Wooden Nichol

College of William and Mary President Gene Nichol has stirred up a good deal of controversy at Virginia’s oldest university. The Wrenn Cross episode was only the most visible of his antics. (See “Nichol Bound for Duke?” for a satirical take on his brief but tempestuous tenure there, with links to documentation of less widely publicized flaps.)

Now comes another brouhaha that has already gained national attention on conservative talk radio. Reserve Officer Training Corps students are asking W&M to give them full credit for the military science courses they take, rather than limiting to six the number of credits that can be counted towards graduation. The student senate unanimously voted to give ROTC courses full credit, that all credits earned count to the 120 needed to graduate, and that the changes be made retroactive. But President Gene Nichol, reports Matt Pinsker, a sophomore who is leading the effort, “has not responded to any requests for a meeting to discuss the issue.”

The United States is at war; some 4,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, one of America’s leading universities extends credit for “Art 327: Hand-building Ceramics” and “Kinesiology 130: Adventure Games” but curtails the credits ROTC students earn for studying military science four hours a week in the classroom and engaging in physical education for three hours a week.

When I was going through the University of Virginia at the tail end of the Vietnam War, students protested in front of the Navy ROTC building. Today, students at W&M are protesting in favor of ROTC. How the wheel turns…

I don’t know what role, if any, Nichol played in putting W&M’s rules into place. But he can certainly play a role in changing them –and making the College more hospitable to the patriotic young men and women who want to serve their country and, in all likelihood, risk spilling their blood in a distant land when they graduate.

For details of this brewing controversy, see this report in the Daily Press, and this story in the Flat Hat, the college newspaper.

Update: I hear from Mr. Pinsker that President Nichol has agreed to an appointment “later this month.”

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8 responses to “Wooden Nichol”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Nichol *can* facilitate the issue, but it is one of faculty governance, after all, faculty are in charge of the curriculum, not the administration.

  2. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Most colleges that I looked at only grant the equivalent of WM. Yes, a few grant more but it seems to be an exception. Here’s the way I see it.

    A military officer should be ready, willing and able to go beyond the routine. That means these courses should be in addition to course requirements for a degree. Does that sound too harsh? Then don’t try to become an officer. The military needs the best, not someone seeking a social program or free money.

    Now as for the wanna be’s that take the courses with no intention of joining the service. You should get no more credit than any other general elective, subject to the same rules for your degree completion. If you commit to service, then I can see where 3 credits might be more of a fair appraisal for each course. Subject to the above paragraph of course.

    But don’t feel so bad. I did 25 years in the service and when it came time to finally attend college, I got exactly 9 credits for my service. And I didn’t get to use them because my degree wasn’t in a related field.

    Life sucks, so get used to it.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I guess it would be wrong to point out that our current collegiate institutionalism associated with recruiting and retaining those of athletic prowess but who lack sufficient potential for scholarly achievement …

    … gee … if we can look the other way for our sports players… why not do the same for patriotic soldiers?

    Here we have the military fly their jets over our stadiums but God forbid.. they land and come on campus… and ask for course credit.


  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Here’s the key question that I have at this point: How rigorous are these ROTC military science courses? Are they taught by military officers, not W&M professors? What assurances do we have that their courses meet W&M’s academic standards? If they do meet the standards, then I say students should get credit for systematically acquiring a body of knowledge. If they fall short, then maybe six credits are all that’s warranted.

    When it comes to the physical education requirements, I agree with Darrell that it’s the least that can be expected of an aspiring officer.

  5. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    For What it is worth:

    I spent eight years in three universties and earned three degrees.

    42 years after my last degree and having taught in one universtiy or another (both full-time and adjunct faculty) for the majority of those years, the one course and one text book I rely on more often than any other is an ROTC course in military history taught by a gung-ho captain who is one of the first names on the Viet Nam memorial.

    The text is not a pulitizer winner but it sure helps ones understand how badly the US of A has dealt with its position of power in the past 40 years.

    That is especially true for the last six. See “Three Questions” 24 March 2003.


  6. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Given the horrible events at Virginia Tech Monday, is it to much
    to ask that the postings on this
    blog this week be something than
    the normal routine by the crew that
    uses this site.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Amen. Gene Nichol’s biggest crime to some of these folks is being a liberal. Period. Get over it.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    There they go again, the never ending liberal chorus of “get over it” (sometimes it’s “let’s move on.org”). What you liberals don’t get is that normal people don’t have situational ethics. We don’t just “get over” our moral beliefs. When you stand for nothing except the latest PC BS, it’s easy to keep “moving on” (.org). You believe nothing except in a few nonsensical theories, so you think the rest of us have similarly loosely held standards. We don’t. Sorry to disappoint you. Perhaps you need to read a little Greek philosophy. What they said over 2000 years ago still applies today. “Getting over” it was, and is, not an option.

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