All Around the Liberal Arts

By Amy Ledig

The departures and tragedy editionCollege of William and Mary

The William and Mary community has had a tumultuous two weeks of sit-ins, teach-ins, professor strikes, marches and angry debate after President Gene Nichol’s resignation. The Flat Hat, the college’s weekly newspaper, reported that Nichol announced the move via an email to the campus last week after the college’s Board of Visitors chose not to renew his contract.

Nichol’s 16 months as president have been characterized by controversy. Virginia, a fairly tradition-minded, conservative state, did not look kindly on Nichol’s decision to remove the Wren cross from the college’s chapel or his Gateway William and Mary program, which organized and carried out outreach programs with underprivileged students across the state to encourage them to go to college. He also came under fire for refusing to ban the Sex Workers’ Art Show held on campus last year. The Board’s decision and Nichol’s subsequent announcement have both gratified his long-time detractors and stirred up a wave of campus activism as students rally around Nichol.

In his email announcing his resignation, Nichol wrote, “the 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.” Seems like the Board, which is due to visit campus yesterday and today, lost that fight. Here’s hoping the college can find another such courageous, visionary leader. Although one Board member has resigned over the issue, it seems unlikely it’ll take such a chance again.

Northern Illinois University

Tragedy struck in DeKalb, Illinois, last week. Stephen Kazmierczak killed five and injured 16 before killing himself in an attack the campus and police are struggling to understand. Kazmierczak had been a graduate student at NIU last year before transferring to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He opened fire in a geology class last Thursday, shattering the calm at this suburban university. Activities on campus have been cancelled for the last week, but The North Star, NIU’s newspaper, reports that classes are to resume on Monday. Maybe this horrific event, on the heels of the massacre at Virginia Tech last April, will finally be the impetus needed for serious gun policy reform.