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February 26, 2010

Anonymous Donor Outed in Debate Over Small College's Mission

A previously anonymous donor to Illinois' Shimer College has been identified amid a contentious debate over the tiny liberal-arts college's mission, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Handbills distributed by students as the college's Board of Trustees began a two-day meeting last week named Barre Seid, a businessman and philanthropist whose foundation supports many conservative and libertarian causes, as the donor who gave $825,000 in 2007 and 2008. The gift allowed Shimer, a 110-student institution, to relocate from Waukegan, Ill., to its current home on Chicago's south side.

Thomas K. Lindsay, a former National Endowment for the Humanities executive who was named Shimer's president in 2008, has expanded the college's board from 22 to 35 members and appointed several business associates and grantees of Mr. Seid's. Critics say Mr. Lindsay is trying to shift greater authority to the trustees, who last week narrowly approved a revised mission statement for the college drafted by the president but opposed by many students and staff members.

Neither Mr. Seid nor Mr. Lindsay responded to calls for comments on the controversies at the college.

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