Wednesday, February 13, 2008

William & Mary President Resigns After Contract Non-Renewal

Yesterday, Gene R. Nichol , President of the College of William & Mary, announced his immedate resignation after he was informed by the Rector of the Board of Visitors that his contract would not be renewed when it expires in July. In his statement, Nichol attributed the Board of Visitor's action to four controversial sets of decisions he made as president. One of those, he said, involved changing traditions at the College's Wren Chapel:

I altered the way a Christian cross was displayed in a public facility, on a public university campus, in a chapel used regularly for secular College events -- both voluntary and mandatory -- in order to help Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and other religious minorities feel more meaningfully included as members of our broad community. The decision was likely required by any effective notion of separation of church and state. And it was certainly motivated by the desire to extend the College’s welcome more generously to all. We are charged, as state actors, to respect and accommodate all religions, and to endorse none. The decision did no more.

Nichol added: "[T]he Board of Visitors offered both my wife and me substantial economic incentives if we would agree 'not to characterize [the non-renewal decision] as based on ideological grounds' or make any other statement about my departure without their approval. Some members may have intended this as a gesture of generosity to ease my transition. But the stipulation of censorship made it seem like something else entirely. We, of course, rejected the offer."

The Board of Visitor's in a statement, however, said that its decision "was not in any way based on ideology or any single public controversy." It added that "so there is no doubt, the Board will not allow any change in the compromise reached on the placement of the Wren Cross." The Board also announced that Law School Dean W. Taylor Reveley will serve as acting president unitl a successor is found.

Today's Washington Post reports on the resignation. [Thanks to Chip Lupu for the lead.]