impression was that Shimer would actually be absorbed in whole by NCC. Am I to understand that "affiliation" differs from "absorption"? 2. I'm a little put out by the "no-one wants to throw money away" comment. I am not currently giving to Shimer because I am yet recovering from three years of unemployment due to long illness. I'm getting back, but currently saving to buy a bottle of ketchup (we'll pretend that I am being ironic so I don't have to weep); 3. I don't know that there was any avenue for reply, other than giving or descending upon Ms. Winkler-- or giving. If I am to be consigned to naked eggs for the next few months, I would very much like to know to what, precisely, I am giving. Is there a web page outlining this somewhere?

1 comment :

Samuel Henderson said...

There are, I think, two competing narratives here -- both of which have some validity, although I'm afraid I currently lean towards #1:

1. This is, indeed, the end of the line for any meaningful concept of Shimer as an actual distinct thing. In the future it will be, at best, a minor part of NCC's brand portfolio. As such, what you'd hypothetically be giving to is the ability of Shimer to hold up its end of the bargain by staying in the black for the next year, so that it can get a nice burial in the NCC plot instead of being unceremoniously dumped into a pauper's grave.

2. Even as Shimer sheds its corporeal corporate form, its educational mission will be preserved. This a new phase of Shimer's existence, fraught with risk but also with amazing opportunities. Also, unicorns and cute little dancing fairies are probably involved in some way.

(I would dismiss #2 entirely as happy talk, except that the history of Shimer is to a great extent the history of the school trying and failing to close deals of precisely this kind, from the U of C in the 1890s to Roosevelt in the 1990s. To the extent it's meaningful to say such a thing, I think Mrs. Shimer herself would be relatively pleased with this outcome. Even in the absence of unicorns et al.)