Letter to the Editor (Feb. 22)

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February 23, 2008

3:37 PM

**Cronyism stifling rights**

p. To the Editor:

p. During my time at the College, I was part of a small but vocal activist community that strived to raise awareness of pressing global and local issues. I worked with others to fight against injustices and the suffocating traditionalism that was stifling cultural diversity and equality on campus. When elected Student Assembly president in 2002, I attempted to address many issues that were dividing this community, but found these efforts consistently blocked by an autocratic administration hiding behind a code of silence.

p. During my tenure, no issue was more decisive and controversial than the Board of Visitors’ surreptitious appointment of Henry Kissinger as chancellor. This appointment became a catalyst for students, faculty and alumni to rally against the lack of transparency within the BOV. Kissinger’s commission was just another example of the cronyism that infests some members of the BOV (under the contentious leadership of Rector Michael Powell ’85) and the General Assembly. For these reasons, I welcomed the appointment of Gene Nichol as president, seeing it as a sign of progress in combating the College’s disturbing trend to conservative homogeneous elitism.

p. Five years after my graduation, the unexplained dismissal of Nichol has once again united students, faculty and alumni against the BOV’s equivocal behavior.

p. Before pursuing graduate studies in journalism, I spent nearly four years in the Army with the First Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, with a year-long deployment to Iraq. I saw firsthand the death and destruction caused by individuals and organizations corrupted by money and power.

p. It was a slap in the face to return from combat, where I fought to establish democracy in a country that had been oppressed by a tyrannical regime, and see members of the College community fighting for those same rights. It is ironic that the College, which helped give birth to the Constitution, is now attempting to deny those liberties to its own population.

p. I charge members of the BOV, the General Assembly and Gov. Tim Kaine to provide answers and redress for the unjust dismissal of Nichol and the continued furtive actions of the BOV. A public university is just that: public. It belongs to the people. Students, alumni and residents of Virginia deserve to know why their tuition money, donations and tax dollars appear to be aiding in the oppression of constitutional rights.

p. — Linsay Rousseau Burnett ’03

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