My Last Word on Gene Nichol

This is truly the last post I’ll make regarding Gene Nichol (assuming he fades quietly from the scene). No point in beating a dead college president. But a letter has arrived from Michael K. Powell, Rector of the College of William & Mary, addressed to “alumni and friends” of the College. As a parent of a student there, I’m on the mailing list. I wouldn’t bring up the issue had not Powell offered the best explanation yet of why the Board of Visitors declined to renew Nichols’ contract as president.

Although Powell was constrained in what he could say — “as this is a personnel matter protected by confidentiality,” he explained, “we cannot go into great detail” — he did illuminate more of the Board’s perspective than he had before.

Powell praised Nichol for being a passionate and charismatic leader, and for his commitment to diversity on campus. But the Board saw weaknesses that could not be dismissed, including: “unsatisfactory follow-through on public commitments, failure to keep the Board informed of major initiatives — many of which created significant funding obligations for the College — not promptly addressing internal management issues, an unwillingness to accept outside assistance to improve personal weaknesses, and shortcomings in private fundraising.”

The Board made efforts to address these issues over the course of a year, Powell said. “But there was no meaningful improvement.”

Powell did acknowledge that “a string of controversies” — presumably the Wrenn Cross affair, the sex worker show and other episodes — did enter the Board’s decision making. But the Board wasn’t concerned by Nichols’ decisions on those matters but rather how he dealt with the controversies. “Too frequently the actions leading up to a controversy and, how it was handled subsequently, 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.”

That’s my last word on the subject. I’ll close the book on Gene Nichol. As long as Nichol himself appears to be moving on — he didn’t bring up the controversy in a recent television interview — he should be left in peace.

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2 responses to “My Last Word on Gene Nichol”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Nichol should never have been hired.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Gene Nichol lie down and play dead? Dream on… like a bad penny he’ll be back.

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