Reveley has yet to weather controversy

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September 9, 2008

9:17 PM

Last Friday, the Board of Visitors announced, to my relief, that our new president would be Taylor Reveley. Reveley seems like the perfect fit.

He humbly took on the position of interim president in the spring when our community was ripped at the seams. Slowly, Reveley gained the trust of students and faculty and sewed us together again. He has been attentive to students, meeting with us frequently for lunches and maintaining an open-door policy. Clearly the BOV has the assurance that Reveley will make sound decisions in the College of William and Mary’s best interest, but the students have yet to see what those decisions will mean for us.

In the e-mail that Michael Powell, the rector of the BOV, sent to students Friday, he mentioned how difficult the transition was to move from former president Gene Nichol to Reveley. It is really a blessing that our community does not have to endure a national search for a new president when the one we have has already been warmly accepted.

Reveley was not just a lame duck president these past few months; he was very active in restructuring the College’s future plans and he has been consistently available to students and faculty. He has the support of the BOV, new students and donors.

This is not a decision that the BOV had to worry about. They didn’t have to lie, and nobody was asked to keep the decision a secret. Many of the decisions that the BOV make are about money, and any president they choose needs to be able to charm potential donors and raise funds for the College. Powell reassured us of Reveley’s sound financial planning, saying that Reveley “zeroed in immediately on the need to restructure our financial model.”

Our small, nurturing community is also a business, and Reveley is capable of making financial decisions that will hopefully increase the College’s income in the future.

But there are other issues on the horizon that have yet to be addressed.Nichol was dismissed not just because of his inability to pacify donors, but also because of the decisions he made. We have yet to pose any controversial requests to the 27th president, and he has yet to make a controversial decision.

There are still uncertainties behind Reveley’s positions on controversial issues. In the next year, some student will come to Reveley and force him to make a decision that will not please everyone. This is when Reveley will show his true mettle. While we all trust that he will make even controversial decisions in the best interests of the College, we don’t know whether he will try to please the students and faculty first, or the donors and the BOV.

There was an uproar when the Sex Workers’ Art Show came to the College last year, so what’s going to happen when a new contentious group knocks on our door this year? Reveley may face as controversial a three-year term as Nichol did. After all, students don’t really think about whether their actions will impress potential donors or not. We do not make decisions based on our obligation to represent the College. Of course, there are exceptions, but for most of us, when a president or any other authority figure makes a decision that hinders our freedoms — perceived or real — we don’t consider the monetary consequences.

When Reveley makes his first controversial decision in the College’s best interest, we will be waiting to see whether it is in our best interest as well.

Brittany Hamilton is a junior at the College.

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