One step too far: We ask that Laura Flippin resign from the Board of Visitors

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September 6, 2012

11:48 PM

When Laura Flippin ’92 was arrested outside the Green Leafe in September 2011 with a blood alcohol reading of 0.253, we could forgive her. She was holding her car keys, suggesting that she planned to drive, but she did not actually drive her car. As such, we could forgive her behavior. It was embarrassing for both Flippin and for the College of William and Mary, but at the end of the day it was a mistake. Mistakes can be corrected; they can be dealt with appropriately.

When Flippin, under oath, told Judge Colleen K. Killilea she had shared only one gin and tonic with a friend the night she was arrested, however, we were deeply disturbed. Flippin even reaffirmed her statement when Killilea questioned whether that was her testimony under oath. Though Flippin was not charged with perjury, Killilea said, “I think she lied to the court.” We agree with the judge’s estimation and believe that such a blatant lie is a personal disgrace to Flippin, but more importantly, it degrades both the College and its Honor Code. In light of such abominable conduct, we ask that Flippin submit her resignation to the Board of Visitors. This conduct suggests that she does not uphold the standards of the College, and is therefore unfit to serve on the BOV.

The Honor Code at the College states directly that members of the College will not “lie, cheat or steal.” The pledge, taken by every student at the College, specifies that it applies not only to students, but to the entire community of the College as well. Furthermore, the Honor Code must be adhered to in personal life as well as academic life. Flippin has failed to uphold the Honor Code as an alumna of the College. In light of her actions, we believe that many College alumni are more suitable for the position.

As students, we expect that the leaders of our College adhere to the same standards to which we are held. Requests to reduce Flippin’s sentence based on her prestigious titles and roles are atrocious abuses of those honors. Instead of asking for leniency and special exceptions, Flippin should serve as an example to students by behaving honorably following a mistake. Flippin’s denial of the truth is cowardly and shows that she does not hold herself to the high standards to which College students hold themselves every day.

We are embarrassed by the lack of reproach Flippin has received for her behavior. Both College President Taylor Reveley and student leaders at the College seem determined to tiptoe around this serious breach of the Honor Code. We ask that the College community hold Flippin responsible for her conduct.

Had Flippin apologized for her behavior and been willing to accept the repercussions, she might have survived this scandal with only a slight blemish on her record. But instead, she has tried to hide from her mistakes and avoid the consequences of her actions, so we cannot condone her continued role at the forefront of our College. We must ask that Flippin remove herself from her position.

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The Flat Hat Editorial Board is elected by The Flat Hat's section editors and executive staff. The staff editorial represents the opinion of The Flat Hat.

(18) Readers Comments

  1. becca
    September 7, 2012 at 6:21 AM

    and I hear that she called in to the College the next day, and told them that she missed the Board meeting that morning because "something came up with a client", while she was actually in jail, still sobering up. She was also drinking at the reception and then dinner, before she even went to the Green Leafe to continue drinking. Her behavior and her honor cause violations should cause her to be REMOVED from the Board, not just resign from it.

  2. Becca
    September 7, 2012 at 6:32 AM

    and I hear that she called in to the College the next day, and told them that she missed the Board meeting that morning because "something came up with a client", while she was actually in jail, still sobering up. She was also drinking at the reception and then dinner, before she even went to the Green Leafe to continue drinking. Her behavior and her honor cause violations should cause her to be REMOVED from the Board, not just resign from it.

    • Michael Townes, Class of 1993
      September 13, 2012 at 5:03 PM

      Wonderful. More speculation. This is precisely why we have a justice system with rules, one of which is that hearsay evidence is inadmissible in criminal cases.

  3. joan
    September 7, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    I heard that Ms. Flippin was at the Green Leafe with at least one other Board member and a faculty member who is an attorney. Not only should she be removed; she might want to reconsider who she drinks with in the future. The governor should remove her for cause.

