After being ignored for too long, we will be heard

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February 15, 2008

6:19 AM

Our voices have gone ignored for too long. The Board of Visitors knows the student body, the faculty and the majority of alumni support College President Gene Nichol. Yet we were overruled because we refuse to fight dirty like Nichol’s handful of detractors.

p. Some say Nichol’s firing was financial, some say managerial. The real cause, I fear, was a few anti-Nichol ideologues who managed to overpower a well-intentioned, politically neutral BOV.

p. No more. No more being ignored on our own campus. No more sitting politely while they cart away our president and our principles alike. No more allowing a few crazed extremists to run our education.

p. They have gone after our president, our student-funded art and our religious equality. Unless we act, the books we can read and subjects we can discuss will be next. The black studies department was almost abolished by the BOV of 10 years ago. Linda Skladany ’66, now a vehement proponent of Nichol’s firing, was on the BOV at the time. I fear for her next target.

p. It is time for us to rise up and finally be heard. It is time for us to tell these outside extremists that this is our campus, this is our College and we will be heard.

p. William and Mary does not belong to a wealthy coal magnate in Texas named James McGlothlin ’62 J.D. ’64. William and Mary does not belong to dirty state legislators from districts a hundred miles away.

p. William and Mary does not belong to reactionary, vitriolic bloggers like Jim Jones ’82, Lance Kyle ’89 or their cowardly, anonymous cohorts.

p. William and Mary belongs to the 7,000 students living on its campus. William and Mary belongs to the distinguished professors filling its classrooms. William and Mary belongs to those who tread its grounds and give it life. William and Mary is ours and we will be heard.

p. Some have claimed Virginia residency as justification for making demands of us, saying they fund our College through taxes. But the average Virginian provides about $7 annually and has no experience in university administration. An individual Virginian is no more qualified to dictate our policies than they are to tell a surgeon at a public hospital how to remove a tumor.

p. Members of the BOV have stated that they did not fire Nichol for ideological reasons. I believe this is true. Yet, because the external forces strong-arming the BOV did so for their own reactionary ideology, Nichol’s firing remains fundamentally and undeniably ideological.

p. I fear the BOV was at least partially motivated by unwillingness to withstand criticism. Most BOV members sit on five or more such boards throughout the country, the College typically requiring only a few days a year. Some live as far as Delaware or New Jersey. Only one lives in Williamsburg.

p. When the anti-Nichol radicals hounded BOV members with e-mails, phone calls and political pressure, it was more than they were willing to tolerate. Their resolution was tested daily and, after two years, they folded.

p. Those radicals, though a tiny minority, a fraction of a percentage, won using money, political blackmail and, most effectively, a non-stop, 24/7 publicity war.

p. We have allowed them to dominate for too long. If the BOV is going to surrender its power to whomever speaks loudest, then that voice must be ours.

p. We must make our voices heard in the Sunken Garden, in the local and national media, in Richmond, in Washington.

p. Our story has already begun to spread. I have had concerned messages from New York, California, Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv. People are finding out; we are being heard.

p. The nation’s alma mater has been seized by a small group of extremist ideologues with the money and the tenacity to intimidate the BOV into handing it over. But their victory will be short-lived.

p. It’s time to stand up. Time to tell the extremists we will not allow them to take our College. Time to make our voice heard by the criminals counting on our silence.

p. Tell Jones: You are harming the College and you are not welcome. Tell McGlothlin: We don’t want your dirty money and you are not welcome. Tell Del. Timothy Hugo ’86: You have no business blackmailing our BOV for cheap political gain and you are not welcome.

p. Tell Skladany: Waging anti-liberal culture war on the institution you used to serve is repugnant and you are not welcome. Tell Thomas Lipscomb ’61: You may have sunk John Kerry, but you will not swift boat our education and you are not welcome.

p. For the past two years the voices of a well-organized, ill-intentioned and overtly manipulative few have dominated the College in the press, in the minds of the BOV and in the national discourse.

p. It’s time to put a stop to this. It’s up to us. We will make this right. We will be heard.

__Max Fisher is a senior at the College.__

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