As this is the last issue of The Flat Hat for the 2008-2009 school year, I wish to speak to an overarching theme that has characterized our experience this year: change, more than anything else, best explains what has happened to us, the College of William and Mary and our world since last August when we arrived on campus.
Of course change is a constant for any university. Each year we take new classes with new professors and move from our old dorm rooms into new ones — hopefully bigger and with air conditioning. We become freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors for the first time. For some of us the change is even more profound as we may be entering college for the first time, going on to graduate schools or stepping out into the real world. This happens every year. However, it is rare that the normal changes in our college life are so mirrored and amplified by change in our institution and in our world.
Our college has been profoundly altered this year. Soon after the start of the school year, our then-interim President Taylor Reveley became the 27th president of the College. Later in the year, our provost, Geoff Feiss, announced that he will be stepping down and will be succeeded by Dr. Michael R. Halleran. Just over a week ago, Henry Wolf ’64 J.D. ’68 succeeded Michael Powell ’85 as the Rector of the Board of Visitors. We also have a new dean at the law school and are in the process of finding a new vice president of student affairs. These represent personnel changes in many of the most important positions at our institution.
The finances of the College have also been altered. The Virginia General Assembly continues to cut funding — actually not anything new — but now we are receiving money from the federal government through the stimulus bill and, as it is far from enough to balance the books, tuition is on the rise.
On the national level, change has been a theme ever since it was adopted as the battle cry of President Barack Obama’s campaign. In this last year we have witnessed the historic election of the nation’s first black president as well as the resurgence of the Democratic Party, which has long been the underdog. We have also experienced a global financial crisis that has shaken many people’s faith in our economy. Truly, this year was nothing if not interesting. But where does that leave us?
Change gives us reason for both fear and hope. It presents us with new problems — an uncertain future, higher tuition and that 400-level econ class you’ve been dreading. It also allows us to make a clean break from old ways that perhaps were not effective in dealing with old issues, let alone new ones.
Most of all, we must realize that change in and of itself does not solve problems. It merely gives us an opportunity to walk in a new direction. Change is only beneficial when we seize the opportunity it presents and strive to use it to our advantage. This is not an easy task. It requires long-term dedication and perseverance. Problems are not solved overnight, and change can only be judged after it is given sufficient time to prove itself. Therefore, let next year be one of consistency so that we may walk straight down this new road and see where it takes us.
E-mail Ed Innace at firstname.lastname@example.org.