Flash: Gene Nichol Resigns from W&M

Gene Nichol has resigned Sunday as president of the College of William & Mary. When the Board of Visitors decided not to renew his contract, he resigned immediately. He issued this statement today:

I was informed by the Rector on Sunday, after our Charter Day celebrations, that my contract will not be renewed in July. Appropriately, serving the College in the wake of such a decision is beyond my imagining. Accordingly, I have advised the Rector, and announce today, effective immediately, my resignation as president of the College of William & Mary. I return to the faculty of the school of law to resume teaching and writing.

In his resignation statement, Nichol offered a vigorous defense of his administration, including his controversial decisions to remove the cross from the Wren Chapel and to permit an itinerant show of sex workers to perform on campus. But he conceded, “I have sometimes moved too swiftly, and perhaps paid insufficient attention to the processes and practices of a strong and complex university.”

While Nichol praised William & Mary as an institution, he was less charitable to the Board of Visitors, noting that he and his wife had been offered “substantial economic incentives” if we would agree “not to characterize [the non-renewal decision] as based on ideological grounds.” He rejected the offer, he said, because it would have required him to “make statements I believe to be untrue and that I believe most would find non-credible. I’ve said before that the values of the College are not for sale. Neither are ours.”

The Board also issued a statement, contending that the decision was not based upon ideology or any one of Nichols’ decisions. Indeed, the board statement was fulsome in its praise for Nichol, and criticized those who made “uncharitable personal assaults” upon him. The statement never quite gets around to saying why the Board declined to renew Nichols’ contract, however. This is as close as it got:

After an exhaustive review … the Board believed there were a number of problems that were keeping the College from reaching its full potential and concluded that those issues could not be effectively remedied without a change of leadership.

Del. Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, who was one of his more vocal critics, summed it up this way: “His tenure has seen an unending string of political controversies. He is a nice man, but, I do not believe that he ever made the successful transition from political activist to college president. I wish him well in his future endeavors.”

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  1. Neil Haner Avatar

    I wouldn’t be paying this story so much attention if it weren’t for the fervor that it has created amongst the student body here. The students tonight will be gathering in front of his house to show their love, and tomorrow plan a sit-in in front of his house.

    I’ll admit that with each turn in this story, I lose a little more respect for Mr. Nichol. He has done a fantastic job endearing himself to the student body (almost in a Kurtz-like fashion). And I’ll agree that he has had some positive impact on the College.

    But it’s become clear that he’s more concerned with being remembered a martyred champion of his ideals than actually helping the College move forward. His email reeked of false humility, claiming the high road while taking thinly veiled shots at the alumni, the B.O.V., and the Legislature.

    His claims of Board members being strong armed by Delegates and a proposed buy-out of silence are still unsubstantiated. And no one can be sure how much of his stated four-point agenda actually got him fired.

    He was let go because he forgot who he worked for. He is an employee of the State of Virginia, chosen by members of the Board of Visitors (who are appointed by the Governor), and his operating budget is largely funded by alumni donation. I know college presidents often believe themselves to be autonomous rulers of their small domain, but they must play the game as well to keep those paychecks coming. John Casteen at UVA loves to read his press clippings, but he still obeys the whims of his Governor when it’s politically necessary.

    If Mr. Nichol actually cared about the College, he would handle this with tact. He would continue to serve his post as long as required to find a suitable replacement, and he wouldn’t send out inflammatory emails to the entire student body glorifying himself as a victim.

    For a man who worked so hard to get the Cross off of campus, he sure is eager to nail himself to it today.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Neil, I hereby declare you winner of the best blogging quote of the month for the last line in your comment: “For a man who worked so hard to get the Cross off of campus, he sure is eager to nail himself to it today.”

    Wonderfully said!

    You have a gift for words. You must be Steve Haner’s son.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    So much for academic freedom. Are we talked W&M or Liberty University?

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Gene Nichol has overseen the decline in W & M throughout his tenure????? If becoming one of the most prestigious colleges in the country; one of the most sought after and difficult colleges to get into is failure; you need to change what you’re smoking. This man inspires students to learn objectively, not through the veil of the censored christian right. Another victory for the very rich, but close-minded and judgemental christian right. Little by little, your ruining America. Please feel free to practice your religion of choice, but please stop trying to legislate it. The more you pursue this path, the more you demonstrate that you really are jihadist christians. Is this the America you want. Be careful what you wish for.

  5. Anonymous Avatar


    The Christian Mullahs have spoken!

    Off with the head of the infidel non-believer!

    And praise Jesus!

  6. mr. williams Avatar
    mr. williams

    Here’s a little factoid for you. Gene Nichol didn’t work for the state of Virginia…if you look into it, you’ll find that W&M probably gets 30-35% of their budget from the state. The rest is tuition, donations, endowments, grants, etc. So tell me why an idiot like Tim Hugo has more than a 30-35% say in what happens at W&M?

  7. Nichol claims to be ousted for his stand on Diversity? That means the Rector (an African American) and one of the BOV (an African American retired VA Supreme Court Judge) are not in tune with Diversity? A diverse Board gave him the boot. Nichol is not playing with a full deck on this one.

    When three people who know Nichol well all call him an “error” and a liar, well, it’s clear the Board was right to not renew. Read the three editorials here:

    Gazette: End of an Error http://www.kkbruno.com/Feb%2013.%202008%20Gazette%20editorial%20End%20of%20an%20Error.jpg

    Daily Press: dailypress.com/news/opinion/dp-ed_nichol_edit_0213feb13,0,7332211.story

    Flat Hat :

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Ding dong the witch is dead
    witch oh witch, the PC witch
    ding dong the PC witch is dead

    he’s gone where the politicos go
    below, below, below!

    bye bye Gene! and away you go in your self-filling baloon of hot air and pomposity – just click your ruby slippers together and say three times: “there’s no place like the ACLU”

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