    • Michael Townes, Class of 1993
      September 13, 2012 at 5:12 PM

      I heard Ms. Flippin was out the night before with Jim Morrison, Gene Nichol, and Mary Suratt! No, wait, it was Tim Sullivan, Joe Price, and Scott Glenn! No, wait, it was... Joan, get a grip. This is America in 2012. We don't convict people on anonymous testimony and speculation, and we don't remove people from positions to which they are ideally suited and which they've been selected due to their decades of unblemished service because they slipped on a set of steps and were convicted of a misdemeanor crime.

  4. Thomas Lipscomb, Class of 1961
    September 7, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    With an Administration and a Board of Visitors, does it take The Flat Hat to state something so obvious as this? Flippin should have had the decency to resign for embarrassing the College. When she didn't, once adjudged guilty she should have been dismissed from the Board of Visitors. There are really only two choices: either the Honor Code is a broadly applicable system that adds real value to the College experience or it is an absurd antique, too inflexible for 21st century society. Allowing Flippin, an attorney who did not contest the accusation by the judge who found her guilty of lying in sworn testimony, a pass, basically voids the centuries old Honor Code of the College. How can any student take it seriously after that? Is that what this Administration has decided to do?

    • Michael Townes, Class of 1993
      September 13, 2012 at 4:54 PM

      The judge found her "guilty of lying in sworn testimony"? That's news. The conviction was for a misdemeanor public intoxication, and the evidence for that was her BAC, not her testimony. The real embarrassment to the college is a newspaper that calls on a Board of Visitor member to resign for what was, essentially, a victimless "crime" - a minor, misdemeanor offense that is only news because the accused was a Board of Visitors member. If the Flat Hat were doing a real service to the community, it would be serving the student body by investigating why it is that the Williamsburg Police lie in wait each and every weekend outside the Dellys - taking an account of how many William and Mary students are arrested each weekend, how much this costs those students in time and money, what this does to their lives, how THEY are treated by the police... Because let's not forget that the Police came to apprehend Ms. Flippin after she'd tripped on the Green Leafe steps and was sitting there bleeding. Instead of administering first aid, they administered a breathalyzer test. That "investigate and arrest first" mentality runs directly counter to the "serve and protect" philosophy that is supposed to govern "public safety" officers - and it should be alarming to anyone withing the William & Mary community, especially students and the newspaper that supposedly speaks for their interests.

  5. An Alumnae
    September 8, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    When Laura Flippin was a student, she was well respected by both her peers and the administration. As an alumnae, even more so. A more committed member of the W&M community you will not know. In the years since she was a student, she has put countless hours into the College on many levels. Prior to joining to the BOV, Ms. Flippin sat on and chaired the Fund for William and Mary board, has been involved in fundraising and reunions, sat on committees and has long been an advocate for the Alumni Association. She hosts networking events, works with the career center and looks to hire W&M grads. She has a history of doing what is right for the College. She has a strong voice and always has the best interest of the students and College in mind. In short, she is a star and the type of person you want on your team. I do not know what happened on the night in question. I do not know if she told the truth, nor do I know if she lied. I do know that she has not been charged with or found guilty of perjury. This is not a person with a consistent record of questionable actions or character flaws. This is a person of great integrity and a strong moral compass. I believe she made a mistake and that she has already paid the price. I believe it's time to move on and let Ms. Flippin do the same.

    • joan
      September 8, 2012 at 2:27 PM

      Laura Flippin is no longer a student. Yes, Ms. Flippin should move on -- and leave the BOV

      • Michael Townes, Class of 1993
        September 13, 2012 at 5:01 PM

        Which makes zero sense.

    • Current senior
      September 8, 2012 at 4:12 PM

      Someone who has a BAC of more than three times the legal limit and is caught with keys in their hand, and then tells a scientific untruth under oath, is not a person of "great integrity". Yes, Ms. Flippin may have done some valuable things for the college, but getting behind the wheel while intoxicated is not "star" behavior. Community is a vital part of William and Mary, and people who engage in destructive behavior like drunk driving undermine its safety and integrity. Whether or not you agree with her actions that night, her lie is the final nail in the figurative coffin that she has built for herself in this situation-- fortunately that night she did not drive and necessitate a literal one.

