Letters to the Editor (Feb. 19)
February 19, 2008
**A sad day for the College**
p. To the Editor:
p. I am a cum laude graduate of the College and recipient of the Benjamin Stoddert Ewell award. I do not want to delay in getting to the exact purpose of this letter, because I know exactly what it is that speaks to Rector Michael Powell ’85. In the past year, I have become financially affluent, thanks in many parts to my education at the College. In this time, I have donated hundreds of dollars to political candidates and hundreds of dollars to charities, but not a penny to my alma mater. I refrained from donating to the College because I wanted to see what happened to former College President Gene Nichol’s contract before making that decision.
p. After learning about the events of last week, I am happy that I made such a decision because if I had decided otherwise, I would be in even poorer spirits than I am now. I would also like to inform Powell that the College will never see a penny of mine, unless I feel that it has done something to remedy the grave errors that the BOV has committed by dismissing the greatest individual to be affiliated with the College since Thomas Jefferson.
p. I do not know too much about Powell, but I do know a great deal about his father, who is an honorable, admirable and courageous man. However, like his father eight years ago, he too has entangled himself in a web of right-wing ideologues that use their money as a tool of power to suppress dissent and enact their agenda, sacrificing democratic values as a victim. Powell’s lack of integrity in the face of well-financed pressure is reprehensible, and just like the hacks in the Bush administration, he will someday regret the decisions that he has made.
p. His statement in regard to Nichol’s dismissal is completely unconvincing, and the fact that he attempted to buy Nichol off for his silence speaks louder than any words his crooked mouth may happen to utter. But Nichol is not for sale, because he will not compromise democratic principles to the almighty dollar, which should not be surprising due to the achievements of his time as president. In fact, he was a sacrificial lamb that students, faculty and alumni will mobilize around in an arduous effort to restore justice to the College. Powell should enjoy the time that he and his cronies have remaining to subvert justice for the benefit of private interests, because his days truly are numbered: throughout Williamsburg, throughout Virginia and throughout the entire country.
p. — Jordan Kupersmith ’06
**Nichol left legacy of civil engagement**
p. To the Editor:
p. Last Tuesday, I found myself wishing I was back at the College.
p. Many of my former classmates felt a similar pull — as members of the Class of 2007, we are in the unique position of straddling the divide between our first months as alumni and our past years as students. Despite varying degrees of devotion to our alma mater, many of us shared a longing to go to our College, to show our support for former College President Gene Nichol, to stand in solidarity with our former classmates and professors and to protest the unilateral decision of the Board of Visitors not to renew Nichol’s contract. This kind of student activism highlights exactly why Nichol’s actions have been advantageous to the College community.
p. Many have criticized the manner in which Nichol resigned, questioning whether his dramatic exit was beneficial to the College. I dare to say that it was. His resignation has ignited a passion among students and faculty I have never witnessed on the College’s campus. Had Nichol quietly accepted the BOV’s decision and exited his position at the end of this academic year, the urgent need to have student and faculty’s voices legitimately represented on the BOV would not be so obvious. In the end, what better gift can a university president impart to students of a liberal arts education — a meager increase in U.S. News and World Report’s rankings or a real life lesson in the value of civic engagement and the importance of representation?
p. The BOV claims this decision was not based on politics or ideology; rather, they imply that it was Nichol’s shortcomings as a top executive that led to their decision. If Nichol’s biggest fault was not anticipating alumni disapproval of the removal of the Wren cross, then the events of the past week should give members of the BOV reason to review their own job performance. While they may not have anticipated Nichol’s immediate resignation, their actions have shown them to be willfully ignorant of sentiment among the students and faculty at the College.
Perhaps we would all do well to recall that a college exists fundamentally to educate students, and not to necessarily produce warm memories among alumni — as important as this may be to fundraising.
p. The Class of 2007 left a record-breaking gift to the College, a testament to how much hope we had for our institution with Nichol at the helm. Perhaps that hope can restored with a renewed student and faculty participation in the decisions that affect the College. It looks like students and faculty are off to a good start at raising their voices, and it is my fervent hope that the BOV will hear them.
p. — Meghan McCarthy ’07
**Time for students to take action**
p. To the Editor:
p. I hope the Board of Visitors is proud of what it has brought upon the College. Moments after reading former College President Gene Nichol’s e-mail, I sat down to write this response. It is one that is a long time coming and I believe to be a necessary statement to the state of affairs at the College that I call home. Even now, as I sit working in the Admissions Office, I find it hard to speak with students that want to attend the College and convince them to attend the College I love, even when it does not feel the same.
p. Since the first time I came to the College, I knew this was the community I was meant to be a part of and the first time I met Nichol, I knew he was to be my president. His booming voice and jolly demeanor made me feel like he truly cared about me not only as a student, but as a person. For those who feel differently, read the e-mail in which he resigned his position, you will see it was not a vindictive move on his part, but rather respect for each student here. Nichol took responsibility for his actions and defended our rights as people and as Americans. Throughout his time at the College, Nichol has been one not to bend over, while allowing for students to suffer; instead, he says what he means and he means what he says. I’m sorry if that is the not the way it has been in the past, but the times change, and so does the College.
