In glass case, cross returns

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August 30, 2007

11:34 AM

__Religion committee’s call for cross display case enacted over summer__

p. The controversial Wren Chapel cross was placed in a glass case over the summer, as a result of a March 6 decision by the Committee on Religion in a Public University.

p. The cross is accompanied by a plaque that explains its history. The plaque reads: “This cross was given to Williamsburg’s Bruton Parish Church in 1907. About 1940, the church offered the cross to William and Mary for use in the Wren Chapel. It is placed on the altar upon request for Christian services, and also serves as a reminder of the College’s unique Anglican heritage and of its close connection over the centuries with Bruton Parish.”

p. The display case arrived at the College in early August. The cross sits upon a cabinet that was designed for the chapel during the 1929 restoration of the Wren Building.

p. The cabinet is three feet tall and made of walnut, matching the rest of the room in style. The cabinet had been kept in an office in the Wren Building until now. The glass case has a walnut base to match the cabinet.

p. The Committee on Religion in a Public University helped choose the case and accessories. Unless the cross is requested for the altar, it will rest in the case.

p. College President Gene Nichol decided in October that the 18-inch brass cross should be removed from permanent display. Nichol said he intended to make the chapel more welcoming to all faiths, but he later admitted that the decision was made without properly consulting the College community. The decision sparked a national controversy, with major news networks picking up the story and capturing the attention of alumni and others associated with the College.

p. Nichol created the Committee on Religion in a Public University to investigate the role of religion in the public university and come to a decision on the cross.

p. The controversy that followed Nichol’s decision his has led to a movement by disgruntled alumni to end Nichol’s presidency. An anti-Nichol website, ShouldNicholBeRemoved.org, is made up of students and alumni who feel that Nichol should be fired. The site’s creators, who are not named, have posted a petition on the site to ask the Board of Visitors to not renew Nichol’s contract, which is up for renewal June 30, 2008.

p. This has created counter movements, such as the blog “WM Fights Back” at WMFightsBack.blogspot.com, which is also linked to the Facebook group, “Support Gene Nichol.” WM Fights Back is made of alumni and students who say that their goal is to tell the truth about Nichol. Members often respond to posts from ShouldNicholBeRemoved.org.

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