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Posted on Tuesday 12 February 2008 at 11:02 pm

Chaos at William and Mary

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Things are getting very heated at the College of William and Mary. The President of the College announced the Board of Visitor's decision to essentially fire him for ideological reasons and attempt to bribe him into keeping silent on his version of the story. His email was followed up by one from the BoV claiming no ideological basis and citing unspecified problems limiting the university from reaching its full potential that cannot be resolved with Nichol as President. That was followed by an email from the student government placing full support with Nichol and blasting the BoV for their decision, the attempted bribery, the fact that the decision was made in a closed-door meeting with no record of the vote, and the fact that the decision was made Friday but this weekend included Charter Day so they didn't tell Nichol until after the BoV and Nichol spent the day schmoozing it up for the press and potential donors, essentially using Nichol.

That all is just from the emails that were sent to the entire student body today. That doesn't include the rallies and speeches in the courtyards. Or the helicopters flying over (presumably press) that made it impossible for my students to hear me lecture. It also doesn't include the accusations flying around the school and in external media that the Board of Visitors was recently called before a Virginia state legislature committee and supposedly informed that if the BoV didn't fire Nichol, the state would fire members of the BoV. So much for the protected status of a university to ensure politics doesn't interfere with academic integrity and the like.

There was a rally tonight in front of the President's home. Students gathered to wave candles, sing the school song, and show support for Nichol. From the middle of the crowd, it was impossible to estimate size but one of the speakers mentioned over 1500 people were there which is fairly impressive when you consider W&M is a small school. A couple of students and a staff member spoke and then President Nichol gave a little speech. He is a very moving speaker and it was nice overall. Tonight the focus was very much on letting Nichol know the students still support him and love him and what he has tried to do for the College. There are more protest type events planned for the next few days. Tomorrow there is supposed to be a sit-in (out, actually) in front of the President's house. The contact information for every member of the BoV is circulating through the campus community (the information was removed from the BoV website sometime this afternoon) and everyone is being encouraged to write or call in protest of the decision.

The biggest thing is the informal strike. There are no unions involved in this and I can't get hard data on it. Everything I've seen, though, says it started with the faculty. Some faculty members have canceled their classes for Wednesday and Thursday and are calling on the rest of the faculty to do the same. Supposedly, the students picked it up and many are planning on striking by not attending classes, even those that haven't been canceled. Which puts me in a bit of a bind. I don't agree with everything Nichol has done, but I think he has a good vision for where the university should be and has worked hard to achieve that vision. Even if I disagreed with everything he has done, hidden-vote meetings and allegations of bribe attempts and dirty politics don't sit well with me. I'm not sure what skipping classes for a couple of days really has to do with improving the situation, though. It seems to me to be more of a cheap excuse to cut classes. If it is more than just that, I'm in a vulnerable position. I don't think any faculty will get in trouble over this and I know some of the history professors in particular have canceled classes already but I'm just a lowly little grad student and one of the easiest to go after if the powers that be do decide to get nasty. But if this is serious and not just an excuse to cut classes, I know there aren't unions involved or whatever, but having class still sounds an awful lot like crossing a picket line and breaking a strike and I'm not such a fan of that idea. I'm leaning toward canceling my class for Thursday. I haven;t been feeling all that well lately anyway and I really doubt anyone will ever get in trouble over not having classes on Wednesday and Thursday and even if it is just a cheap excuse to cut classes, I could use the cheap excuse to rest and work on fanfic for a couple of days :)


Ms. J to the Diva
jadeddiva at 4:51 am on 13 February 2008 (UTC) (Link)
I'm shocked at all that's going on, but not surprised at the BoV's actions. I never trust that advisory boards like the BoV understand the intricacies of the schools they advise over, and often create controversies beyond the controversies they try to control. But that's just me. I'm interested in seeing where all this goes. Enjoy your days off ;)
bratty_jedi at 2:28 pm on 13 February 2008 (UTC) (Link)
I think from the POV of the BoV, the students' opinions don't matter. The undergrads are only here for four or five years and don't have lasting impact on the BoV. It is recurring donors and alumni that they care about and the most vocal ones are with the conservatives in the House of Delegates and don't like Nichol. The problem is the BoV has failed to realize that just because the most vocal ones are protesting doesn't mean the majority hate Nichol and that the current students are tomorrow's alumni donors and by pissing them off like this you're shooting yourself in the foot down the road.
lady_bracknell at 9:52 am on 13 February 2008 (UTC) (Link)
I meant to comment on this the other day when you posted about it - I think it's really great the students are showing their support.
bratty_jedi at 2:32 pm on 13 February 2008 (UTC) (Link)
This is the most motivated I've ever seen the William and Mary student body on anything. At one point in his speech last night, President Nichol said students have been asking him since the announcement "What can we do for you?" His answer basically amounted to fulfill your potential and help the College be the best but he specifically mentioned making W&M the most politically active university in America. I leaned over to my friend Libby who is from England and whispered that the most politically active university in America could still be way behind the majority of European universities.

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