For freshman, hard to choose sides in Nichol debate

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February 19, 2008

9:40 AM

p. Alma mater hail!

p. These words resonated through Old Campus and up the stairs to the second floor of Brown Hall last week. One thing was for sure — my roommate and I were in our pajamas busy reading for canceled classes. The night of former College President Gene Nichol’s resignation, we excused ourselves from being in the front of his house because it was too cold outside or because we were a little sick or because we were already too comfortable.
If I had wanted to protest, however, my red checkered pajamas would not have stopped me. It’s not that I hate Nichol, I guess, but I don’t love him either.

p. I care very much about the future of the College and the decisions made by the administration. I have been kept well informed about recent happenings by my professors and fellow classmates, but somehow, I have failed to forge a strong opinion of Nichol and his presidency.

p. When I read Nichol’s e-mail Tuesday morning, I was touched by everything he had to say and by everything he had done for the College. His constant encouragement for diversity and increase in financial aid for low-income families was noble. I was especially disappointed with the monetary offer made by the Board of Visitors; I found it shameful. Later that day at dinner, conversations, debates and arguments about Nichol flourished across the tables at the University Center. I felt as if I was part of a new nightlife in Williamsburg: the hub of controversy and scandal.

p. I also discussed the matter with an upperclassman who was in complete favor of Nichol’s resignation. He murmured through his pasta, “You know, Nichol lost this College more than $10 million dollars. With him as president, the alumni refuse to donate to any of the College funds.”

p. I had known that. But at that point, this fact seemed more blaring than ever. And I thought to myself, “Well, it’s a good thing he’s gone.” Throughout that day and for the rest of the week, I felt as if I was taking on the opinions and reasoning of everyone around me. I would be convinced by the person I was talking to right at that moment.

p. Why am I not feeling anything? It’s not apathy — I do care enough to have an opinion. I realized, then, that the reason why I am failing so miserably at making up my mind is because I never really formed an opinion of Nichol on my own. He helped carry my bags up to my room during Orientation and, the next thing I knew, he resigned. With the craziness of my first semester freshman year, I completely overlooked Nichol, his policies and the repercussions they might bring upon the College.

p. And, all of a sudden, I’m being bombarded with opinions, concerns and questions from passionate upperclassmen and teary-eyed professors, but all that I can think of is whether class will be canceled again. It’s really bad, I know. But, it’s true. I don’t want to lie to myself and stand out there wearing a bright yellow shirt when I don’t completely believe in the cause behind it.

p. Even though I’m still a little confused about the whole controversy surrounding Nichol’s presidency, there was never a moment when I didn’t care about the College. And there was never a time when I felt I couldn’t voice my opinion. I admire all those who took a stand to speak out against, or in favor of, recent events. I love that so many people care for the sake of the College.

p. Indeed, alma mater hail!

__Kalyani Phansalkar is a freshman at the College.__

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