George Mason Law School

Great, public and needy

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February 1, 2008

12:10 PM

__Nichol stresses public mission, College’s need for resources and wise investment__

p. College President Gene Nichol discussed the school’s constant struggle for funding and the need to become more diverse in a State of the College Address that was full of praise but short on specific plans from a president whose future at the College remains unknown.

p. “If the College is to play the leadership role to which it is called, it has been essential that it become a more diverse institution — racially, economically, internationally,” Nichol said to the more than 300 people in the University Center Commonwealth Auditorium Tuesday night.

p. At a time when state-imposed $2.5 million cuts in the College’s budget have shaken confi¬dence in Virginia’s ability to support its schools, Nichol emphasized the College’s role as both “great and public” — a catchphrase that has come to represent his mission for the College. He indicated his plans to work with Provost Geoff Feiss this semester to launch a planning effort for improving the College’s financial pic¬ture, and he hinted at a follow-up fundraising initiative to the $500 million Campaign for William and Mary, which closed in June.

p. “We require new funding, new resources, more consistent and competitive support, the wisest and closest investment,” Nichol said. “We have yet to achieve the stable, competitive and productive economic infrastructure that we require.”

p. Nichol spent much of the speech touting the College’s recent accomplishments, including the 6 percent increase in applications for the Class of 2012, many student and faculty awards and the athlete graduation rate, which was the highest of any public university.

p. He made no mention of the College’s recent controversies, except to thank introducer Alan Meese, president of the Faculty Assembly, for leading the committee that determined the permanent placement of the Wren cross.

p. Nichol’s presidency has been surrounded by controversy since his 2006 decision to remove the cross from permanent display, and the Board of Visitors is currently reviewing Nichol to determine whether to renew his contract, which expires in June.

p. Many in the audience wore “I Heart Nichol” buttons that students handed out at the UC entrance, and several vocal Nichol critics were in attendance.

p. “It’s a cheerleading session,” said Karla Bruno ’81, who publicly retracted a gift to the College after the cross was removed.
“He didn’t address some of the serious issues facing the College,” she added, saying that she hoped he would lay out a plan for funding expensive initiatives like the Gateway program.

p. Seth Levey ’08, who was mentioned in the speech for leading the Road to Richmond trip, said he thought the address was outstanding and focused on the College’s two most important challenges: globalizing and seeking more revenue.

p. The address was the second for Nichol, who decided last year that he would institute an annual forum for talking broadly about the state and mission of the College.

p. “It’s one venue that’s available for everyone,” Nichol said to The Flat Hat following the speech. “I’m trying to set forth a statement about where we are on some fundamental fronts — where we can go and what we can achieve.”

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