Staff Editorial: Marshall law unwelcome

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January 29, 2008

1:41 AM

Not all things fare better with age — after more than 300 years, the College and the commonwealth have yet to agree on our governance. This time, though, one man is stirring up more trouble than usual. He’s Delegate Robert Marshall (R – Prince William) and he’s not about to have Virginia’s governor appoint the College’s Board of Visitors.

p. Marshall’s latest bill charges alumni to elect BOV members, marking the second time in as many years the man has attempted to personally intervene in College affairs. An outspoken critic of College President Gene Nichol, Marshall sponsored a bill asking the state to dock its portion of the president’s salary following the cross’s removal from the Wren Chapel. Perhaps we could take Marshall’s efforts more seriously if they weren’t such egregious displays of political posturing.

p. Consider that this bill, like the previous one, targets the College alone. Every other BOV member at every other public university in Virginia is appointed by the governor, yet Marshall somehow divined that the same system would no longer work here in Williamsburg. Curious. We find it hard to believe his sudden confidence in our alumni emerged independently from some of their open criticism of Nichol.

p. Granted, allowing a partisan governor to handpick the people governing the commonwealth’s colleges may not be ideal, but it’s better than Marshall’s alternative. The bill ignores the influence alumni already exert on the process and offers no solution to the problem of ensuring voting rights. The potential disenfranchisement of alumni who may not have an address on file can be neither fair nor equitable.

p. And speaking of elections, Marshall’s interest in creating a conservative College could not come at a more politically convenient time. As he and former Gov. Jim Gilmore vie for the Republican nomination in the U.S. Senate race, we would like to remind him the College is more than a bullet point in campaign literature.

p. If Marshall had expressed similar interest in other Virginia schools, we might hold more hope for his sense of altruism. His attempts at manipulation and politicking prove he is motivated by anything but.

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