Staff Editorial: Tone down Nichol attacks

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October 23, 2007

3:07 AM

The ongoing saga of College President Gene Nichol and the Wren cross continues this week, as The Flat Hat has obtained copies of a presentation issued to Board of Visitor members by ShouldNicholBeRenewed.org advocating the termination of Nichol’s contract at the end of this year. The documents allege that Nichol knew of James McGlothlin’s decision to withdraw a $12 million pledge to the College before Nichol announced that the Campaign for William and Mary had reached its $500 million goal. Nichol has denied these claims.

p.It seems that some on the BOV are taking these documents — including correspondences between Nichol and McGlothlin, and between McGlothlin and former College President Tim Sullivan — into consideration when deciding Nichol’s fate. The BOV has, by and large, acted reasonably in accepting criticism and feedback from the College community. Clearly, they are not ignoring the issue.

p. SNBR has, like many other groups and individuals, approved of an honest examination of the issue by the BOV. The group’s latest action and its continuing tendencies to pressure the BOV are unfortunate and may be overstepping its bounds. Some might construe these actions as a witch hunt, whose one and only goal is the removal of Nichol, regardless of what the BOV decides. The members certainly have every right to articulate their point, but things are getting excessive.

p. There is little new information in the documents, at least no incriminating information that can be proven at present. Perhaps there was a breakdown in internal communications, and Nichol could have tried harder to reach out to McGlothlin, but it still seems uncertain as to whether Nichol was specifically informed that McGlothlin would definitely withdraw his $12 million pledge. The letter that McGlothlin sent to Nichol Dec. 11 of last year only stated that McGlothlin would change how he would “view the College in the future as well as [Nichol’s] leadership of the university.”

p. SNBR and other groups would be wise to allow the BOV time to reach its own conclusions. As College Rector Michael Powell stated in an e-mail to the campus community, anyone is welcome to submit their ideas, but it is irresponsible for one group to monopolize the discourse and continue to twist the arm of the BOV. Assaults on Nichol continue from several angles — including SNBR and The Virginia Informer, a conservative campus publication — when the College has other important issues to address.

p. A decision on the future of the leadership of the College will come in due time. The decision should be aided constructively, where possible, but certainly not tampered with. Excessive, polemical efforts to sway the opinions of the BOV will undermine the legitimacy of the entire process and jeopardize the future of the College. BOV members are appointed to serve the interests of the College. They must be allowed to do their jobs.

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