      • Michael Townes, Class of 1993
        September 13, 2012 at 5:00 PM

        She got behind the wheel of a car? She engages in destructive behavior like drunk driving? According to the testimony of the police officer in court, her car wasn't there. Kind of hard to get behind the wheel of a car and drive drunk when your car isn't there. This was a misdemeanor offense, subject to a $25 fine a court costs. I'm sure you know students who have had that happen, and their lives haven't been ruined. I'm sure you know people who have gotten traffic tickets that have cost more - and as we all know, the more serious an offense, the more serious the fine. In the eyes of the law, a misdemeanor is just that, a minor offense. That's what she was convicted of - anything beyond that is mere spitballing by people who want her off the board.

  6. An alumnus
    September 8, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    I agree, but why stop with Ms. Flippin? If you find public intoxication so repulsive, then let's begin dismissing the students who are also charged. I think you'll find a few more empty seats in class. No doubt, this woman made a mistake, but good luck assembling a board of visitors with flawless people. Perhaps, she did lie to the court, but you should observe and respect the fact that the court did not charge her with perjury. You may be disgruntled by this decision. It's understandable. If you feel so strongly, interview the woman. Allow her to defend herself. Offer your readers facts and various viewpoints, not just your personal speculation.

    • joan
      September 8, 2012 at 3:27 PM

      The facts are out there -- she holds a position of responsibility with the College, but appears not to respect the position or the College enough to step down from the BOV. I'm sure she's basically a law-abiding and good person -- but she needs to own up to her mistakes and move on -- not lie to the BOV that she had a client matter when she was detoxing in jail

      • Michael Townes, Class of 1993
        September 13, 2012 at 4:55 PM

        She did? And your proof of this is, what?

    • Michael Townes, Class of 1993
      September 13, 2012 at 4:54 PM

      Amen.

  7. Anonymous
    September 11, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Laura Flippin did not lie to the judge. The judge asked a very narrow question - how many drinks were consumed at the Green Leafe. Laura answered that question. The judge clearly got frustrated that she asked the wrong question and did not get the answer she expected. The alleged blood alcohol level is so ridiculously high it demonstrates the inaccuracy of the test. There is a reason they are not admissible in VA court.

  8. Michael Townes, Class of 1993
    September 13, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    To the folks pinging on the allegation that Ms. Flippin "had her keys in her hand" - and to the Flat Hat specifically for concluding that this suggested "that she planned to drive" - you might ask yourselves, "where was her car?" I heard that the police officer testified in court that they had looked for Ms. Flippin's car in the Green Leafe parking lot, but that it wasn't there - which makes sense, since Ms. Flippin has a house right off campus. No car = no intention of driving, drunk or otherwise. People can speculate all they want about whether or not she was intending to drive, whether or not she only had one drink, whether or not she was lying to the court. But absent concrete proof, that's all it is: speculation. And it goes against some very fundamental principles of this nation to convict people on mere speculation (principles, I should not have to remind people, that were taught to many of our founders at William & Mary). Judge Killea's personal feelings about the veracity of Ms. Flippin's testimony are immaterial. Frankly, Ms. Flippin need not have testified in her own defense at all. In the end, it was up to the prosecution to present a case to the court about one thing: was Ms. Flippin legally intoxicated based on her blood alcohol content. Beyond that - who she was with, what was in her hand, whether she was walking to her car or over to the Bryant Complex to play poker with students, is neither germane to the court case or to any public excoriation which the Flat Hat and others choose to give. Ms. Flippin was convicted of a misdemeanor offense and fined $25 plus court costs. It's an all-too-common occurrence in a town where police make easy arrests by staking out the Dellys each and every weekend. The Flat Hat would better serve the college community by pointing its finger at an antagonistic community police force than at someone who has faithfully served both the College and the nation at large (with an unblemished record, I might add) for nearly a quarter century.

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