p. I am deeply offended by the way in which the BOV, alumni and Virginia lawmakers have acted over the last few weeks, months and years. The removal of our president was shocking; however, the icing on the cake was the “substantial economic incentives.” I am proud to say that my president did not accept the deal, but I am appalled that the BOV would even offer it.
p. For the first time in three years, I feel helpless. I see the administration crumbling around me, I see the outsiders controlling the school in a tyrannical way and I see the students becoming the pawns in a game going after our king. I feel as if the last few months we have been sitting in check, waiting for the final move to be made, and now it has. Congratulations, you won. Nichol’s gone and the students will rejoice. False!
p. The only thing that was accomplished last Tuesday was the infuriation of thousands of students. These students are the ones that will shape the world and, to be perfectly honest, don’t fuck with us. Students attending the College are the best in the country, but we receive no respect from the administration, the BOV or the lawmakers of Virginia. It was not the voice of the students that got Nichol fired and it was not the voice of the faculty; instead, it was the voice from the past, trying to flex its dying muscle to prove it still controls what goes on here at the College.
p. This is the time for the students to stand up for their rights. This is the time to take action. This is the time to prove that students at the College will not remain under the control of those who are no longer attending. It is not the actions of Nichol that harmed the College; instead, it is the distrust by those above him, and now the removal despite the opinions of the students. We are old enough to decide what is best for us, trust us to make our own choices. Nichol will always be my president.
p. — Greg Collins ’09
**Ashamed of the BOV**
p. To the Editor:
p. I remember Michael Powell ’85 well from back in the day. His impromptu stage performances in the dorm with a shampoo bottle microphone were interesting; his narcissistic traits were glaringly apparent even back then.
p. I never managed to graduate from the College, flunking out my senior year. Because of my poor performance, I am well aware my opinion may be met with a quick tap of the delete button, but I am no disgruntled former student. Ultimately I received my degree from another institution, but I still think fondly of the College, consider myself one of its students and care about its welfare. This is why the last two communications I have received from the College have distressed me so much.
p. Typically I enjoy former College President Gene Nichol’s eloquent and informative communications, but his last e-mail letter was disturbing. And just when I thought the College’s fortunes couldn’t take a turn for the worse, I received Powell’s message.
p. Perhaps the only blessing of my failure at the College so many years ago is a fearlessness of expression when I write that I wholeheartedly believe Nichol’s account of the matters at hand, and I think Powell and the Board of Visitors are flat-out lying. While my grades may have been quite low at the College, I did mange to develop fully a capacity to recognize bullshit. Powell’s letter was clearly intended to provide damage control, but it has only served to corroborate what Nichol asserts in his letter.
p. The peculiar timing and transparent nature of Powell’s rebuttal letter regarding his and the BOV’s regret at Nichol’s immediate resignation could not be more telling of some good ol’ boys’ retaliation toward a man who has worked tirelessly for the student body of the College. Was it the Wren Chapel cross controversy that really got to these Christian right-wingers? In his letter Powell seemed to proudly announce how the BOV will continue to honor Nichol’s decision, as if he continually offered him nothing but support. In actuality, I’m sure Powell knows that he could never get away with returning the cross now any more than those good ol’ boys further south could restore those carved Ten Commandments tablets to that courthouse in Alabama. This would incur a barrage of lawsuits. He may want to consult Chancellor Sandra Day O’Connor about this if he doesn’t believe me, for rest assured, I would be the first in line. Separation of church and state is the grand illusion in our country.
p. Powell’s half-hearted disavowal of Nichol’s statements led me to do quite a bit of research on the topic the past two days, and I can find nothing in Nichol’s actions that could suggest his being let go is anything more than political payback for the ideological positions he has taken at the College, despite Powell’s critical insistence to the contrary. I agree with each of Nichol’s decisions, and I am ashamed at the weakness of the rector and BOV in not standing by him. Students need someone like Nichol to stand up for them, their rights and their creative natures. The BOV should stand up for itself, and for the man it hired who was only doing the job he was asked to do.
p. — Mason Peay
**Alum describes NIU shooting**
p. To the Editor:
p. While the events at the College are certainly distressing, and I was following them quite carefully, the news from Northern Illinois University clearly now overshadows them. As an alumnus of the College, I learned a great deal from my professors, fellow students and the administration (especially Vice President for Student Affairs Sam Sadler) about what it means to be a student in an open university, where the free flow of ideas and people is essential to learning.
p. All that was brought to a crushing end Feb. 14 when a lone individual used the openness to his own purposes to wreak havoc on the lives of thousands. I could go into the details of the event, as I witnessed the immediate aftermath of the event and lost a student. I teach in the classroom and, just last semester, conducted a large lecture class in that auditorium that had its final conducted a week late and under the protection of police officers as the result of a threat of violence.
p. I urge you to bring these events to the attention of the College. This can happen anywhere. I urge you and the entire College family to keep the NIU community in your thoughts over the coming weeks.
p. My best wishes to you and the College for your safety.
p. — J.D. Bowers ’89
Asst. History Professor at Northern Illinois Univ.