Letters to the Editor (Nov. 30)
December 3, 2007
**Nichol should resign**
p. To the Editor:
p. It is clear, viewed from a distance, that College President Gene Nichol should resign.
p. His misrepresentation of alumni fundraising, as ignoble as the withdrawal of a pledge of support by alumnus James McGlothlin ’62 J.D. ’64, casts serious doubt on Nichol’s ability to raise funds for the College and, more importantly, his judgment. It is difficult to see how he now can provide effective leadership of the College.
p. There are also crucial issues that Nichol has failed to address during his three-year tenure as president. Most importantly, the position of faculty salaries, relative to our peers, continues to erode. The current budget cuts put into motion by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine only exacerbate what is, by any standard, a dire situation. To my knowledge, Nichol and other members of the administration have made no public statements regarding how we are to achieve the stated goal of the 60th percentile of our peer group with regard to salaries in the current budget environment.
p. Moreover, the teaching loads faced by the majority of faculty in arts and sciences are also well above those of our peers, yet this administration has completely failed to engage this problem. It is certain that the best and most productive scholar-teachers will leave the College in search of greener and more stimulating pastures if nothing is done to address these issues.
p. Nichol has also failed to articulate a coherent vision of the kind of intellectual community that the College should be. Platitudes about “great and public” mean little without a concrete plan to achieve that goal. And one might question, given current funding levels, whether it is even possible to be a great, but public, small university. By what means would we achieve that end?
p. Blandishments by the administration and admissions office aside, the College still has a ways to go before it achieves a global reputation for research. As an institution, we should lose the mantra of “undergraduate research” and get down to the real business of creating an intellectual community that encompasses accomplished scholars (faculty) and developing scholars (students) in equal measure.
p. Lest the conservative factions that were outraged by the Wren cross controversy misinterpret this letter, please note that I am not calling for Nichol’s resignation on the basis of opposition to his actions there, except with regard to how those actions call into question his judgment on the prioritization of issues on campus. Surely, as a community of scholars and aspiring scholars, we have better things to worry about than the cross in the Wren Chapel.
The cumulative record that Nichol has amassed in three years does not inspire confidence in this faculty member. I doubt that I am alone, even among those of us who agree with his positions like trying to make the College more diverse.
p. If his fondness and respect for the College are as deep as he professes, he should resign now, before damaging the College and its reputation further.
p. When Nichol resigns, I urge both the campus community and the Board of Visitors to think long and hard before appointing yet another president who does not hold a Ph.D. and who has not taught in an arts and sciences discipline. Arts and sciences are the heart and soul of the College, and we desperately need a leader who understands the nature of research and teaching in one of these core disciplines.
p. __— David A. Jaeger, Associate Professor of Economics__