The Board of Visitors sent a letter to alumni and friends of the College detailing its decision not to renew former President Gene Nichol’s contract earlier this year.
p. The decision, and Nichol’s subsequent resignation, sparked a firestorm of controversy on campus and led many to question the validity of the BOV’s reasons for not re-hiring Nichol.
p. In the letter, Rector Michael Powell ’85 said the failure of Nichol’s presidency rested equally on the shoulders of both the former president and the BOV, and that policies pursued by Nichol did not prompt the decision.
p. Although Powell said that Nichol’s ideology did not play a role in his non-renewal, he did say that his handling of the controversies that took place during his term “tended to unnecessarily inflame and divide the College community. The result, in our judgment, was too much energy focused on the controversy and too little focused on the mission of the College.”
p. Some believed the BOV had caved in to external pressures from conservatives who had engaged in what Powell called “vicious and personal” attacks against the former president.
p. Powell said that the BOV acted despite these attacks, rather than because of them.
p. The letter went on to praise Nichol’s personality and his “ability to connect with people.”
p. However, Powell characterized Nichol’s weaknesses as an administrator and his failure to keep the BOV abreast of both his and the College’s public commitments as too significant to dismiss.
p. The letter also addressed the transition package offered to Nichol and his wife, Glenn George. Powell said the offer was customary.
p. “The assertion that the offfer was an attempt to get him to sell his principles is flatly untrue.”
p. The BOV’s search for a new president will begin in the fall. According to Powell, the search will include the input of staff, students and faculty.
p. Nichol could not be reached for comment.