George Mason Law School

State delegates question BOV members

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February 8, 2008

3:57 PM

Two days after Del. Tim Hugo ’86 (R-Fairfax) said on the floor of the House of Delegates that “William and Mary is becoming a joke,” four Board of Visitors members were summoned to Richmond yesterday for questioning by the House Privileges and Elections Committee.

p. BOV members John Gerdelman ’75, Kathy Hornsby ’79, Anita Poston J.D. ’74 and Henry Wolf ’64 J.D. ’66, who are up for reappointment by the House, had to leave the BOV meeting in Williamsburg for questioning in Richmond, where they were asked about recent controversies at the College.

p. “They asked us a variety of questions about everything from the bias reporting to the cross issue to the sex show,” Hornsby said. “They were trying to get a read on us to see if we’re being responsible stewards of the College.”

p. In the past, the General Assembly has approved the governor’s BOV appointees with little scrutiny. Del. Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania), chair of the Privileges and Elections Committee and author of the summons letter, said that the questioning of appointees is unusual but not unprecedented.

p. “I’m pleased with the way it went,” Cole said. “The various [delegates] got their points across, and I think the nominees will reevaluate some of their policies.”

p. He added that he is concerned with Nichol’s leadership, but he would not say whether he thinks Nichol’s contract should be renewed.

p. In the months leading up to this week’s BOV meeting, Republican delegates hounded Nichol for continuing to cause controversy more than a year after he drew national attention for removing the Wren Chapel cross from permanent display. Delegates Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) and Brenda Pogge (R-James City) recently criticized Nichol for allowing the Sex Workers’ Art show to appear on campus, and Hugo took the House floor Tuesday and asked Nichol to step down when his contract expires in June.

p. “He’s a nice guy, but it just seems like there’s one controversy after another, and I think it’s hurting the College,” Hugo said in a telephone interview with The Flat Hat.

p. “It’s not good when you’re constantly making the news because of a feather or a cross or a show highlighting illegal activity.”

p. On the floor, Hugo said that the mention of his alma mater elicits snickers and jokes among his colleagues in the General Assembly and that Nichol’s leadership is causing the College’s stock to plummet relative to other state universities.

p. This barrage of Nichol criticism from state lawmakers may be a sign that those who divvy out state funds to public institutions are trying to take a larger role in managing the College. Last year Marshall tried to cut Nichol’s salary in half, and this year he proposed a bill that would give alumni a voice in choosing College BOV members.

p. In December, though, BOV Rector Michael Powell ’85 said he would not let any outside group influence the decision of whether to renew Nichol’s contract.

p. “Too many people are trying to control the perception of what’s going on,” Powell said. “This is too serious for us to be swayed by competing public battles.”

p. Yesterday Nichol’s contract did not come up during the day-long BOV meeting, but about 15 students showed up to show support for the president.

p. Today, BOV members meet in Blow Hall from 10 a.m. to noon, and the agenda says that they could go into closed session during that time.

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